The End of the World is a Cul De Sac by Louise Kennedy

Out now with Bloomsbury, this book is a debut collection of short stories by late comer, Louise Kennedy, former chef turned writer who has been making waves on the Irish short story circuit for the past few years. Louise has had her work published in The Stinging Fly, Tangerine, won various short story writing awards and had stories short-listed in the Audible Short Story Awards in 2019 and 2020. She became the subject of a publishers 9 way bidding war for this collection, and a forthcoming novel.

‘Kennedy’s voice, and her unforgiving gaze, are electric’ Sunday Times


‘These stories sing, haunt and inspire laughter … One of the best collections I’ve read in years’ Sinead Gleeson

‘Darkly funny, beautifully crafted, intense … Outstanding’ Kevin Barry

My thoughts:

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, having previously listened to two of the stories, In Silhouette and Sparing the Heather, via Audible.

With the exception of one story, these tales are narrated by women with recognisably imperfect lives. They depict tough rural landscapes, lonely women with dark secrets. The stories are steeped in the lore and mythology of the Irish landscape, woven together with the realities of modern living: the fall out of the economic crash in 2008 and people making a living off the land while simultaneously managing a cannabis grow house.

Louise Kennedy spins bewitching stories which are steeped in the landscape of the north west, and are simultaneously brutal and beautiful. I adored it!

One of the most exciting collections I’ve read in recent years, I am in awe of Louise Kennedy’s writing. Cannot recommend this enough – get your hands on a copy!!!

About the author:

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co. Down. Her short stories have appeared in journals including The Stinging Fly, The Tangerine, Banshee, Wasifiri and Ambit and she has written for the Guardian, Irish Times, BBC Radio 4 and RTE Radio 1.

The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc

Welcome to my stop on The Best Things Blog Tour. This book is the debut novel by Mel Giedroyc. It’s warm, witty, and as you’d expect, very funny! It’s the riches to rags story of the Parkers, a Surrey based family who have been living the high life for many years, thanks to their father, Frank, and his successful hedge-fund management company based in the city. However, the Parker’s lives change drastically when the financial markets take a nose dive, and the family and their entourage land in the real world with a very large bang! Sally Parker, family matriarch, must step up and take control of the their lives, which thus far have been run and organised by legions of paid staff.

Thank you to Emily for sending me a link so I could listen to this book via Netgalley. I really enjoyed spending time with the Parkers on their journey to enlightenment!

As part of the blog tour, I have an an audio link which will allow you to listen to chapter one. Narrated by Mel Giedroyc herself, this book is a very entertaining listen.

Synopsis

Sally Parker had a morbid fear of big social events and it was for this reason that she was crouching down low in the shoe section of her wardrobe…

Sally Parker is struggling to find the hero inside herself.
All she wants to do is lie down.
Her husband Frank has lost his business, their home and their savings, in one fell swoop. Their bank cards are being declined. The children have gone feral. And now the bailiffs are at the door.
What does an ordinary woman do when the bottom falls out?
Sally Parker is about to surprise everybody.
Most of all herself.

A big-hearted story of a family on the brink, The Best Things is a life-affirming tale of failing, falling and finding a way back up.

About the author:

Mel Giedroyc has been entertaining the nation for nearly thirty years. A comedian, writer, actor and presenter, Mel is best known for her work with Sue Perkins in the double act Mel & Sue. They have presented many TV shows such as multi Bafta-winning The Great British Bake Off (BBC) and Light Lunch (Channel 4). Mel has written two non-fiction books and has appeared in sitcoms and panel shows, on radio and on the West End stage. Mel and Sue reunited in comedy drama Hitmen for Sky TV. Mel lives in London with her husband and two daughters.
The Best Things is Mel Giedroyc’s debut novel.

Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

Published by Smoke and Mirrors Press, Backstories is available now. You can order a copy here: http://bit.ly/Amazon-Backstories

Synopsis:

CAN YOU FIND THE FAMOUS PERSON HIDDEN IN EVERY STORY?

Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

‘Oh, how I enjoyed these stories. A highly original and beautifully crafted collection that explodes into the reader’s consciousness like fireworks’ – Kate Horsley, award-winning author of The American Girl.

