Monday, August 8, 2011

"I wandered lonely as a cloud...

...then I realized I fancied the odd pint."

The Coffin Trail
Martin Edwards

With apologies to Wordsworth, the above is a sign on a pub quoted in Martin Edwards' The Coffin Trail, a deftly written crime novel set in England's Lake District. For those of you who don't know, the Lake District is a gorgeous part of Northwestern England full of fells, moors, crags, mountains, Hadrian's Wall, and a bunch of lakes, Tarns, and waters, with stunning views. Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter are two of the famous writers associated with the Lake District. See:

Daniel, a rising Oxford Don and historian, decides to give up his academic career (Oxford and a offer from Harvard - gasp) and go live in a remote cottage with his mercurial new girlfriend Miranda in an invented portion of the Lakes. Not coincidentally, the cottage is one his childhood friend Barrie lived in when he was accused of the ghastly blood sacrifice murder of a beautiful visitor. Barrie died before he could've brought to trial by Daniel's father the late police detective. Among the mysteries attracting Daniel's attention are why his father abandoned his family when Daniel was a child, if he can really live the fantasy of a country life in the Lakes, was he in some way responsible for his former lover Aimee's suicide, what happened to Barrie, and who killed the beautiful Gabrielle? In these inquiries, he is aided (or is it really the other way around) by Hannah Scarlett, his father's old detective sergeant, who is newly appointed head of the Cumbria Cold Case squad.

The eponymous coffin trail is a trail historically by the local people to move their dead and several such trails are in use all over the Lake District such as those in Grasmere and Rydal. (see the link above).

The novel is rich with wonderful atmosphere and clever dead-on dialogue. The character of Daniel is not too appealing. He seems a bit cold and a bit too good to be true. The supporting characters are all highly enjoyable including Hannah, her awful boss (big surprise there) and squad of cops. Miranda is bit hard to take and it's easy to see their dramatic affair soon running its course. Since this one, Edwards has written two more in the series. It will be interesting to check them out

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