*I received an arc copy via the publisher in return for an honest review*
Restless Coffins by M.P. Wright
A HAUNTED MAN. A BURIED PAST. A JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS.
‘Brother, a dead body can’t run from a coffin, but their spirit sure as hell can try.’
1967, Bristol. Life is tough for JT Ellington, ex-cop and reluctant private eye.
He’s still trading in favours, helping those scared of the police or trying to stay one step ahead of the law.
But when news arrives of a tragedy that’s unfolded thousands of miles away, JT’s life gets even tougher. He needs to journey home to Barbados to pay his final respects – but first he must travel to New York, where his cousin Vic is boss of a criminal empire.
On Harlem’s mean streets, JT is fast entangled with Evangeline – a smooth as velvet Black Panther – along with Pigfoot, a Bajan too flash with his knife. As the underworld draws him in, JT discovers the extent of Vic’s criminal activities –
a web of violence that stretches to Barbados and back, and connects him to the deaths of JT’s beloved wife and daughter.
Embroiled in a world of drugs, corruption, voodoo and the legacy of slavery, can JT escape the demons of his past as he returns to the island of his birth?
A haunted man.
A buried past.
A journey into darkness.
“What you want, ain’t always what you deserve”
Old Bajan saying
The novel is the third JT Ellington novel in the series. I am a HUGE fan of the protagonist! A Bajan enquiry agent who fled his previous life in Barbados, for a new life in Bristol. The previous two novels help you understand the background and character depth. It almost feels as though the series has been progressing to JT’s return to sunny Barbados and the revenge he so desperately seeks. But no one could have foreseen the brutal and harsh storyline that is, Restless Coffins…….
‘The traitors path leads to the fire’
The novel opens in 1934, a young JT with his younger sister Bernice. As they set off for a day of fishing at Ginger Bay, St Philip Parish, Barbados. They share the usual childhood and sibling rivalry; mocking each other as a sign of affection. The description is brilliant and really sets the bar for authors skill at describing a scene to perfection. Even the part where a young JT and Bernice stumble across the body of a dead police man……..
This is the first novel in the series, to offer an insight into JT’s childhood experiences. Memories, passages and details are drip fed throughout the entire novel. It offers up a great insight into how JT became the man he is. JT is often portrayed as a brooding character, a deep thinker.
In this novel we learn exactly why, he thinks first and acts later.
The heavy price JT has paid for his past actions, weighs heavy on his shoulders. Following him, haunting him and refusing to let go…
‘Sealed coffins could be opened to reveal the wonders of the undead’
In the present-day JT is now living on a narrow boat at Bristol harbour. When he is informed by his postman Harry Parkin; that he has delivered a telegram to Vic’s gym, JT’s workplace. He has no idea who or why anyone would send him a telegram. Just a gut feeling, that it must be bad news.
“Boy, yuh ‘member nuthin’ travels faster than bad news”
The telegram is from his cousin Vic, informing him of his sister Bernice’s death. JT is devastated with the news, after already surviving so much pain. He must now return to Barbados to settle Bernice’s affairs. He momentarily reminisces about his loving mother Cora and cruel father Clifford. We learn about Cora’s previous employment, working for the Monroe family. A family whose history is entwined with the Ellington families,
for all the wrong reasons.
JT then receives a call from a mysterious young woman named Evangeline Laveau. She claims to be working on Vic’s behalf and gives JT the details of his travel arrangements. Before he travels onto Barbados, he must meet with Vic in New York.
JT arrives at JFK airport to be met by Evangeline, Clefus Hopkins and Pigfoot. They arrange to drive him to Harlem and in-particular the MAME – Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal church. Where JT is handed a strange tiny coffin by a witch doctor named Obeah. The whole situation is eerie and I was desperate to understand how this voodoo element would play into the main theme of the plot.
Evangeline’s back story is fully explored. I really like her as a character. She is feisty, strong and yet raw and vulnerable in moments. She does her best to assist JT in his pursuit of Vic and transportation to Barbados. But whatever they do, any clues they come across, all paths lead back to Conrad Monroe. If you are new to the series, when you uncover why JT hates Conrad Monroe so deeply, it will shock you to your core…
‘A ghost from my past whom I feared and hated in equal measure’
Eventually JT and Evangeline make their way to New Orleans. Where Evangeline warns JT of the cultural differences between NY and the deep south. She warns him of the Jim Crow laws and the barefaced racism that is allowed to thrive unchallenged. I felt concerned for JT, although he had experienced considerable racism in the UK, now he was entering KKK territory!
‘I knew what it was like to live inside my own black skin and realised that my colour dictated how most white folk treated me’ JT
The dialogue in the novel is superb and adds to the already diverse and cultured themes. There is a scene in chapter 25, that rips your heart clean out! The author does not hold back, in terms of showing the violence and vicious behaviour that goes hand in hand with devout racism. It is at this point that I longed for JT to be reunited with Vic.
One man can only suffer, so much pain!
‘Victor Ellington is an enigma’
When JT and Vic are finally reunited. There are many unanswered questions and JT must face up to some extremely harsh truths. Vic informs him of his full intentions for vengeance upon their return to Barbados. “Tings, they gonna git bloody when we git home, yuh know that, don’t yuh”. It is at this point that JT fully understands his cousin’s plans.
‘When you know a man like Vic, the shadow of death was never too far away from your soul’
The novel builds and builds; with layer upon layer of detail from the past to the present. Eventually building to the ultimate showdown. But what peace of mind, will revenge bring to JT? Does he have the darkness within him to pursue it?
JT is an emotionally deep protagonist and Restless Coffins, deals with those whom have pained him the most. The Bajan history is handled with intelligence and care to ensure a thought-provoking read. The characters are iconic, and all have essential backstory’s. The historical accuracy, dialogue and characters are all great examples of expert writing.
An exceptional novel 5* Genius!
“People dying all the time, JT… This time the right folk gonna be headin’ fo’ the grave” – Vic