The Road of the Dead

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The Road of the Dead is a 2006 novel by Kevin Brooks about teenage brothers living in London who travel to the moorland in search of their sister's killer. It was shortlisted for the 2007 Carnegie Medal. The American Library Association named it as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 2007.[1]

British book cover.

ISBN 978-1-905294-26-8.

Plot summary[edit]

The Road of the Dead opens as 14 year old Ruben and 17 year old Cole, half gypsy half English brothers, learn about their older sister's rape and murder. Determined to bring closure to their family, they travel to Lychcombe to collect her body. What begins as a simple task to bring her body home branches out into a quest for revenge when they learn that the murderer must be caught before they can bury Rachel.

Slowly the brothers begin to uncover a plot in Lychcombe, involving the planned installation of a new hotel and vacation resort and several landowners who don't want to sell. Tragically, they discover that Rachel's murder was the result of an accident/miscommunication. However, the brothers are still determined to find and catch her killer.

When the brothers discover that the killer has already been murdered himself for his mistake, they set out to find his body, the only way they can link him to Rachel. They soon find themselves involved with local gypsies, small town politics and the town's unofficial leader who's not going to give in without a fight.

Alternative book cover


Cole: Is the 17 year old older brother of Ruben. Cole is hot headed, prone to violence and takes after his father, a gypsy who is in prison for murder. He does whatever needed in order to obtain his goals and is looking for the killer of his older sister.

Ruben: Is the 14 year old younger brother of Cole and Rachel. He is quiet, pensive and very observant. He possesses an ability to "feel" whatever his brother, and on occasion other people, is feeling. He dislikes violence and trusts his brother greatly, despite his brother's violence.

Rachel: Rachel is the 19 year old older sister of Cole and Ruben. She appears in "The Road of the Dead" through flash back like sequences. She is raped and murdered while visiting a friend.

Abbie Gorman: Rachel's friend whom she visits prior to being murdered. Abbie is a soft spoken young woman who moved to the moors after her mother's death and recently married a local man named Vince.

American book cover, showing either Cole or Ruben

Meaning of the title[edit]

While Ruben is talking to a local girl, he inquires where his sister's body was found. The girl leads him down an old path to where the body was located by a forestry worker the day after her murder. As they travel, she explains that in Gaelic the name translates to the Road of the Dead because funeral parties would carry the dead down the path.


"The Road of the Dead" currently (March 2007) has a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 on reviewers on the site have praised the book as "crisp and natural, and often funny and touching at once." Another reviewer described the book as a "heart-pounding, deeply emotional story with strong characters."

On another site,, the review (Alexis Burling) praised the book as "an exhilarating ride that teens won't soon forget." She also wrote that the novel "barrels its way towards another Kevin Brooks signature explosive climax, leaving nothing and no one untouched when the dust finally settles."


Criticism on writes that The Road of the Dead finishes up too quickly, pointing out that "the question of how Cole comes upon a key piece of evidence is brushed away with Ruben's comment, "Does it matter?" Readers have sat through a lot of brutality (albeit strikingly written brutality) to get that information, so the answer is, well, yeah, it does."

Other readers and commenters have noted that the book contains "an overwhelming presence of seriously graphic violence throughout that certainly may not sit well with some parents" (From Another reader writes that at times "it was a little gross but not in a disturbing or sexual way," while still giving it five stars.


  1. ^ American Library Association (2007). "2007 Best Books for Young Adults". Retrieved 2011-02-03. 

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