Friday 18 May 2018

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements

Review by Greenacre Writer Vasundra Jackison

This is a story that will grab your attention from the very start.
I was born with blood on my hands. I killed my mother on the 22nd of August, in the year 1642, the day the first King Charles turned traitor and chose a battlefield over a throne.
Immediately, you are pulled in and there is no turning back. This is a historical novel with a deep dark theme of ghosts, evil shadows and a malevolent presence that will keep you on edge.
It is the story of Mercy Booth, a young woman who has grown up in the shadow of this evil presence. It hangs over and around her home, right in the middle of the wild Yorkshire moors. Many in the village are superstitious and afraid of the terrifying tales of death and destruction in the area, passed down through the ages.
But Mercy is not like them. She is strong, determined and hard working. She knows and loves the rough landscape of the moors, despite the rumours and dangers.
There’s a fog gathering, sitting heavy on the hills, sinking into the valley. I know the paths across these moors like I know every stone and slate of Scarcross Hall, but when the fog comes down it’s fast and unforgiving, and even us helfted ones can lose our way.
Her father is ill and very rarely leaves the crumbling walls of Scarcross Hall. Mercy runs the farm, tending to the sheep and working the unforgiving land like any man who comes looking for employment.
When Ellis Ferreby turns up, the tavern keeper directs him.
You can’t mistake the place. Find the church and follow the old coffin path that runs up towards the moor top. You’ll not miss it.
What he is not told is that the coffin path leads to a place where the most horrific events are said to have taken place; a frightening and forbidding place.
Mercy is suspicious of this quiet stranger. She feels uncomfortable around him and senses a disturbing watchfulness from him. There are also increasing episodes of alarming events which are unnatural and inexplicable. She senses something threatening. I sense it like a rabbit sensing a fox: there are eyes on me.
Her faithful dog begins to growl and slinks to her side more often than usual.
I’m not one for superstition and scaremongering and I’ve never before felt truly afraid. This is different: there is harm in it. My hackles rise. I’m a field mouse sensing the hawk, my pursuer invisible to me but every instinct telling me to run.
Despite her misgivings, she employs Ellis for the lambing season. She grows used to him and starts to depend on him. He helps her handle the challenges faced by all farmers during that period in history. It is tough work in the harsh climate on the moors. Against the backdrop of the foreboding mood, the author gives us an interesting insight into life on the Yorkshire moors in the 17th century.
The sense of menace never leaves the pages. It is always there in the background. In spite of the feeling of dread, or perhaps because of it, we are compelled to finish the book. We want to know how Mercy will cope with what we imagine will happen in Scarcross Hall. This book of ghosts, mystery and history is one that the reader will find very difficult to put down.

Thanks to Headline for the review copy.

Follow Katherine on Twitter: @KL_Clements

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