- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Black and White Publishing (25 Jan. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1785301586
- ISBN-13: 978-1785301582
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 611,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Restless Coffins (J.T. Ellington) Paperback – 25 Jan 2018
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'Page turning historical detective fiction at it's finest, picks you up and puts you right in 60's Britain, and its underbelly, and a new genre to boot, say hello to 'Barbadian/Bristolian noir'. --Dermot O'Leary
'This is terrific crime fiction - evocative, socially aware and gripping - and JT Ellington is a compelling protagonist.' --Mark Billingham
About the Author
M.P. Wright was born in Leicestershire in 1965. He was employed in various roles within the music industry before working as a private investigator. He retrained in 1989 and spent the next twenty years in the mental health and probation services in the UK, specialising in risk assessment. A self-confessed aficionado of film, music and real ale, and father of two beautiful daughters, Mark lives with his partner and their two Rottweiler dogs, Tiff and Dylan. His first novel, Heartman was longlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2015.
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I love Joseph, such a great character, trouble is I always end up an emotional wreck by the time these books have finished.
Great read again, loved it obviously! :-)
If sequels are tricky, try completing a trilogy. You have to complete circles and tie off loose ends whilst conjuring a conclusion that works for new readers but also satisfies the many who have followed the story of Ellington from the start (which further includes two superb short stories, “Wendell Patin’s Pork Pie” and “Standing In The Shadows With The Ghost Of Emmett Till”). The potential to wind up on your backside is enormous.
“Restless Coffins” removes us from the familiar surroundings of Bristol very early on following news of family tragedy from our hero’s original home back in Barbados. Ellington is summoned across the Atlantic by his cousin Vic to meet him in New York and from there events rapidly spiral out of control, loyalties are called into question and the body count is both high and savage.
As with its lauded predecessors, “Restless Coffins” is an intoxicating read - Wright’s gift for creating worlds is such that you can not only see the locations in your mind’s eye, but hear and smell them too. Not only does he have a believable, battered, and sometimes painfully human protagonist in JT Ellington, but also a truly memorable anti-hero in Vic, who haunts and drives the narrative in “Restless Coffins” for well over half the book before finally appearing in person. Secondary characters are beautifully drawn although few survive long enough for us to get to know them well. The main villain of the piece is a rare piece of evil, utterly irredeemable and shorn of any saving graces, being well written enough for the reader to see how pathetic they are without engendering them any sympathy.
The denouement feels a little abrupt perhaps, but only in the way that endings tend to when concluding a longer story - one often hopes for greater catharsis than life tends to deliver, and MP Wright roots Ellington’s tales strongly in a ‘real world’ environment. However, this is not to suggest that this is in any way unsatisfying. Ellington has been to hell and back before we are even introduced to the character in “Heartman”, and “Restless Coffins” earns him the right to be left in about as good a place as could be hoped for given his circumstances.
MP Wright has successfully negotiated the various narrative pitfalls inherent in concluding a trilogy, partly by painting on a broader and more alien canvas than was encountered in the first two Ellington novels. There are elements of John Buchan’s “The 39 Steps” and Ian Fleming here, whilst maintaining the pacing and exquisite atmosphere of his earlier works. The world of JT and Vic is neither safe nor comfortable, and the author unflinchingly depicts the racism of the times. The violence is visceral. A bullet doesn’t leave a neat little hole. A punch wounds. People often don't get what they deserve. The inhabitants of the book feel real, not cyphers or stereotypes.
For those readers already invested in JT Ellington, “Restless Coffins” makes for a bruising, bloody but ultimately brilliant ending to his 1960s adventures. It also manages to work just as effectively if this is your introduction to MP Wright’s work - and you’ll want to check out what you’ve been missing by the end.
Ellington, broke and broken-hearted has ended up in 1960s Bristol, where he uses his police training to eke out a living as a private investigator. When he receives the news that his only sister, Bernice, has died in Barbados, he is compelled to return home to wind up her affairs. Hovering in the background, however, is Ellington’s violent criminal cousin Victor, who has reappeared after rumours of his tumbling to his death on the rocky slopes of Bristol’s Clifton Gorge prove to be greatly exaggerated. When Ellington arrives in New York after the first leg of his journey home, he rapidly realises that ‘born-again’ Vic is involved in something much more dangerous – and potentially lethal – than his previous mildly illegal entrepreneurship within the West Indian community in Bristol.
Hooked into a deadly game of guns, drugs, deceit, deaths – and then more deaths – Ellington eventually arrives in Barbados, but only after a sojourn in New Orleans, where the city’s reputation for exotic violence is further enhanced. By now, three coffins have joined the travelling party. Much too honest and trusting for this venture, it eventually dawns on Ellington that these coffins are part of not only a drug deal, but also the means by which the violently despotic Barbados criminal named Monroe – almost certainly the killer of Ellington’s wife and daughter – will be despatched to join his ancestors.
Restless Coffins is strong stuff. There is no shortage of corpses, and endless variety in the ways they are killed. The villains are evil personified and the good guys – with the exception of Ellington himself – are few and far between. Mark Wright certainly takes a position regarding the way black people in the 1960s were treated by the indigenous British population. Although very little of the action in Restless Coffins takes place in England, readers of the previous two books will know that the attitude of white people towards those we now call The Windrush Generation is almost entirely negative. And, reading today’s newspaper, it seems that those problems are far from over.
Wright has made the decision to phonetically transcribe all the dialogue between the main characters in his books. I have to admit that in Heartman it was a source of irritation to me, but such is the pace and vigour of the action in Restless Coffins that it didn’t seem to matter as much this time around. The new ‘crime’ of Cultural Appropriation seems to me to be one of the most pointless, misguided and irrelevant of fashionable 21st century dogmas, so you will hear no complaint from me about a white Englishman writing a novel with an almost entirely black cast, complete with speech patterns, vocabulary and inflections.
The bottom line is that this is a crackerjack novel, full of action, humour, social observation, historical accuracy, brilliant topographical descriptions and the absolute sine qua non of a good book – a central character who is credible and described with subtlety and nuance. If you read this, and don’t care about JT Ellington and what happens to him, then you have a heart of stone and the emotional sensibility of a fruit fly.
Restless Coffins is published by Black and White Publishing and is out now.
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