A mystery set within a bubble very much heightens the senses when reading COFFIN ROAD. The action is placed within an isolated small seaside town and there are very few characters for the reader to learn about and glean clues from. The lead, who has lost his memory, retraces his steps in an effort to find out who he is, what kind of man he is, and what it is that he has done that has left him with such a leaden feeling of dread.
May reaches deep into the psyche of his lead character and we are immersed very quickly in his nightmare. Having washed up on a beach with injuries, Neal Maclean seems to have no family, no close friends, and lives in a cottage bereft of meaning personal effects with only his dog for company. He is compelled however to traverse what is locally known as Coffin Road, a walkers trail along the coastline. As fleeting memories return to Neal, it becomes even more puzzling to him as to why he has chosen to remove himself from all he has known to live in this beautiful but remote part of Scotland. When he discovers a man’s body on a nearby island, Neal becomes more convinced that the reason why he came to be alone in this remote part of the world was because he had felt a need to hide.
Peter May never loses his way in COFFIN ROAD, coaxing his reader forward as Neal Maclean becomes more desperate to solve the mystery that his own life. COFFIN ROAD is a beautifully descriptive novel as well as being a very personal one; the roar of the wind and the crashing of the ocean are ever present as the melancholic backdrop to one mans’ desperation. The amnesia is thankfully only a minor plot device (that old chestnut) and it is not a novel about one man rediscovering himself – there are other forces at play that are very left field to the moody first half of this book.
Fans of Peter May will gleefully add COFFIN ROAD to their collection and new readers would be pleased with this almost closed room mystery that needs very few literary props to satisfy.