Book of the Day

Coffin Road by Peter May / Review by Brittany Menken

Coffin Road

By Peter May

ISBN 978-1681443898
Published 10/04/2016

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Killer Nashville Reader’s Choice Award

Coffin Road

Killer Nashville review by Brittany Menken

Peter May’s latest novel, Coffin Road, weaves three gripping tales together to reach one cohesive truth—all while incorporating elements of mystery and some spin-chilling thrills. May is no stranger to thriller and crime novels, having experienced success with The Lewis Trilogy and The Enzo Files. The seasoned Scott adeptly crafts each piece of the puzzle from beginning to end, pulling the reader along through the multifaceted plotlines. Each vignette in Coffin Road feels like a photograph, life preserved in a snapshot.

May masterfully blends economic, sparing exposition with ethereal, detailed description of setting—elements that are apparent in the novel’s opening pages. Set in Scotland, Coffin Road’s first scene captivates the reader and lures them in with mystery and a sense of foreboding. In those first paragraphs, a man washes ashore a stranded beach. He is void of any memories about himself or how he ended up in this state. He’s soon discovered and welcomed by locals who then lead him to a cottage in town—a cottage that his muddled brain partially remembers. He does not know why he recalls this place or why the townsfolk treat him with the familiarity reserved for those one has known for an extended amount of time.

The man soon discovers his name (Ned) and a clue to his past by way of a woman named Sally. Sally reveals to Ned that the pair had been romantically involved and they rekindle the romance before heading off to Coffin Road in an attempt to find more clues that will help Ned regain his memory. While there, he discovers a hoard of beehives—a clue that coincides with the mysterious stings on Ned’s hands.

As Ned’s addled thoughts become more lucid, he recalls a book he was writing that contained details of a century-old mystery concerning the disappearance of three men on a nearby island. Driven to know more about what facts this latest recollection can shed light on, Ned sets out to the island where the men reportedly went missing. But there he’s confronted with yet another daunting mystery to unravel when he discovers a corpse that looks to have suffered a violent death. Ned begins to wonder if he might be the murderous culprit—and he’s not the only one.

This mysterious island has also caught the attention of Detective George Gunn, who is investigating a murder committed by a killer who could be lurking in the same area, looking for clues of his own.

Karen, the final strand of these interweaving narratives, is a girl living in constant rebellion of her mother. Primarily, she’s hell-bent on uncovering the details of her father’s suicide. Convinced her father didn’t kill himself, Karen journeys to the island to seek out the truth. Once there, trouble finds her and she’s thrust into sudden jeopardy.

With accolades such as the U.S. Barry Award for Crime Novel of the Year for his book The Blackhouse and the national literature award in France CEZAAM Prix Litteraire, it’s easy to see why this novel—along with his other works of fiction—is beloved by fans across the globe. No matter what genre one enjoys, Coffin Road enthralls readers with so many twists and turns that even an expert in the crime and mystery genres won’t see the conclusion coming until it hits full force.