Coffin Road by Peter May

coffin roadImagine nearly drowning, and then not knowing who you are.

That is the fate of our main character, a man who is seen staggering onto the shore of the island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  Luckily, his landlady recognizes him, as does his dog, and the married couple living close by.  The wife apparently knows him much more closely than the others.

The only link to his past that he recognizes is a map of the island showing a trek through the mountains that the locals call Coffin Road.  When he hikes up there, there is something there that triggers memories.

Meanwhile, there’s an investigation into a murder on one of the Flannan Isles north-west of Harris.  As things progress, it seems that our amnesiac, identified as Neal Maclean, has been writing a book about the disappearance of the three lighthouse keepers from the Flannans over a hundred years ago, and he is known for making regular boat trips to the islands.

The third story thread concerns Karen Fleming, a rebellious teenager in Edinburgh who is still not herself two years after her father’s suicide.  As she finds out more from her godfather and confronts her mother, Karen becomes convinced that her father is still alive, although at what cost will there be to see and speak to him again?

Although the book starts out slow (as it might for anybody stumbling and disoriented out of the rough ocean), the pace soon picks up as the other storylines begin, and a strong sinister undertone will goad you into reading past bedtime.  There is also an underpinning environmental issue that will give the reader something to consider.

Peter May has been a prolific writer of television and crime fiction.  I read his Lewis Trilogy over the past few years and liked them very much.  Coffin Road, a standalone book, albeit one with a few repeat characters from the Lewis Trilogy, continues his fine evocation of the sea and terrain that make up the wild islands of western Scotland.

(William Hicks, Information Services)




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