(Image from Barnes & Noble)
A dazed, hypothermic man walks out of the sea on the Outer Hebrides' Isle of Harris with no recollection of his name, address, or occupation. Gradually, he learns that he's Ian McLean, he lives in a seaside cottage in Luskentyre, and he's a writer working on a book about something called the Coffin Road. According to his neighbors, Ian moved to the island 18 months ago to write. It's curious, then, that he can find no evidence of a manuscript-in-progress anywhere in his house. Has he been suffering from a massive case of writer's block? Or is something else going on here? Nothing that Ian has learned about himself feels right. Who is he, really? And what's he been doing in the Outer Hebrides?
George Gunn, a detective sergeant from Stornoway, also has a mystery on his hands. The body of an unidentified man has been found on a tiny, sea-soaked island where a century ago a trio of lighthouse keepers disappeared without a trace. George doesn't recognize the corpse, but Ian thinks he does. The details are very murky in Ian's mind, but he believes he might have been the one to kill the man.
Karen Fleming, a 17-year-old Goth girl living in Edinburgh, is also trying to piece together a mysterious puzzle. Her father, a scientist, vanished two years ago. His apparent suicide doesn't sit well with her. The more Karen finds out about the work her dad was doing before he disappeared, the more convinced she is that he didn't kill himself. But if he didn't, who did?
As these three mysteries unfurl, it's up to the principal characters to figure out what in the world is going on. When the different threads become tangled together, it's apparent that something very sinister is happening on the Isle of Harris. Can Ian and George weave it all together in time to save themselves? Or will they, too, become victims in the dangerous game being played out before their eyes?
Like Peter May's other Outer Hebridean mysteries, Coffin Road is a tense, intriguing mystery set against a broody backdrop that lends an otherworldly eeriness to the story at hand. This one gets maybe a little far-fetched, but who cares? It's a twisty, compelling tale that kept me turning pages well into the night. If you're a fan of intriguing mysteries set in remote, atmospheric locales (which I am), definitely give Peter May a go. I've read a number of his books over the last year or so and I've enjoyed them all. Coffin Road is no exception.
(Readalikes: other mysteries by Peter May, including the Lewis Trilogy [The Blackhouse; The Lewis Man; The Chessmen] and Entry Island)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and references to illegal drug use