Coffin Road by Peter May – 4*s

Coffin Road


A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive and borderline hypothermic. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road. He does not know where it will lead him, but filled with dread, fear and uncertainty he knows he must follow it.

A detective crosses rough Atlantic seas to a remote rock twenty miles west of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With a sense of foreboding he steps ashore where three lighthouse keepers disappeared more than a century before – a mystery that remains unsolved. But now there is a new mystery – a man found bludgeoned to death on that same rock, and DS George Gunn must find out who did it and why.

A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her father’s death. Two years after the discovery of the pioneering scientist’s suicide note, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. And the more she discovers about the nature of his research, the more she suspects that others were behind his disappearance.

Coffin Road follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth – and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.


A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive and borderline hypothermic. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. So starts what is a great story in a traditional thriller/murder mystery format, that deals with very contemporary issues.

Our man in question manages to find what he assumes is home and tries to find out who he is and what he’s doing on the island. It transpires he has a dog called Bran which he subconsciously remembers and a lover that he doesn’t. He is informed that his name is Neal Maclean and he was supposedly writing about the historic disappearance of 3 lighthouse keepers on the nearby island of Eilean Mor. The problem is, apart from having no recollection, there is also no trace of any research, or writing on his laptop. When an intruder tries to kill him, it is clear that he needs to discover exactly who he is and why he’s in danger. A trip to Eilean Mor leads to a shocking discovery that further complicates his situation.

Running parallel to this story is that of Karen Fleming, an Edinburgh teenager struggling to come to terms with her fathers disappearance and apparent suicide two years previously. What is not clear at this stage is how this narrative fits into the plot line involving Neal. As I have no intention of hinting at spoilers that will be something you need to discover for yourself. What I will say it was not what I expected.

I will admit I did find the story a little slow in the beginning, but there was enough intrigue and mystery to keep me interested until the plot really takes off in a direction that I didn’t guess at and from then on in the tension really ramps up. One of the interesting aspects of the book is never knowing quite whether anyone is who they say they are, and the lines are blurred so you’re never sure who’s the hero and who’s the villain. There are also red herrings and twists which keep you gripped right up to the final denouement.

As with his other novels, the landscape plays an important part in the plot and adds an atmospheric backdrop to the story that really adds to the drama.

This was a good, solid, engaging and intelligent read that I’d happily recommend.

I received a review copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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