Tuesday, November 8, 2016

COFFIN ROAD :: Peter May

Peter May returns to the Outer Hebrides, the setting of his mesmerizing Lewis Trilogy, with his new standalone novel Coffin Road. The Hebrides is rugged land that takes on a life of its own in May’s masterful hands, and one morning its churning ocean spits a man onto the beach after taking his memory. With few clues, he has to figure out who he is, what he's doing on the Isle of Harris, and who doesn't want him doing it.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, a troubled young girl digs into the cause of her father's suicide and a detective investigates a bludgeoned body found at a remote lighthouse station. Soon the amnesiac, the detective and the teenager are caught up in high stakes mysteries fraught with the potential for violence and a fascinating (and non-preaching) environmental issue at their core.

May is second to none when it comes to sense of place. He writes landscape so artfully even paragraphs-long descriptions don't detract from the pace of this thriller:

"And now I am aware of the wind. Tugging at my clothes, sending myriad grains of sand in a veil of whisper-thin gauze across the beach in currents and eddies, like water."

May's lyrical writing brings full color to the scenery and the narrative intrigues from start to finish as the three arcs begin to intertwine and race to a final showdown. Coffin Road is an atmospheric thriller that delves into issues of identity, sacrifice and the greater good.

STREET SENSE: With Coffin Road, May has gifted his readers with another engaging mystery infused with the personality of the Hebrides as only he can write it.  

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: With the rain running down my face, it would be hard to tell if I was crying. And if I were to cry, they would be tears of pure frustration. Along with the return, perhaps, of fear. For the rock of certainty on which I have built my hopes turns out to have been the same of self-deception.

COVER NERD SAYS: When a friend (hi, Shaina!) saw this book reviewed in Shelf Awareness she thought to herself, "Hmm, this looks like a book that Lauren would review." Which is both totally uncanny and cool and also tells me perhaps I'm a bit too easy to read. It's no secret I like the dark stuff, so it's not going to shock you to learn that I love this cover. All of May's covers, actually, since the publisher has started giving them all a similar look. I think this is a smart move, creating a cover theme that readers can look at and recognize as an author they enjoy. This one is as dark and brooding as its innards and I'm looking forward to the next time I can spot one like it in upcoming releases. (Disclosure: It feels like it's 8 million o'clock right now, so that is quite rambly and perhaps doesn't even make sense, but there you have it.)

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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