Coffin Road by Peter May
Quercus, 2016. ISBN 9781784293093
(Age: Senior secondary to adult) Highly recommended. Crime fiction, Scotland, Bees. Washed ashore on the island of Harris, a man has no idea of who he is or why he is where he is. He can recall being in the sea and knows that he has a head wound, but beyond that, nothing. He struggles up the beach and heads towards a cluster of houses, and realises that one is his. Here he searches the place for some clue of his identity and finds nothing. A woman who comes into his house and later into his bed, obviously knows him intimately and when they follow the dog the next day up the hills from his house, they stumble over a group of beehives. He finds small pieces of information grabbing his attention but none is able to create a proper memory of who he is and why he is there.
When a body is discovered on the island off shore, an island he has been seen at, DS Gunn takes him in for questioning, but he stalls, not willing to say that he has no memory. Meanwhile in Edinburgh, a young girl works out that her father, believed to have suicided two years ago, is alive and sets out to search for him. She knows that his research student is near Harris and thinks she may be able to find her father through him. Along the way she meets her father's old friend who tells her about the research that her father was involved with before his 'suicide'. He and several others were researching the effect of neonicotinoids used in crop sprays upon the bee populations around the world, linking their decline to the effect of these sprays on their memories. Without remembering where to find pollen, the bees die, which means that the pollination of our major food sources will not occur and so we will die.
This research is being undermined by the global spray manufacturers and so several men, after losing their positions in laboratories funded by these companies, have decided to do the research in secret.
Karen in searching for her father stumbles into the secret research and so the strands come together, of Karen looking for her father, of the secret research, of the death on the island.
DS Gunn is a wonderful ploy to the amnesiac, asking questions, liking the man but aware that he could be a killer, giving him the opportunity to work things out. The exciting last chapter where all the threads come together on a bleak night off Harris, is mesmerising as May's description of the weather and the surrounds grabs attention. His presenting of the theme of the suppression of data by big companies is mind boggling, and a short trawl using Google will add to the readers' knowledge.