The Coffins

Andrea Warren, a young archaeologist with Native American roots, sets out on a journey to the Outer Banks of North Carolina hoping to unearth the truth about why her father committed suicide when she was a child. All she knows about him is that he was looking for old coffins made from dugout canoes believed by many locals to belong to remnants of the 118 men, women, and children who mysteriously vanished from Roanoke Island in 1590 and have never been found again. When she inherits an old trunk containing his field notes, strange things begin to happen. Dreams, visions, and apparitions seem to be warning her that her life is in danger.  Events turn deadly the closer she gets to the truth: What happened to the Lost Colony? Where did Virginia Dare go?

Practically everyone has heard of the Lost Colony of Roanoke; one of the first and great myths in America’s historical journey to become its own country. Dunn has taken that well known mystery and built a novel around the what ifs and what might haves. Most of the novel is set in a modern day setting but there are a few chapters set back during the time of the Colony to help set her backstory.

Dunn did a great job with the research which showed not only throughout the story but at the very beginning and end. She starts off with a timeline of Roanoke’s history so you can see the evolution then after the story is over she provides a letter to her readers outlining what is known, the best books to get if you want more information and how she incorporated or altered historical facts into her story.

Her settings are so visceral you can practically smell the unwashed bodies, food and mold she describes along with feeling the mud splash against your legs as you follow her along on this journey through the past.

Dunn offers a reasonable plot explanation for what happened to the colonists of Roanoke. Some of what she’s done I’m not real sure how I feel about for example a character is essentially traded to be a sex slave yet somehow the character is okay with and even speaks lovingly of what was done to her. I know all of that should be taken within historical context but it’s still messed up.

The mystery aspect of it, trying to figure out what really happened to her father was interesting. That was slowly unwound and I really never saw that ending coming.

Thank you to Netgalley and Five Rivers Press for allowing me to review this book.

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*synopsis and pic from

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