The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex

A mystery we will never know the answer to.

Three lighthouse keepers vanish from their lighthouse in Cornwall.

…the door is locked from the inside…..

…the table is set for dinner….for two…..

…the clocks have stopped at the same time…

…the log books says there was a dreadful storm…the weather has been clear and calm all week…

It is 1972 some twenty plus years before automation in lighthouses. The story of the missing men captured the news. It changed the lives of a number of people as well as the nearest village to the lighthouse. But only those three men know the story, Arthur; Principal Keeper, Bill; Assistant Keeper and Vince; Supernumerary Keeper. Each with their own story, their own experience of lighthouse work, solitude and the life they live away from the one thing that keeps drawing them back – the lighthouse.

1992, three women who should have remained close are very much estranged. Helen, Jenny and Michelle.  When a novelist decides to step away from his normal oeuvre and write about the mystery then the women are forced to confront some home truths and secrets that should have been said twenty years previous.

Is the truth the real story here? Or is there another one.

This books is very much in the vain on a locked room mystery that many readers can relate to. What makes this book stand out from the rest of them is the use of a real life mystery (1900 Flannan Isles, Outer Hebrides). The location and time has been moved, but the premise is the same. What happened and can you create a novel based on not knowing the answer?

Yes you can and you can build so much suspense into it, through the slow turn of events which mirror the slow way of life on the lighthouse. The isolation not just on the lighthouse but ashore as well. The isolation of the those left behind, the women holding everything together at home.

Told from everyone’s point of view, across both timelines gave you such a view of everything and everyone that you can see all the evidence to make your own conclusion. I loved the way each chapter was set differently, the way we read the women’s dialogue to the author as a stream of consciousness without the interruption of the possible questions. To what felt like encroaching on the lighthouse keepers that seemed to be talking to themselves when working as we learnt their stories.

Well constructed and atmospheric that the power of the sea, the weather almost overtakes the power of the storytelling.

Will keep you reading long past lights out.


Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Lamplighters is published on 4th March.  

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