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The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

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.

MY REVIEW:

“This riddle has everything a fiction writer looks for – drama, mystery, peril on the sea. Only it’s real.”

The Lamplighters is the story of the disappearance of three men, their warring widows, ghostly goings-on, and the power and mystery of the sea. Told in dual timelines we follow the men in the days leading up to their disappearance, and their widows twenty years later as they are interviewed by a writer who is hoping to finally find the truth of what happened on that frigid winter day. 

First of all, how is this a debut?! This book is an example of storytelling at its finest. The author shifts seamlessly between the two timelines; holding the reader in the palm of her hand as she weaves her mysterious tale. The imagery is so vivid that I can see, feel and hear the waves, smell the salty sea air, and hear the siren song of the sea as she whispers her secrets.

Based on a true story, the author has changed the time, place and people to craft her own world full of secrets, mystery and intrigue. The characters and community she created are captivating, relatable and richly drawn.  We are given a first person narrative from multiple characters; in 1992 the widows tell their story, and in 1972 the doomed keepers give details of life in the lighthouse and events leading up their disappearance. 

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that it is absolutely drenched in mystery. It seeps from its every pore. There isn’t just the mystery of what happened that day on the Tower, there are other puzzles that we have to piece together so we can get the final, truthful picture of what transpired. But though there were many layers and interwoven storylines, it never felt confusing. It just sent the tension through the roof and made this book impossible to put down. I had to know what happened! In my notes there are many other plot points and aspects of the book that stood out and I would love to talk about, but I won’t because I don’t want to take away from the joy of discovering these engimas for yourself. 

The Lamplighters is a truly accomplished debut. It is one of those books that deserves to be huge and I have no  doubt everyone will be talking about this year. It is also perfect for the big screen and I am hoping I get to see it there one day. 

Atmospheric, haunting, claustrophobic and mesmerising, I found it impossible to put this one down and would have read it in one sitting if not for the pesky need to sleep. If you love an exquisitely written and layered mystery then don’t miss this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Thank you to Camilla at Pan Macmillan for my gifted copy of the book.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Emma Stonex is a novelist and The Lamplighters is her debut under her own name; she is the author of several books written under a pseudonym. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an editor at a major publishing house. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two young daughters

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