Monday, August 23, 2021

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

 

First Line: When Jory opens the curtains, the day is light and gray, the radio playing a half-known song.
 
On New Year's Eve, 1972, a boat pulls up to the Maiden Rock Lighthouse with relief for the keepers. No one comes out to greet them. When the entrance door-- locked from the inside-- is battered down, the lighthouse is empty. All three keepers are missing. The table is set, ready for a meal. The Principal Keeper's log notes a storm raging outside when the weather has been clear all week. And all the clocks are stopped at 8:45.

Twenty years later, a writer visits the keepers' wives, determined to write a book about what really happened at Maiden Rock Light. Will he be able to solve the mystery?

~

Emma Stonex's The Lamplighters moves between the wives' stories and the mens' last weeks together in the lighthouse. From one narrative to the next, secrets are uncovered, truths are revealed... and sometimes twisted into lies. Readers really have to keep on their toes. Whose narrative should be believed? What on earth really happened? I really liked the fact that this novel is based on a true story. This actually happened. Things like this are a feast for the imagination, and the author's interpretation is an intriguing one.

Stonex has the perfect setting: Maiden Rock, a tower light set on a rock miles from the coast of Cornwall. "Sailors' legend had it she was built on the jaws of a fossilized sea monster." Being fifteen miles southwest of Land's End, it almost sounds like "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here," doesn't it? One of the things that the author does best is to have her characters tell us the differences between being a keeper on a lighthouse on the coast where he has a snug house nearby to live in, possibly with his wife and children, and being a keeper on a tower light, one of those slender columns rising off a rock out in the open sea. Let me tell you, I'd have to be in full-out hermit mode to even consider being a keeper of a tower light.

Although all sorts of imaginative rumors swirl around the keepers' disappearance, it rapidly becomes apparent that the dynamics between the men are what's at fault. There's nothing supernatural about it at all. All readers have to do is read the varying stories the wives tell and watch the men interact with each other in the lighthouse, but it's far from easy to deduce what really happened.

There's a lot to like about The Lamplighters, and I really wish that I'd enjoyed it more. Problem is, I'm the type of reader who has to have just one character that keeps my attention, even if it's the bad guy. The further I read, the less I cared about any of the characters. It became a mere quest to find out what really happened, why and how those three men seemed to vanish without a trace.

The Lamplighters is a worthwhile read for the setting alone, and as for the characters, your mileage may certainly vary.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
eISBN: 9781984882165
Viking © 2021
eBook, 352 pages
 
Suspense, Standalone
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

17 comments:

  1. OK. Will not read. No questions asked. You read it so I don't have to.

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    1. When you say that, you make me feel like Barbara Peters because that's one of the things she likes to say. :-)

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  2. I will say, Cathy, that the setting got my attention, and so did the premise. I could see myself enjoying those aspects a lot. But I'm with you; if I don't care about the characters - at least one of them - I can't get into the book. And I can see why you really wanted to like this more. Hmm.... nope - wish list is long enough now, thank you.

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    1. Long, and getting longer by the day. Just like mine. ;-)

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    2. I'm afraid of my lists, that they'll take over.

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    3. They're nothing to be afraid of. Save your fear for something else.

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    4. Said with tongue in cheek..

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  3. Oh dear, this doesn't sound like the the book succeeds in its purpose.

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    1. Not entirely. I did want to find out what happened to the keepers, but it wasn't an emotional discovery by any stretch of the imagination.

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  4. It was one of the few books that I did not finish. It didn't hold my interest. I wondered if it was my mood at the time. Seeing what you wrote, I see I am not alone even though you did finish the book.

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    1. I wouldn't have finished it if I weren't curious about how the men disappeared.

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  5. It is so annoying when you don't like the characters. Although the story and setting sound great. I think I would have a hard time finishing if I didn't like the characters.

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    1. Stonex did a very good job of making me curious enough to find out how and why the men disappeared.

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  6. I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a better read. That lighthouse setting is always fun. But I'm like you, there has to be at least one character I care about, or what's the point?

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    1. That's pretty much how I see it, too. :-)

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