‘Tightly written, technically accomplished, light-footed, wryly ironic and genuinely affecting. Excellent stuff’ – Professor Graham Mort, Director of The Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research and winner of both the Bridport Prize and The Edge Hill Prize.

My thoughts:

I finished this slim volume of short stories the other day, and I find myself smiling whenever I think of them. Simon Van Der Velde has created a collection which is very entertaining, and to my mind, a little bit different. It’s a book I want to thrust into the hands of others and say “Just read it. It’s fabulous!”

Backstories is made up of snapshots from the lives of some of history’s notorious and celebrated figures. I can’t say who, because part of the joy in this collection is seeing if you can figure out who the subject of each tale is, but be prepared to travel across the world, and back in time. Each story is beautifully written and controlled, and peppered with clues, teasing you all the way to the end to where the final piece in the puzzle lies. I found it hard to put the book down once I got going, and loved it when I managed to correctly guess the identity of the stories. This is a book which elicits much emotion and really makes you think about the backstories of the subjects in the book.

I absolutely loved this collection. Thank you to Simon for my copy – it is now nestled on my ‘forever shelf’.

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

Carol Shields (1935-2003) is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, who lived in the United States and emigrated to Canada when she was 22. She is acclaimed for her empathetic, witty and penetrating insights into human nature. World Editions are republishing 4 classic Carols Shield’s titles between December 2020 and August 2021. (Book trailer here.) I read and loved The Stone Diaries in December, so was really keen to continue my Carol Shields journey with The Republic of Love.

Synopsis:

A celebration of love in its many guises, The Republic of Love recounts the heartfelt tale of two of life’s unlucky lovers: Fay, a folklorist whose passion for mermaids has kept her from focussing on any one man; and, right across the street, Tom, a popular radio talk-show host who’s been through three marriages and divorces in his search for true happiness. Touching and ironic, The Republic of Love flies the flag for ordinary love between ordinary people.

“Vividly fresh, glittering and spangled with fabulous surprises.” – The Sunday Times

“The Republic of Love marries a wide diversity of elements, mythical and modern, ironic and moving, exhilarating and melancholy…a love-surveying story that is enticingly seductive.” The Times Literary Supplement

My thoughts:

The Republic of Love is an examination of love in its many different forms. Mainly, it is love story of Tom Avery, a late night chat radio DJ in Winnipeg, and Fay McLeod, a folklorist with an specialism in mermaids. Tom and Fay live opposite the street from each other but their paths have never crossed. The first half of the book gives us insight into Fay and Tom through dual timelines: we learn of their family backgrounds, friendships and their failed love affairs – Tom with his three divorces and Fay, with her own failed relationships. They both think they are happy enough alone. They have wonderful friends and busy social lives, but both eventually realise that there is something huge missing from their lives.

Populated with a host of wonderfully human characters, The Republic of Love depicts a warm and welcoming inter-connected community in Winnipeg. Friends throw parties, catch up over waffle brunches on Sundays, meet up for dinner during the week. Set before the millennium, it made me hungry for the richness of human contact we are all so lacking right now, and while I was between the pages, I felt as though I was part of this world.

This is the simple and gentle love story of two ordinary people with various ups and downs to be negotiated, along with inevitable awkward histories that present themselves in this small community. For me, what absolutely stands out is Carol Shield’s writing. It is so beautiful and clear. Her tender yet witty portrayal of her characters makes you love their vulnerability and humanity. The Republic of Love is a slow and sensuous read, which should be savoured and not rushed.

Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and World Editions for my place on the blog tour and my copy of the book.

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

Repentance by Eloísa Díaz

Published by W&N books, Repentance is the debut novel by Spanish writer, Eloísa Días. Many thanks to Anne Cater for my place on this Random Things blog tour for the novel.

Synopsis:

BUENOS AIRES, 1981.
Argentina is in the grip of a brutal military dictatorship.
Inspector Joaquin Alzada’s work in the Buenos Aires police force exposes him to the many realities of life under a repressive regime: desperate people, terrified people and – worst of all – missing people.
Personally, he prefers to stay out of politics, enjoying a simple life with his wife Paula. But when his revolutionary brother Jorge is disappeared, Alzada will stop at nothing to rescue him.

