The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards

A while ago I read The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards, the third in his Lake District Mystery series of books, which I wrote about here. Now I’ve read The Coffin Trail,  the first in the series.

Daniel Kind and his partner Miranda have just moved to Tarn Cottage near Brackdale, a beautiful village in the Lakes in a hidden valley. The Cottage used to be the home of Barrie Gilpin, who was suspected of the brutal murder of Gabrielle Anders and Daniel had met Barrie, when as a boy he had spent a fortnight’s holiday at Brackdale. Barrie had died before he could be arrested and Daniel can’t imagine how the Barrie he knew could possibly have murdered anybody. He starts asking the locals questions about it.

So when the police set up a new team to investigate cold cases led by DCI Hannah Scarlett, who had been on the original team investigating the murder of Gabrielle, Daniel’s questions trigger a phone call to the team resulting in the revival of the case.

I was completely involved with the characters and swept along by the mystery. The setting is superb, the Lake District is vividly described, as is Daniel and Miranda’s renovation of the cottage, and the bookshop owned by Marc, Hannah’s partner. I liked all the detail in this book. I could see the coffin trail, the steep stony track that had been used years ago as the route mourners took to bury their dead at the chuch over the fells. It leads to the Sacrifice Stone, an ancient pagan site, where Gabrielle’s body had been found. I could see the bookshop in a section of a converted mill, with its creaking floorboards:

They creaked, just as Daniel believed, all floorboards in secondhand bookshops should creak. It was an essential part of the ambiance, like the giddy sense of claustrophobia that came from squeezing between tottering towers of books and clouds of dust that had to be blown from the ancient volumes lingering in the darkest recesses.

Daniel, an Oxford historian, is used to investgating the past and this leads to his meeting Hannah, partly because he is trying to find out more about his father, Ben who had been Hannah’s boss. Daniel had lost touch with his father after his parents’ divorce. Miranda meanwhile is becoming less enchanted with the idea of living in the cottage away from her job in London and as Daniel and Hannah spend some time together the potential for their relationship arises. I must admit that I took to Hannah rather more than I did to Miranda.

This is a nicely complicated book with complex relationships  and sub-plots. There are plenty of questions to be answered. Can Daniel and Miranda live happily in Tarn Cottage? Did Barrie kill Gabrielle? And if he didn’t who did? Ben Kind and Hannah were never convinced at the time of his guilt and as the cold case team investigate aided by Daniel’s persistence more secrets emerge. I was kept guessing right to the thrilling end of this book.

3 thoughts on “The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards

  1. I am planning a vacation in the Lake District in August. (A few friends and I are taking a weekend-long Georgian cookery course there.) I always like to read non-fiction books about the area I’m going to visit, as well as novels set in the area, so I am going to look these mysteries up on Amazon — they sound great!


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