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The Coffin Path: 'The perfect ghost story' Paperback – 18 Oct. 2018
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A striking combination of Brontëan romantic melodrama and gothic ghost story... Clements has written an eerily gripping novel in which the ghosts of the past haunt the present in more ways than one (The Sunday Times)
Intense, twisty drama... the atmospheric writing and the strong evocation of the landscape are terrific (Daily Mail)
Spine-tingling... the scariest ghost story I have read in a long time. Beautifully written, fantastically atmospheric, it left me sleepless and in tears (Barbara Erskine)
Brooding and full of creeping menace (Laura Purcell)
The Coffin Path is the perfect ghost story: utterly absorbing, immersed in a world so completely authentic, peopled by men, women, children - and the beasts of a shepherding life - so completely flesh and blood that when the not-so-flesh arise, it's *terrifying*. But not only that, it's a beautifully wrought evocation of a world and a time that feels as if it's just around the corner. If you like Michelle Paver, you'll love this, but fans of Mantel will love it too - the language is a delight, the word-smithing pitch-perfect, and the narrative drive compelling. This is a book about passion and fear, blood and death and life and love and all the pieces from which life is wrought - if you read only one book this year, make it this one, you won't regret it (Manda Scott)
Clements brings alive the bleak beauty of the moors with a chilling ghost story that vividly portrays the superstitions and beliefs of 17th-century rural society (Sunday Express S Magazine)
A wonderful piece of Yorkshire Gothic, all the more effective for being so firmly anchored in its time and place... like something from Emily Bronte's nightmares (Andrew Taylor, author of The Ashes of London)
Oozing with gothic symbolism, this brooding and beautiful ghost story is guaranteed to haunt your dreamslong after the cover has been closed (Essie Fox)
W&H March Great Read - not to be read alone late at night (Woman & Home)
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Every time there was a hint of something supernatural the story quickly reverted back to being about sheep farming. There were plenty of missed opportunities to create a truly terrifying story but Clements just ignored them all.
If you want to know how difficult sheep farming was in the 1600s then this is the book for you, if you want a ghost story look elsewhere.
I’m an avid reader and listener and usually have one paperback/hardback on the go with another one in audible to keep me occupied while I’m doing household tasks. This was my paperback indulgence to sit and read with a glass of wine in the evening and I was hoping for something along the lines of The Silent Companions.... I was to have my hopes dashed.
I have to agree with a couple of other 1&2 star reviews here, this was no perfect ghost story! There was the promise of something sinister lurking but apart from the promise, nothing until I suppose the very last line and even that was ambiguous.
The characters weren’t likeable either with the exception of some sideline characters I didn’t feel much empathy with any of them only frustration at the eye rolling stubborness you find in books of this type.
Another reviewer had put this well when they said it was a book about sheep farming in the 1600’s. Dull, depressing and lacking any real suspense or horror.
As a person who has farmed sheep myself I didn’t even enjoy it from that perspective! And while I may be a West Country girl, I have visited and spent a lot of time in Yorkshire and although it doesn’t have the beauty for me that Devon and Cornwall do, if you were to read this you’d never want to visit there, it’s painted as perhaps the most godforsken place on earth, and actually, the Yorkshire moors are beautiful and enchanting rather than dark and unappealing.
I read a lot of historical fiction and I’m a huge fan of Toby Clements and Karen Maitland for example -
And they really are historical fiction at their best. This just wasn’t. Sorry.
There are some really visceral descriptions regarding sheep farming and I loved the descriptions of the eerie moors. This was the best kind of ghost story where the author allows the reader's imagination to do some work.
There is quite a twist towards the end and on the strength of this work I will certainly read the author's previous books.
The plot kept up a juggenaut pace that crushed the book's characters beneath it. All the characters from Mercy, who might be called the book's heroine, to her ailing father and old Agnes their housekeeper, to the mysterious Ellis Ferreby are all well rounded. Add to that a remote farmhouse that has seen better days and a serious of unsettling events it makes for an excellent read.
As other reviewers have noted the books supernatural element is very much in keeping with Susan Hill, and in a way M R James. Old fashioned maybe, but it fits the historical setting, post English Civil War, very well.
Top international reviews
First, the repetition on the sheep farming: scents, wool, flies, finding sheep, watching sheep, birthing sheep.... One mention would have been good to establish the scene and working environment, but hundreds (or what felt like) pages of the same things being endlessly repeated did nothing except cause me to want to get on with another book. I'll add tallows to this as well (there's only so much you can read about the scent of tallows without wanting to end the story).
Secondly, the book was simply not what I was expecting. Yes, there were some strange happenings, and a few eerie moments, but these were quickly eclipsed by more sheep farming, the romances (or lack thereof) of the characters, and the worst--the ending of the book did nothing to shed any light on this.
The end did get more exciting, but not for any of the reasons you'd expect. A great twist, but since it took up so little of what was otherwise a book that I thought was to focus on ghosts, even that just didn't make me feel like it fit in with the premise of the story.
I'm going with this book was just "not for me". I know others have liked it much more, and maybe engaged better with the characters (who I'll admit, I never really connected with). While the gothic atmosphere was there, too many questions that I WANTED answered were pretty much left dead-ended. The final scenes were more exciting, but not at all in the way I expected after reading an entire 90% of the book and then having it morph into something else.
I really enjoyed reading this on a dark night. As I said, perfect.
There are superstitious tales of a crumbling estate on the moors called Scarcross Hall. The long neglected hall sits atop the moors like an abandoned ship on a stormy sea. The local villagers refuse to pass along the coffin path after dark. They don't want to be at the crossroads, where the hall is located, at night. They say the land has an ancient curse upon it and the old house is hiding secrets . Some believe the devil walks the moors again and someone wants to open the pathway to hell.
Mercy Booth and her father own and farm the Scarcross land. One foggy twilight Mercy sees a dark figure at the crossroads and becomes fearful. She returns to the hall where her father has some disturbing news for her; someone has stolen 3 gold coins and an old inkwell from him. They recall an ominous rhyme passed down through the village about 3 coins and the Devil.
Stranger Ellis Ferreby arrives at Scarcross Hall looking to work for pay, room, board and....
Sam, a young boy living at Scarcross, finds the first coin. No one believes him when he swears he didn't steal it. He is afraid of something lurking in the dark. He's scared out of his wits.
Very well written ghost story with many mysterious puzzles to solve. Shivers abound. I had to remove a star because the end did not live up to the the rest of the story. I will say, however, that the ride was well worth it.
This one took a month
Do not waste your money
Poorly written and does not hold your intetest