On the Bookshelf...

The Lamplighters

Emma Stonex

Inspired by a haunting true story, a gorgeous and atmospheric novel about the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from a remote tower miles from the Cornish coast--and about the wives who were left behind. What strange fate befell these doomed men? The heavy sea whispers their names. Black rocks roll beneath the surface, drowning ghosts. And out of the swell like a finger of light, the salt-scratched tower stands lonely and magnificent. It's New Year's Eve, 1972, when a boat pulls up to the Maiden Rock lighthouse with relief for the keepers. But no one greets them. When the entrance door, locked from the inside, is battered down, rescuers find an empty tower. A table is laid for a meal not eaten. The Principal Keeper's weather log describes a storm raging round the tower, but the skies have been clear all week. And the clocks have all stopped at 8:45. Two decades later, the wives who were left behind are visited by a writer who is determined to find the truth about the men's disappearance. Moving between the women's stories and the men's last weeks together in the lighthouse, long-held secrets surface and truths twist into lies as we piece together what happened, why, and who to believe. In her riveting and suspenseful novel, Emma Stonex writes a story of isolation and obsession, of reality and illusion, and of what it takes to keep the light burning when all else is swallowed by dark.

Lamplighters is a book I'd been seeing getting really good reviews. It's the tale of three men who disappeared from a lighthouse in 1972. Twenty years later an author tries to find out what happened to them. However, it's much more than that, it's the tale of life in seclusion. Locked up every day with two other men, it's the story of the lamplighters who kept our seas safe for shipping.

You start with the story about how three men go missing from a locked lighthouse with no idea where they are. A locked room mystery to end all locked door mysteries. The book concentrates on the men in the lighthouse running up to the disappearance and mixes it with the present day of how their partners and wives coped with the disaster. As I say there's more under the surface.

Lamplighters is a triumph. A brooding hulk of a book that comes to life by the humanity of those left behind. It's a tense tale, keeping you wondering how they disappeared right to the end. A story of three misfits who make the crew of the lighthouse, each being more than they first seem. You feel the storms building up, not just at sea but under the surface of the three keepers. It's a book that deserves the praise it's received.

If you like tense character based stories, then The Lamplighters is for you. A five star read.

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Review by
AJ Steel
March 24, 2023

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