The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

They say we’ll never know what happened to those men.

They say the sea keeps its secrets…

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 . . .

The Lamplighters is a heart-stopping mystery rich with the salty air of the Cornish coast, and an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

Content warning:

  • Death of a child due to accidental drowning
  • Animal torture and murder that a young child is forced to watch

My Review

The Lamplighters is inspired by a true life mystery when three lighthouse keepers disappeared from a lighthouse without a trace in 1900.

Here the action is moved to 1972 when the lighthouse keepers disappeared from a lighthouse known as Maiden Rock and to twenty years after their disappearance in 1992. The characters in this novel are entirely fictional.

In 1972 we are given chapters from each of the lighthouse keepers. Principal Keeper Arthur, Assistant Keeper Bill and Supernumerary Keeper Vince. Their chapters give us an insight into the realities of life in an isolated island lighthouse and how that plays with the psychological mindset of each men. We are also given insight into the relationships that the lighthouse keepers have with each other and with their wives/partners back on sure. Each man is carrying different secrets that are slowly revealed over the course of the knowledge to give a full picture of what happened in that lighthouse.

In 1992 a novelist sets outs to uncover the truth behind the mystery of the men’s disappearance and in these chapters we are introduced to the wives/partner of the men; Helen, Jenny and Michelle. As with the men’s chapters set in 1972 the perspectives from each woman helps to further set the scene of what the relationships between each of the men were like and the secrets that are revealed by these women give background to the strained relationships between the lighthouse keepers.

The book is quite slow paced and filled with lots of red herrings to throw the reader off the scent as to what truly happened. And early on this was enough to hold my attention… but somewhere along the way I began to get quite tired of the narrative style.

I particularly didn’t enjoy the way the chapters set in 1992 told the story. To me there was too much detachment of emotion using the one-sided interview style especially. I began to get frustrated and bored by how many sentences began with I this and I that! It made the prose feel incredibly perfunctory and lacking in any sort of enjoyable rhythm.

I also wasn’t a fan of how the book attempted to bring in a supernatural element with the character of the silver man and whether or not he had any relationship to a mysterious character that showed up on the lighthouse late on in the read. It made the story difficult to follow and didn’t add any beneficial intrigue to the storyline in my opinion.

But I was interested in seeing how the book would turn out and could possibly have rated somewhere between three and four stars… that was until I got to the 85% mark in the book.


It was at this point that there was what I felt a needless description of the torture and murder of a family pet dog that a young child was forced to watch. I felt physically ill as I read this. It made me incredibly upset and disgusted at this book. Had I known this book had a passage featuring such horrific animal and child abuse I would not have picked it up to read. This is where I really wish content warnings were standard as part of book blurbs because from the blurb I would never have envisioned this story to feature such a disturbing and violent passage.

I didn’t want to continue the novel once I read that passageway but felt I owed it to the author, publishers, and NetGalley to finish the novel so I could give a complete review. If it had happened in the earlier part of the novel rather than so close to the end at 85% I would definitely have DNFd it. I had been somewhat enjoying the overall storyline and was invested in finding out the ending so I could discover what truly happened to the missing lighthouse keepers, but this unnecessary description of animal murder and child abuse is the main reason why I am giving a rating of two stars to this novel. But also the ending of the book wasn’t strong enough to convince me to give this book an overall positive rating.

*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley. This review contains my honest thoughts and opinions*

Publishing 4th March 2021, Picador

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8 thoughts on “The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex – eARC Book Review

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