TWENTY YEARS LATER…
The country is in the midst of yet another devastating economic crisis and riots are building in the streets of Buenos Aires. 
This time Alzada is determined to keep his head down and wait patiently for his retirement. But when a dead body lands in a skip behind the morgue and a woman from one of the city’s wealthiest families goes missing, Alzada is forced to confront his own involvement in one of the darkest periods in Argentinian history – a time of collective horror and personal tragedy.

Alternating between two key moments in the life of a man and his country, Repentance is a noir with a difference, featuring an unforgettable character on a quest to solve a case that offers both a painful reminder of all he has lost and a last chance at redemption.

My thoughts:

I enjoy fiction which teaches me about other countries and cultures. When I read the synopsis for Repentance, I was intrigued and also excited to learn more about Argentina’s past – I knew about ‘the disappeared’ but wanted to find out more. This novel uses pivotal times in the country’s recent past as a back drop for the story of Inspector Joaquín Alzada, tired and cynical detective in Buenos Aires police force, on the brink of retirement.

When we first meet him in 2001, the streets of Buenos Aires are filled with demonstrators, who are angry at the government. Alzada has displeased those in power, and has been relegated to a desk job for the past twenty years. However, due to the demands on the force to police the streets during the demonstrations, Alzada is called to the morgue to investigate the murder of a young woman found in a dumpster.

Soon afterwards, a well-connected and influential couple turn up to report the disappearance of the woman’s sister. Alzada knows that it would be too simple if the woman in the dumpster was also the missing person, despite the physical resemblance. While Alzada is listening to the couple register their missing person complaint, his mind wanders back into his own past, and he wonders:

What would our lives have been like if we had been able to file a complaint, if we had been tended by a diligent police officer who asked the right questions

Alzada’s younger brother was one of the disappeared, back in 1981. While working this new case with his junior, Estrático, Alzada begins to relive the time when his brother went missing, and what he did in order to try to save him. We also begin to see the toll his brother’s disappearance has taken on him – how it changed him into a cynical and often dislikeable officer who is intent on keeping his head down. This new case, and the enthusiasm and eagerness of Estrático, causes Alzada to reassess his behaviour.

With a dual time line taking the reader between 1981 and 2001, Repentance is Alzada’s own personal story, and his journey to acceptance and redemption in a country where ordinary people are rendered powerless because of the corruption.

A fascinating, atmospheric read which at times reminded me of one of my favourite detectives, Brunetti by Donna Leon. Repentance will give you a glimpse into some of the darkest chapters in Argentina’s recent past. I very much enjoyed this, and hope we will hear more from Alzada in the future.

Thanks again to Anne Cater, and to W&N for my copy of the book. Why not, check out what the other bloggers on the tour thought.

Thanks for reading,

Emma xx

About the author:

Eloísa Díaz is a Spanish writer and lawyer. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University in 2013. Repentance – which she wrote in English – is her debut novel

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey

First of all, thank you to the lovely Jules who asked me to be part of a buddy along with Siobhán, Rachel and Rebecca. We received our copies from Alison Barrow at Doubleday – thank you so much! I loved the discussions we had while reading this book.

Synopsis:

When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again. 

Abi’s disappearance cracks open the facade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him. 

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….

My thoughts:

A sense of foreboding and unease permeates every part of this book, set in small town Colorado. It opens with a scene at the Tall Bones on a September evening. Tall Bones, a circle of six white rocks, each twelve feet tall and covered in graffiti, is a local gathering site for teenagers in search of freedom and escape. The bonfire spits and crackles and all around, the sound of teenagers letting off steam can be heard. Emma watches as her best friend Abi walks away from her, towards a male figure. “I’ll be fine,” she assures her friend, but Emma is unsettled. This is the last time Emma sees Abi.

The story centres around Abi’s disappearance, and explores possible explanations. Abi has always hated the town of Whistling Ridge, and planned to leave it when she could. Who’s to say she didn’t run away? Emma knows differently: Abi would never abandon her without a word. She knows her friend better than anyone – or so she thinks.

