I'm fairly certain - though not completely sure - that the first place I saw The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards blogged about was on Kay's blog here. The book then slipped my mind until a couple of weeks ago when I came home from the library with The Arsenic Labyrinth, discovered it was book 3 in Edwards's Lake District series and that the first book was, in fact, The Coffin Trail. I reserved that one immediately as I do prefer reading crime series in the order they were written in.
Holidaying in the Lake District Daniel Kind and his girlfriend, Miranda, visit the village of Brack where Daniel stayed as a teenager with his family. Back then he had been friends briefly with Barrie Gilpin, a mildly autistic boy. Some years later a woman, Gabrielle Anders, was brutally murdered and her body laid out on a rocky outcrop above the village, the sacrifice stone. The next day Barrie's body had been discovered in a nearby ravine and it had been assumed that he was the murderer - although the police officer in charge of the investigation, Daniel's estranged father, Ben, had never been convinced.
Daniel and Miranda discover that the cottage where Barrie lived with his mother is for sale and, completely on impulse, they buy it with a view to a complete life change for them both. Daniel gives up his job as an Oxford professor and Miranda her journalism job and they move to the Lake District. But the events surrounding the murder start to prey on Daniel's mind. He never thought his friend was guilty and begins to ask questions in the village.
Within the Cumbrian police force a new cold case department has just been started and the detective heading it is DCI Hannah Scarlett. One of the first crimes to be reinvestigated is the Gabrielle Anders case and it's not long before Hannah, who worked under Daniel's father in the original case, comes into contact with Daniel. The two begin to join forces to solve the mystery, which is complicated and difficult and not helped by their various personal problems getting in the way. Between them can they manage to break down the wall of silence that the people of Brack have erected?
I couldn't put this down. I've had a couple of quiet days while my husband's been ill so have been able to indulge my wish to read this straight through, almost without stopping. It was rivetting. Martin Edwards has created well rounded characters in Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind, and left it so that the reader wants to read the rest of the books to see how their relationship develops. I like the fact that we weren't given everything in the first book so that there is plenty more to look forward to.
Plotwise I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery. There were so many twists and turns that I couldn't guess who had done the deed - my actual guess was wildly out - and I liked the way secrets unfolded and unexpected connections were slowly revealed.
The setting was magnificent. I have visted the Lake District on holiday and Edwards has evoked the wild beauty and isolation of the area perfectly. Nice little local details made it very real too - referances to the famous walker, Alfred Wainright, for instance. The title, The Coffin Trail, refers to centuries ago before small villages had their own church and graveyard to bury their dead. The body would have to be taken by horse over the hills to the nearest town and the route taken was known as the coffin or 'corpse' trail.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this to crime fans. It's not a cosy mystery but neither is a hard-nosed one, it's pitched just nicely, imo. I'm off to the library today to grab book two, The Cipher Garden.
Book 24 for my Support your local library challenge which is being hosted by J.Kaye.