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Coffin Road: An utterly gripping crime thriller from the author of The China Thrillers

Peter May

1 Reviews

Rated 0

Fiction, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Crime & mystery, Thriller / suspense

The master of crime brings murder back to the Outer Hebrides.

In the latest Sunday Times bestseller from the million-selling author of THE BLACKHOUSE, Peter May brings murder back to the outer Hebrides.

A man stands bewildered on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris. He cannot remember who he is. The only clue to his identity is a folded map of a path named the Coffin Road. He does not know where this search will take him.

A detective from Lewis sits aboard a boat, filled with doubt. DS George Gunn knows that a bludgeoned corpse has been discovered on a remote rock twenty miles offshore. He does not know if he has what it takes to uncover how and why.

A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her scientist father's suicide. Two years on, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. She does not yet know his secret.

COFFIN ROAD follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth - and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.

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Reader reviews (1)

  • “The light at Luskentyre is stunning. The wind is brisk but soft. The land has soaked up everything thrown at it last night by the storm. It has, it seems, an endless capacity to do so. The sky presents itself in torn strips of blue interspersed by teased-out cotton wool, and the sun reflects in countless shades of turquoise across an outgoing tide that leaves silver sands shining” Coffin Road is the eighth stand-alone novel by British author, Peter May. A man wakes, washed up on a beach on the isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides: he doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or how he got there, but he has an overpowering feeling of dread about something that has happened. Instinctively, he does not reveal his amnesia to those around him, relying on the information he gleans from conversations and from items in his cottage to gain knowledge of who he is. His neighbours know him as Neal Maclean, a writer who is almost finished a book about three lighthouse keepers gone missing from the Flannan Isles in 1900. It soon becomes apparent to him that this is a cover, but for what? A boat trip to one of the Flannan Isles, Eilean Mor, leads to a discovery that explains the dread, and has him wondering if he is a murderer. In the two years since her father’s suicide, Karen Fleming has gone from a hormonal teenager to a rebellious adolescent, mired in guilt over her last words to him, maintaining a defiant ugliness with shockingly dyed hair, tattoos and piercings, layers of pretence that hide her inability to accept that her father took his own life. Craving a closeness no longer possible, she seeks out her godfather, Professor Chris Connor, her father’s closest friend. And learns something that makes her determined to know the truth. Stationed at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, DS George Gunn is sent to investigate the bludgeoned corpse discovered by tourists in the chapel on Eilean Mor. The victim is unidentified, and murder is a far from common crime in the Outer Hebrides: he wonders if this case will see him completely out of his depth. As he effortlessly builds the suspense, May gives the reader a real page-turner: the plot is original, with quite a few twists and a dramatic climax in a remote island lighthouse during a fierce storm; the characters are, with their flaws and failings, totally believable; the setting is expertly rendered, and the gorgeous descriptive prose is a bonus: “The cloud formations coming in off the Atlantic are torn and shredded by the wind, sunlight breaking through them in beams of pure gold against black, criss-crossing the incoming wash and the silver of the sand like spotlights on a stage. Nature’s own theatrical production, dazzling and majestic” May touches on some interesting and very topical themes: the importance of bees in the world’s ecosystems; the devastating effect of reputedly harmless pesticides; the power of the large, multi-national agrochemical companies; and the concealment of unfavourable research results. May’s love of the Outer Hebrides is apparent in his wonderfully evocative descriptions: “…I can see the rain falling from it in dark streaks that shift between smudges of grey-blue light and occasional flashes of watery sunshine that burn in brief patches of polished silver on the surface of the sea” He draws some marvellous word pictures: “Despite the absence of people, there were plenty of boats. Fishing boats and motor launches, a couple of sailing boats and a handful of rowing boats which had seen better days, all lined up side by side, nudging each other playfully in the wind” and “The sky is more broken now, the light sharp and clear, clouds painted against the blue in breathless brushstrokes of white and grey and pewter. Moving fast in the wind to cast racing shadows on the sand below” are examples. May has written novels set in the Outer Hebrides before, and this novel is bound to have readers seeking out his earlier works. A brilliant read! With thanks to Hachette and TheReadingRoom for this copy to read and review.

    Marianne Vincent

    Rated 5
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Peter May

Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BBC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane fifteen years that followed, became one of Scotland's most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels.

In 2021, he was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. He has also won several literature awards in France, received the USA's Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy; and in 2014 was awarded the ITV Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year award for Entry Island. Peter now lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally.

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