Beautiful, clever, and haunting, this well-crafted story is based on a true event. The Lamplighters tells of three lighthouse keepers who disappear without a trace from their lighthouse off the English coast of Cornwall, leaving behind the three women who were always there for them at home.
The narrative shifts back and forth twenty years in time, from the disappearance of the men in the early 1970s to the early 1990s, when the three women are approached by a journalist writing a book on the unsolved mystery, looking for the answers that no one else has found in the twenty years since.
What did I love about The Lamplighters?
First, the sea. She is as much a character as any of the others, always present, described in depth and feeling, haunting and spectral.
Second, the writing style. It is evocative without being fussy. Each of the men has his own voice, as do each of the women. But when those women meet with the journalist, we hear nothing from him. Each woman speaks in monologue; we hear the journalist’s questions only in the answers she gives. As a writer, I found this novel and refreshing.
Third, the characters. To a one, as we learn about them and their personalities emerge, they prove to be flawed but sympathetic.
Fourth, the fact that a whodunit is combined with a personal relationship book. Intriguing.
If you’re not usually an audiobook person but have been tempted, this may be one to try. The narrators, Tom Burke and Indira Varma, handle their designated roles with aplomb. Moreover, the bit of bad press that this book has received – relating to stretches of back-and-forth dialogue in which the reader loses track of who is speaking in the print version – is avoided in the audio version by the skill of the narrators. I could differentiate characters with no trouble at all.
The feeling of this book lingers. I think about it still.