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February Book Club Choice

The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards

Cover of The Coffin Trail

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A riveting mystery set in a close-knit Lake District town which sees the reopening of a cold-case. When historican Daniel Kind moves into Tarn Cottage he didn't expect the previous owner, Barrie, to have been a murder suspect. The body of a woman was found on a local sacrificial stone but Barrie died in an accident before he could be arrested. Daniel is fascinated by the case and becomes convinced of Barrie's innocence, so when the case is dug up for review he soon finds himself caught up in the investigations with DCI Hannah Scarlett. It is clear that the locals prefer to let sleeping dogs lie and together they soon find themselves risking their lives in search of a ruthless murderer who is prepared to kill again to hide the truth.

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Suggested Discussion Points:

Author Q&A

Q. What drew you to base your series on ‘cold cases’?
Colin Dickson, Blackpool

A. I'm fascinated by the way the past impacts upon the present, in so many ways. I think this is true for individuals, but also for society generally. I found the idea of a historian's work as a form of detection very appealing, and I wanted to counterpoint that with Hannah's delving into old mysteries. And, parallel to the cold cases, runs Hannah's relationships with Ben Kind, in the past, and now Daniel, his son.

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Q. Could you have envisioned setting the series anywhere else in the UK? How important was the Lake District setting for you?
Mrs Banton, Cardiff

A. No, the themes and approach were conceived specifically in relation to the Lake District. I'm interested in the pressures on the rural way of life, and this comes out quite clearly, I think, in The Serpent Pool. And of course, the literary heritage of the Lakes is very important as a thread running through the stories - notably John Ruskin's work in The Arsenic Labyrinth, and Thomas De Quincey's in The Serpent Pool. The Lake District truly is a unique place, and calls for a unique approach to setting a series there. So - the setting, for me, has been crucial, ever since I started work on The Coffin Trail.


Q. Had you already planned roughly how David and Hannah’s relationship would develop in the next books when you wrote The Coffin Trail or is it a blank slate with each book?
F Corey, Carlisle

A. No. I wanted the relationship to move forward in some way, but I aimed to create enough space, and opportunities for development in the characters and situations, to enable it to move in a variety of directions. And that is still the case. There are obstacles in the way of Hannah and Daniel getting together, and those obstacles will not lightly be overcome. Plenty of potential for drama in the future, I reckon!


Q. Which writers have influenced your own writing the most?
C Biel, London

A. Plot is important to me, and my books, and creating a complex mystery appeals greatly. So Agatha Christie's ingenuity with plot was a definite influence. I like the way in which writers like Ruth Rendell and Reginald Hill have developed their series characters over a period of years, and that type of approach has been an influence, even if only indirectly. Guy, in The Arsenic Labyrinth, is also, in a sense, a Rendellesque charming sociopath.


Q. How do you find the time to write whilst holding down a full-time job as a solicitor?
M Harrison, Liverpool

A. Not easy! But of course I\'m very fortunate to have two careers which are interesting and enjoyable. And if I have a bad day in the office, I can always come home and kill somebody!


Q. Do you read other crime novels when you are actively writing your novels?
Jane Benton, Grasmere

A. Yes, all the time. I write constantly, so if I didn't read crime while I wrote, I'd never read it at all. And I am fascinated by the genre. I read many different types of book, so it doesn't interfere with the writing process.


Q. Have you ever got writer’s block and what do you do when that happens?
R Jacobs, Barrow-in-Furness

A. No, but there are times when I'm very dissatisfied with what I am writing. The secret there is to keep at it, and sooner or later, the writing improves. Honestly!


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