Structured with a Now and Then format, we are taken back and forth between the aftermath of Abi’s disappearance, and the events which lead up to it. Told by a chorus of characters, we soon realise that nothing and no-one in this small town is as it seems. Abi’s own family is dysfunctional and abusive: her father is too free with this fists, her mother is drowning herself in alcohol, older brother, Noah, is struggling with his own identity and younger brother Jude, ‘the mistake’ is hobbling around after his father injured him by throwing him down the stairs. Abi’s home life was far from happy.

As each character who was close to Abi takes a turn at narration, we learn that they all feel some guilt about the night she disappeared. Readers are kept on their toes throughout as each character makes vague references to wrong doings, “It was all my fault,” or “You have no idea what I’ve done.”

There’s a terrifying feel to the way the town runs, with the community fuelled by the venomous sermons of the pastor, who wants his congregation and the townsfolk to subscribe and conform to his skewed take on Christianity. The police are often all too happy to fall in with the wishes of the pastor, or equally happy to turn a blind eye while he incites unrest and witch hunts.

Anna Bailey’s writing is beautifully controlled and steeped in the American Mid-West. I was amazed to learn that she is a writer from the south west of England, who spent some time in Colorado working as a barista before returning to the UK. Her descriptions of the countryside are hypnotic and striking, and her evocation of the small town setting are terrifyingly claustrophobic.

I raced through this story – desperate to discover who was to blame for Abi’s disappearance. I absolutely loved this book. If you’re a fan of a beautifully written mystery, then this is one for you!

Tall Bones is published by Penguin Doubleday on 1st April.

About the author:

Anna Bailey was born in Bristol in 1995 and spent her childhood in Gloucestershire. She studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa university and wanted to become a journalist, but ended up moving to Colorado and becoming a Starbucks barista instead. In 2018 she returned to the UK, where she enrolled in the Curtis Brown Novel-writing course and wrote her first novel inspired by her experiences of living in small-town America.

 

 

Dog Days by Ericka Waller

Dog Days is a debut novel by columnist and blogger Ericka Waller, and was published in hardback by Doubleday on 11th March. It caught my eye early on in the year and I had it marked out as a book I wanted to read, so I was delighted when Anne of Random Things Blog Tours invited me onboard, and sent me an ARC for review purposes.

Synopsis:

George is very angry. His wife has upped and died on him, and all he wants to do is sit in his underpants and shout at the cricket. The last thing he needs is his cake-baking neighbour Betty trying to rescue him. And then there’s the dog, a dachshund puppy called Poppy. George doesn’t want a dog – he wants a fight.

Dan is a counsellor with OCD who is great at helping other people – if only he were better at helping himself. His most meaningful relationship so far is with his labrador Fitz. But then comes a therapy session that will change his life.

Lizzie is living in a women’s refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from everyone around her. But when she is forced to walk the refuge’s fat terrier, Maud, a new life beckons – if she can keep her secret just a while longer…

Dog Days is a novel about those small but life-changing moments that only come when we pause to let the light in. It is about three people learning to make connections and find joy in living life off the leash.

My thoughts:

Well! What an absolutely gorgeous book! I’m struggling to think of an emotion I didn’t experience between these pages: from anger and frustration, to confusion, incomprehension, heart-break and hope. Essentially, Dog Days is an uplifting read, but be warned, it will also take you to some dark places as the three characters struggle with their own mental health issues.

Set on the south coast of England, the book tells the separate stories of three very different characters who are all a bit broken. Retiree George is a grumpy old git whose wife has just passed away, Lizzie is an ex-teacher, who is living in a women’s refuge with her son and Dan is a psychotherapist with OCD whose life is turned on its head by one of his patients. George, Lizzie and Dan navigate the obstacles that have been thrown in their paths. While their lives are completely separate, Ericka Waller creates subtle overlaps where their paths cross on occasion. While all very different characters, the one thing they have in common is they all find themselves (willingly or unwillingly) looking after a dog which demands attention, and offers companionship and care in their darkest days.

