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The Lamplighters

by Emma Stonex

Its 1972.  Three lighthouse keepers disappear without a trace from the Maiden tower – a lighthouse on a lone rock off the coast of Cornwall.   When the relief crew arrive, no-one comes to meet them.  They find the entrance door locked from the inside, both clocks stopped at 8:45, a table set for only two and an uncharacteristically inaccurate weather log.  The corporate body, Trident, quickly shuts down the case, declaring the three men tragically lost at sea.  None of the three women left behind – calm and detached Helen; insecure, unstable Jenny and Michelle, the young, doting girlfriend – are convinced, none of them remain friends, none of them are without secrets… 

Twenty years later,  a writer suspecting a cover-up contacts the women, offering them the chance to tell their stories.  What actually happened?  How to begin piecing things together when so much time has passed and so many different truths exist?

The lighthouse keepers and their partners are vivid and complex characters – haunted by their own demons, struggling with life’s misfortunes, trying to get on with their lives while nursing distrust and even hatred for each other.  The principal keeper, Arthur, one of the best and longest-serving keepers in the company chooses isolation to cope with a dreadful secret; laid-back young Vincent is trying to escape his criminal past and uncommunicative Bill mourns the death of his mother and a less than satisfactory marriage.  As the men wait to be relieved from their posts, the tension between them builds slowly but surely…

Emma Stonex’s debut novel was inspired by a true story.  In her words: “Human beings are drawn to mysteries. Something in us leans towards the unknown, half afraid, half enthralled, always desperate to discover. Throughout history, people have sought other people’s stories – it’s what makes us social creatures, wanting to understand what happens to our fellow species and why. In the case of three lighthouse keepers stationed on Eilean Mòr, a remote island in the Outer Hebrides, who disappeared from their post without trace in December 1900, such answers have never surfaced. A hundred and twenty years later, what happened to them remains an enigma. Did these men drown in a heavy sea? Were they seized by forces earthly or otherwise? What impact did extreme isolation have on their states of mind? “

As much a character in the story as the humans is the lighthouse itself – steadfast, reliable, utterly desolate, perched on it’s rocky outcrop.  The bleak, windswept Cornwall coast, the brooding, unpredictable sea and the sheer weight of loneliness and isolation all add to the haunting unveiling of the mystery of the missing men.

The Lamplighters is a slow-burning, menacing, psychological whodunnit which keeps you in suspense till the very last page.  It is utterly gripping!

A whodunnit, horror novel, ghost story and fantastically gripping psychological investigation rolled into one – the Guardian

It is rare for a story to hold as fast to its secrets as Emma Stonex’s literary suspense mystery The Lamplighters. – UK Sunday TImes

This is a haunting mystery where the unsaid words, the unshared emotions, and the unfulfilled lives reverberate across the decades not unlike the ghosts rumored to haunt the tower lighthouse. And whether you prefer an atmospheric sea-set mystery or an unsettling story of madness and the mythic, this is a book that’s sure to satisfy. – Criminal Element


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