THE COFFIN TRAIL
Martin Edwards

 


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Allison and Busby, January, 2006
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Daniel Kind is an academic living and working in Oxford. He is also the son of a police detective, now deceased. Daniel is driving through Englandís Lake District with his new girlfriend when he comes upon a picturesque village which stirs memories of a happy family holiday when he was ten years old. It was the last holiday before his father walked out on the family for another woman.

Acting on impulse, Daniel buys a house in the district, thinking that a change to a quieter life is just what he needs. A quiet life is the opposite of what he gets. The house was the home of a friend from that long-ago holiday, a boy named Barrie. Daniel discovers that Barrie was chief suspect in the brutal murder of a young woman several years earlier. Before the investigation was fully under way, Barrie died in an apparent accident, and the case was abruptly closed. Coincidentally, it was Danielís father who led the investigation.

Daniel is an historian, so when his memories of Barrie donít tally with him being a violent killer, his instincts tell him there is more to the story that needs to be told. When Daniel learns that his fatherís former assistant, Hannah Scarlett, is now heading up a newly-formed Cold Case Squad, he approaches her to re-open the case.

Daniel begins to ask questions which are met with opposition and hostility from some quarters. Why is his interest in the past upsetting so many? Is it that they simply donít want their peaceful existence upset or is there something more sinister to hide? The more Daniel questions the past, the more secrets begin to emerge; secrets which throw new light on the murder and raise doubts about Barrieís guilt.

Cold case mysteries seem to be enjoying immense popularity at the moment and with books like THE COFFIN TRAIL it's easy to see why. THE COFFIN TRAIL is populated by a cast of interesting and diverse characters. The location is suitably atmospheric and the portrayal of a small community rings true. Edwards has also managed to pull off what I think is one of the most difficult things in crime fiction. He has managed to seamlessly inject some historical information without slowing down the plot or taking the reader out of the story. He also plays fair with the reader. If you piece together the relationships and connections in the right order, you can work out "whodunit".

Martin Edwards has written a number of crime novels. THE COFFIN TRAIL is his ninth and is the first in the Lake District series, of which there are three to date (THE COFFIN TRAIL, THE CIPHER GARDEN and THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH). He is also the author of seven Harry Devlin novels. THE COFFIN TRAIL contains the all the elements to set-up the series. There is a lot of potential for the relationship between Hannah and Daniel. What direction that relationship takes remains to be seen. There is also scope for collaboration between a cold case investigator and an historian. Danielís occupation allows the author to offer a little of Britainís history as well. In fact, the title of the book is itself a part of history. THE COFFIN TRAIL refers to ancient tracks used by people to transport the dead to the nearest place of burial.

Martin Edwards was born in Cheshire and educated at Oxford. He is a qualified solicitor. Martin Edwardsí website is http://www.martinedwardsbooks.com/

February 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem

 

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