Ericka Waller tells each story with beautiful insight into human behaviour. I shed a fair few tears, but finished the book with a smile and a sense of hope.

I loved it. I feel certain it will appeal to so many readers – and especially to dog lovers!

Thanks again to Anne for my ARC and my place on the tour. You can read more reviews from the other bloggers taking part in this tour.

Thanks for reading,

Emma xx

About the author:

Ericka Waller is 38 and lives in Brighton with three daughters, too many pets and a husband.  She is an award winning blogger and columnist. When not writing she can be found walking her dogs, reading in the bath or buying stuff off eBay. Dog Days is her first book.

Notebook by Tom Cox

Published by Unbound, Notebook by Tom Cox is available now in gorgeous hardback. I am delighted to be kicking off this Random Things Blog Tour with Anne Cater. Thank you so much for my beautiful copy of this book for review purposes.

Synopsis:

Sure, sex is great, but have you ever cracked open a new notebook and written something on the first page with a really nice pen?

The story behind Notebook starts with a minor crime: the theft of Tom Cox’s rucksack from a Bristol pub in 2018. In that rucksack was a journal containing ten months worth of notes, one of the many Tom has used to record his thoughts and observations over the past twelve years. It wasn’t the best he had ever kept – his handwriting was messier than in his previous notebook, his entries more sporadic – but he still grieved for every one of the hundred or so lost pages.

This incident made Tom appreciate how much notebook-keeping means to him: the act of putting pen to paper has always led him to write with an unvarnished, spur-of-the-moment honesty that he wouldn’t achieve on-screen.

Here, Tom has assembled his favourite stories, fragments, moments and ideas from those notebooks, ranging from memories of his childhood to the revelation that ‘There are two types of people in the world. People who fucking love maps, and people who don’t.’

The result is a book redolent of the real stuff of life, shot through with Cox’s trademark warmth and wit.

My thoughts:

In a world where it feels like everything is going to shit, Tom Cox is a breath of fresh air. I’ve been a fan of his writing for many years now, and while reading his books, I am always reminded of the beauty and happiness to be found by slowing down, and taking pleasure in nature, and now in notebooks!

If you are a notebook fiend, or you enjoy journaling, you’ll already know about the pleasure to be found in putting pen to paper and recording your thoughts. While Tom’s recent books have documented his rambles in the countryside, this latest book is a collection of his favourite mental ramblings. Each entry has been chosen from the many notebooks he has collected over the years. They contain often hilarious and irreverent musings on life, along with more serious considerations about our use of plastic and the pitfalls of our consumer driven culture. Loosely grouped into sections, Tom’s observations are interspersed with artwork by his parents.

This book does not demand to be read, or scream for your attention. You will not race through the pages to get to the end (or maybe you will?) – but Notebook will be on hand, for the times when you need to slow your mind down and just take a moment. Read as much or as little as you like in a sitting – the entries range from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages long.

Notebook is being added to my ‘Forever Shelf’. I know I will go back to it time and again, when I need a breather, or a laugh (my family have come to expect me giggling in a corner while reading Tom’s writing.)

Thanks again to Anne for my place on the tour.

You can follow the other reviews as the blog tour continues until 28th March.

Thanks for reading,

Emma xx

About the author:

Tom Cox lives in Norfolk. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, The Bad and The Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia. 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, and the titular story of Help the Witch won a Shirley Jackson Award.

You can keep up to date with all his writing on his website.

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

Synopsis:

London, 1841.

The Rajah sails for Australia.

On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world.

Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.

Until the murder.

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect.

The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart . . .

But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.
______

My thoughts:

I love historical fiction set in Victoria times, so I was very intrigued by the premise of Dangerous Women. It’s inspired by and based on a voyage which took place in 1841 where 180 women convicted of petty crimes were transported from the UK to Van Diemens land (now Tasmania) off the coast of Australia. Whilst on board, a group came together to make a quilt, under the supervision of their matron, Kezia Hayter. The quilt still exists, and was loaned to the V&A for their exhibitions Quilts. It was here that the author came across her inspiration, spured on by the added detail that by the time the Rajah reached its destination, Kezia Hayter and the ship’s captain had married.

