Coffins by Rodman Philbrick is Gothic tale of supernatural terror that befalls the Coffins, a sea faring family in Maine. The story has wonderful characters like craggy old sailors, a tyrannical ship captain, and a genius dwarf abolitionist (you don't get one of those in every book you pick up). Like every great Gothic tale, Coffins incorporates the supernatural, dark family secrets, and an eerie abode.
The tale takes place on the brink of the Civil War and incorporates historic figures like Frederick Douglas and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In a series of frightening events, the Coffin family begins dying off one by one in gruesome and bizarre circumstances. The family members who don't die go mad. The patriarch of the family, Captain Cash Coffin, rules his home with an iron fist (and firearms), but he is afraid to step foot out of his bedroom. Dr. Brentwood, as a proponent of Transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson's biggest fan, is the most rational person that Jebediah Coffin knows. Jebediah Coffin (a.k.a. as the abolitionist dwarf and Cash Coffin's youngest son) summons his best friend, Dr. Davis Brentwood, to come to the coast of Maine to help save his family from the malevolent spirit that seems to have invaded the family home. Before the novel ends, Dr. Brentwood faces the sinister force and must unlock the sinister secret that is destroying the Coffins.
There are not a lot of books that I have trouble putting down, but Coffins is a true page turner. Coffins reminded me of when I first read Edgar Allen Poe's Tell-Tale Heart as a child. Philbrick has achieved an exciting and suspenseful mystery, but because of one rather violent sexual encounter in the book, I would not recommend Coffins for the entire family.