Cathy's Reviews > The Coffin Path

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements
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The Coffin Path’s striking opening line - “I was born with blood on my hands” - sets the scene for a story full of atmosphere and chilling moments. Ancient curses, family secrets, a remote moorland setting and a crumbling old house reached only by an ancient track called the coffin path – what more do you want?

Very much in the tradition of M. R. James, the sinister atmosphere the author creates comes more from suggestion than full-blown in your face horror. Noises from empty rooms, objects moving or disappearing without seeming human intervention, sudden chills or unusual scents are far scarier and unsettling to my mind than coming face-to-face with a monster. There is one particular scene that definitely made me want to draw the bedcovers up over my head! All the time the reader is made to wonder whether there is malicious human agency behind the goings-on, whether they are the product of a feverish or disturbed imagination – mass hysteria even - or there is an actual supernatural presence.

As word of the strange occurrences at Scarcross Hall reach the wider community it’s not long before superstitious minds see the work of the Devil behind them and seek to assign blame. Like other women down the ages, Mercy, as an independent-minded, unconventional and most importantly unmarried woman, is an easy target for their suspicions, especially when fuelled by grudges of a more personal nature.

Alongside the strange events in the house, the author presents a convincing and detailed picture of the everyday struggle to eke out a livelihood on a remote moorland farm. There is some wonderful descriptive writing that conjures up the wild beauty of the moor that surrounds Scarcross Hall. ‘Now, in this moment, the wind brings it to him: the rich savour of damp peat, must and decay, the metallic, coppery scent of snow and ancient, rainwashed stone, a hint of salt and sea storms.’ I also liked the use of alliteration in lines like, ‘He craves the comfort of it, longs for the liquidity of limbs, the gradual sink into silent contemplation.’

I have to say that although the story is set in the 17th century, I didn’t get an overwhelming sense of that period for a lot of the book. It felt that it could just have easily been set in the 18th or 19th century. However, this does change towards the end of the book as the events and upheaval of the recent Civil War become more central to the story.

The Coffin Path is a satisfyingly creepy ghost story that builds slowly to a dramatic climax as secrets are finally revealed. I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers Headline in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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Reading Progress

January 23, 2018 – Started Reading
January 23, 2018 – Shelved
January 23, 2018 – Shelved as: netgalley-reading-challenge
January 23, 2018 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 23, 2018 – Shelved as: hist-fic-reading-challenge
January 23, 2018 – Shelved as: ghost-stories
January 23, 2018 – Shelved as: advance-review-copy
January 24, 2018 –
January 25, 2018 –
January 26, 2018 –
January 27, 2018 –
January 27, 2018 – Finished Reading

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Sandra I enjoyed this atmospheric book too, great review 😊

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