if you found yourself washed up on the beach of a northern island with
no memory of how you got there? Now what would you think if you heard
about a brutal murder and started wondering if you could be the killer? This is reality for a man who later calls himself Neal.
The first thing I am aware of is the taste of salt. It fills my mouth. Invasive. Pervasive. It dominates my being, smothering all other senses. Until the cold takes me. Sweeps me up and cradles me in its arms. Holding me so tightly I can't seem to move. Except for the shivering. A raging, uncontrollable shivering. And somewhere in my mind I know this is a good thing. My body trying to generate heat. If I wasn't shivering I would be dead.—Coffin Raod by Peter May (Quercus, 2016, p.1)
- Setting: Outer Hebrides and other areas of Scotland; contemporary times
- Circumstances: Three converging story lines: (1) A man washes
up on the beach with holes in his memory and is trying to figure out
what happened, (2) a teenager doesn't believe her father's death was
suicide and begins to investigate, (3) a homicide detective attempts to
solve a murder on a remote island with a troubled past
- Genre, audience, themes: adult, mystery / thriller, environmental issues
- Characters: The man with the spotty memory and the people he meets on the Isle of Harris, including Sally, who claims to be his lover; Detective George Gunn and the people he meets in the Flannan Islands; Karen, a teenager in Edinburgh, her mother, and the people she encounters as she travels north
- Thoughts: I've enjoyed other novels by Peter May and this one, with its seemingly unrelated story lines, remote setting, and hint at deeper issues really called to me. I love the way the island of Harris is as much a character as the people. I've barely begun the novel, but I'm already hooked.
- Some things to know: Print sources and professional sites have already given Coffin Road starred reviews. This is a standalone novel, so you can start right here if you haven't yet read May. Be prepared to start planning your next vacation -- it will be a visit to the Outer Hebrides.