Dangerous Women is told using a dual time line structure, alternating  between April and July 1841, the departure and arrival dates of the voyage.

In April, the women are coming together as a group, forming new friendships and allegiances. Their matron, twenty three year old Kezia Hayter, worked previously with prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, and is keen to help the women onboard to better themselves. She believes in them and the power of redemption through good works. Her misson on board is to establish a group of skilled needleworkers to collaborate on a patchwork quilt.

In July, we discover that one of Kezia’s group, Hattie Matthews, has been attacked with a knife by a member of the patchwork group whist on deck. Her life hangs in the balance as she drifts in and out of consciousness. There were only seven of the women on the deck at the time. Which one of them attacked Hattie Matthews, and why? Kezia joins an inquiry to uncover the perpetrator.

As we alternate between the timelines, Hattie, Clara and Kezia share their stories, along with those of other women on board. They are all equally heart-breaking, but these women are strong and have already survived much. Like many of her fellow passengers, Hattie has made mistakes in the past, but wants a better life for herself and her son Bertie. She is friendly towards the others, and soon finds herself keeping secrets for some of them. After a message is left on her pillow one evening, warning her to keep her silence, she begins to worry for her safety. Who would want to harm her?

With themes of gentle feminism, romance and redemption, this story will appeal to many. It was so atmospheric and compelling, I felt as though I was onboard the Rajah. I loved it.

Thank you to Gaby Young for my place on this blog tour and for the Netgalley ebook for review purposes.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

The Lamplighters was published by Picador on 4th March. This book was on my radar from ones to watch out for in 2021 lists, so was thrilled and excited to be offered a place on this Midas PR blog tour – thank you to Georgina and Amber for the opportunity and my ARC, which is stunning.

Synopsis:

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 . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

My thoughts:

A keeper never abandons his light. This is a point of pride, an absolute given, so when Jory and his relief crew arrive at the Maiden Rock lighthouse in December 1972 to relieve one of the keepers from his stint on the tower, they are bewildered to find the place deserted: the doors are locked from the inside, the three keepers have seemingly vanished.

So begins this wonderful novel inspired by the real life mystery surrounding the disappearance of three keepers from the Flannan Isle on the Outer Hebrides in 1900. Emma Stonex has spent ten years creating this unforgettable story, which is “written in respectful memory of this event, but is a work of fiction.”

Arthur Black, Bill Walker and Vince Bourne are the three keepers who vanish in The Lamplighters. When Jory and his relief crew manage to get inside the lighthouse, they find themselves enveloped in an eerie silence: there is no sign of a struggle; no disturbance to the neatly ordered world of a lighthouse; no indication of a getaway; a kitchen table laid for two uneaten meals; both wall clocks have stopped at the same time – quarter to nine. Trident House, the employer, is nervous, fearing a backlash of public outrange at the disappearance of their men. Despite an enquiry, no resolution is every reached.

In 1992, a well-known writer of maritime adventures, decides to visit this mystery with fresh eyes. Will he be able to uncover anything new? He needs to speak to Helen, Jenny and Michelle, the women left behind, in order to complete his book. The women’s shared history binds them together, yet they have each chosen to maintain their distance from each other in an attempt to move forward with their lives after the losses they suffered.

For the men, the Maiden Rock was a refuge from their lives, from painful pasts or unhappy marriages. For the women, it was like a mistress, responsible for keeping their men away from them.

The Lamplighters is atmospheric, unsettling and beautifully told. As we journey through this story, Emma Stonex slowly and skilfully reveals the heart-breaking secrets which culminated in the disappearance of Arthur, Bill and Vince in 1972. Meanwhile, twenty years on, the women who loved them are forced to re-open old wounds when they put their stories across to the novelist.

The prose is sublime and so evocative. From the off, I was drawn in to this maritime world and gripped right until the final page.

You should absolutely believe the hype. The Lamplighters is a very special read which I know will stay with me. I adored it.

About the author:

Emma Stonex is a novelist and The Lamplighters is her debut under her own name; she is the author of several books written under a pseudonym. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an editor at a major publishing house. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two young daughters.