They say we'll never know what happened to those men.
They say the sea keeps its secrets . . .
'A mystery, a love story and a ghost story, all at once. I didn’t want it to end' S J Watson
Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.
What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?
Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .
Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.
The Lamplighters is inspired by the true-life events of the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in the Flannen Isles Lighthouse in 1900. All 3 keepers disappeared with no trace and to add to the locked room mystery, all of the clocks had stopped. It’s a great starting point for the novel, although all other elements are fictional but it really makes you think about what could have happened.
At the end of The Lamplighters Emma Stonex credits anthologies and memoirs that belonged to real keepers. There is an impressive list of background research and this really comes through in the text. The description of the claustrophobic and atmospheric backdrop of The Maiden Lighthouse feels so grounded in reality and the whole book is beautifully written and haunting.
The book changes narrative perspective quite frequently, and we move between chapters set in the past, from Lighthouse Keepers Arthur, Bill and Vince before their disappearance and 20 years afterwards from their partners Jenny, Helen and Michelle. The women’s chapters are also interspersed with transcripts of interviews with an author and also a few official documents. This had the potential to become quite confusing but I found most of the characters to be well-defined. My only light criticism was that I found Bill and Arthur to be quite similar voices at the beginning of the book which did confuse me a little on occasion.
I liked how each person was keeping a secret which is hinted at before being slowly revealed and some were more prevalent than others as to the relevance of the disappearance. There are a lot of red herrings and I jumped between guessing the conclusion many times. The woman’s chapters in particular were very harrowing – showing how lonely and isolating the men’s jobs were, not only for them but also for the people around them. Although it was a noble profession it made me glad that the job is now automated as it must have been difficult for all family members to endure.
Overall, The Lamplighters is a beautiful and hauntingly written book which brings an old unsolved mystery back out into the open. Thank you to NetGalley & Pan Macmillan – Picador for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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