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The Lamplighters


The Lamplighters

In December 1900, three lighthouse keepers disappeared from a remote rock light on the island of Eilean Mòr in the Outer Hebrides.

Debut author Emma Stonex grew up as far from the sea as possible in the town of Northamptonshire, United Kingdom. However, she had a love affair with lighthouses and the coast that began with childhood holidays to the Isle of Wight. The events from 1900 made enough of an impression on her to create a purely fictional story that imagines what could have happened to a trio of lighthouse keepers --- Arthur Black, Bill Walker and Vincent Bourne --- who disappeared without a trace while working at one of the most remote worksites imaginable.

"THE LAMPLIGHTERS never disappoints and engages readers from start to finish with a mystery that may be impossible to ever solve."

THE LAMPLIGHTERS reads like great historical fiction, but at its center is a locked room mystery. When the three men vanished, they left behind no trace of what happened to them, and all the doors to their work and sleep areas were found locked from the inside. It was as if they climbed to the top of the lighthouse and simply flew away. This baffling incident took place in 1972, but the mystery is reopened in 1992 when writer Dan Sharp reaches out to the widows of the lighthouse keepers to finally tell their story and hopefully come up with some answers.

An exceedingly popular explanation at the time laid the blame entirely on Vincent, the youngest of the three men. Even though Arthur was quite fond of Vincent, once news broke that Vincent had a criminal record, it was convenient to assume that he murdered his two coworkers and was himself lost to the ocean in the process of dumping their bodies from the lighthouse. This premise becomes that much more curious when Michelle Davies, Vincent’s girlfriend, contacts Arthur’s wife, Helen, looking to talk about Vincent and what occurred 20 years earlier.

Another possible explanation surrounds the relationship between Arthur and Bill, especially when we learn that Bill had been having an affair with Helen. We do not see any of this come up in the 1972 narrative, but the adulterous relationship did in fact occur and may have had something to do with the mindset of both men. When Michelle eventually catches up with Helen in 1992, she presses her to avoid speaking with Dan for reasons that I will let you discover on your own.

Emma Stonex has done a masterful job keeping the story teetering on the edge of something horrific but then pulling back to let the insinuations and accusations sink in. I could not help but think constantly of the brilliant film The Lighthouse, which depicted two lighthouse workers eventually giving in to the madness brought on by the isolation and claustrophobic feelings that such a job could bring about. THE LAMPLIGHTERS never disappoints and engages readers from start to finish with a mystery that may be impossible to ever solve.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 9, 2021

The Lamplighters
by Emma Stonex