BookBrowse Reviews Coffin Road by Peter May

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Coffin Road

by Peter May

Coffin Road by Peter May X
Coffin Road by Peter May
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2016, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2017, 400 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Melding environmental issues with a string of interconnected narratives, Coffin Road is another fine addition to Peter May's engaging oeuvre.

From its richly atmospheric opening to its dramatic conclusion, Peter May's Coffin Road is a treat for lovers of crime fiction.

The novel has several players and the first character we encounter is immediately intriguing. On the opening page a man emerges from the sea on the island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides (see 'Beyond the Book') but he has no idea where he is or who he is. Worse, he has "a consciousness of something so awful" that he does not want to remember it. There is clearly a major trauma leading to his memory loss, but what is it, and was he involved as a victim, a witness, or was he the perpetrator? Soon this narrator learns from a neighbor that his name is Neal Maclean and he has been living on the Isle of Harris while working on a novel (more about this later).

Neal begins to piece together some facts about himself but each discovery leads to new questions and he begins to suspect he has been leading a double life. One day, at home, Neal finds a map with a track highlighted. It is known as Coffin Road. Neal decides to explore the trail and in doing so, uncovers a hidden set of beehives. Although he still can't remember his own name, Neal does know a great deal about bees. The author, Peter May, has researched the ongoing controversy about the possible harm to bees being caused by neonicotinoids (a form of pesticide widely used in farming) and brings it to life here.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, teenager Karen Fleming is struggling to cope with the suicide of her father two years previously. Skipping school and openly rebelling against her mother, Karen decides to find out more about the Dad she loved. As Karen begins to suspect that he may have been caught up in a shocking environmental cover-up, she is brave (or foolhardy) enough to set out alone to find some answers.

The last strand in this twisting tale is a police investigation, led by Deputy Superintendent Gun. An unidentified middle-aged man has been bludgeoned to death with a rock on Eilean Mor, one of a remote set of islands that form the Flannan Isles. According to Scottish history, three lighthouse men did actually disappear on this island in 1900.

Now Neal Maclean is told he has been a frequent visitor to this same lighthouse on Eilean Mor because he is supposedly working on a novel about the real-life 1900 disappearance. Unhappily for him, Maclean can find no sign that he has written anything at all. In an effort to find out more, he goes to Eilean Mor, finds the dead body just before the police do, and immediately fears that he is the killer. Maclean is spotted fleeing the scene and so it is not long before he becomes DS Gun's prime suspect.

From the outset, the harsh Hebridean landscape parallels the blank spaces in Neal's memories. It is also fitting that an attempt to expose the cover-up of an environmental scandal is played out in this most natural and unspoiled setting. And when Karen leaves the city to uncover the truth, the bleak isolation that has kept the novel's atmosphere charged with menace, raises the stakes as she risks personal safety to find the answers she seeks.

Coffin Road perfectly combines a fast-paced murder mystery with a fascinating real-life environmental crisis. He also continues, as he did in his critically acclaimed Lewis Trilogy of novels, to exploit the grandeur, isolation and stormy beauty of the Hebridean Islands to create a chillingly atmospheric and gripping read.

Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite

This review was originally published in November 2016, and has been updated for the November 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.