Thanks to the lovely Caitlin Raynor at Headline I have had The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements on my TBR for almost a year with every intention of reading it way before now. But, as ever, life got in the way. Not any more and I’m delighted to be reviewing The Coffin Path which is not my usual choice of genre!
Published By Headline Review, The Coffin Path is available for purchase through the links here.
The Coffin Path
Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.
Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.
When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.
My Review of The Coffin Path
Living at Scarcross has never been easy for Mercy, but it is about to get considerably harder.
Now, I must confess that I don’t usually read books marketed in the ghost or horror genre as I find them too unsettling, but The Coffin Path was a perfect read for me with just the right amount of creepiness and supernatural to disturb and entertain me. Hardcore horror readers might find it wasn’t horrific enough, but I loved it.
The quality of writing is outstanding. There’s a sophistication to Katherine Clements’s prose style that draws in the reader and that is completely convincing so that I felt I was really able to understand the 1600s when the book is set, and to comprehend its superstitions and practices making for a realistic and powerful reading experience. There’s such realism alongside the more supernatural elements so that this narrative is finely balanced and nuanced.
I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story switches from Mercy’s first person perspective to the other third person aspects so that the reader is kept guessing right the way through. I simply couldn’t decide if this was a story where there really are malevolent elements at work or if there is a more mundane explanation. You’ll have to read the book to find out!
The appeal to the senses throughout is so cleverly done that I could envisage every scene so vividly. I’d love to see The Coffin Path translated into film or television, although I’m not entirely sure I’d have the nerve to watch it. Whilst Katherine Clements is not afraid to describe more visceral aspects clearly, she does so with a deftness of touch that is never gratuitous. This is such fine writing.
I adored the characterisation. Mercy and Ellis in particular hold the reader in thrall, but not one of the minor characters is extraneous to the action and atmosphere so that there’s a wonderful coherence which is quite perturbing. I never quite knew who was trustworthy or honest and found the protagonists of Mercy and Ellis multi-layered and fascinating. The environment is also a compelling character in its own right and at times I thought of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins as I read. There are definitely echoes of the Brontes here too with a gritty bleakness and considerable passion woven throughout.
I loved the story telling. At its simplest this is a story about a place where some inexplicable events take place but my goodness, Katherine Clements knows how to keep the reader guessing, how to uncover just enough atmospheric and tantalising detail to keep them hooked and to deliver the most satisfying resolution.
The Coffin Path is my first Katherine Clements read and it will definitely not be my last. I thought The Coffin Path was brilliant.
About Katherine Clements
Katherine Clements is a critically acclaimed novelist, self-confessed costume drama addict and current Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Manchester. She is editor of Historia, the online magazine of the Historical Writers’ Association, and is a member of the HWA committee.