THE LAMPLIGHTERS by Emma Stonex (Picador £14.99, 368 pp)
by Emma Stonex (Picador £14.99, 368 pp)
In 1900, three lighthouse keepers disappeared without trace from a remote tower in the Outer Hebrides.
This true story is the starting point for Stonex’s atmospheric and suspenseful debut novel, which transposes that situation to a lighthouse off the Cornish coast in 1972.
The building is found empty, the door locked from the inside, the table laid and all the clocks stopped at a quarter to nine.
Twenty years later, a novelist visits the three women the keepers left behind on land, intent on finding the truth behind the men’s disappearance.
Moving between the three women and the men’s final days, the novel gathers a haunting momentum.
The descriptions of the claustrophobia of lighthouse life and the surrounding seascape are second to none.
The characters’ tussles with love, grief and the need to keep going are balanced with delicacy and skill.
Part psychological drama, part mystery, part ghost story, The Lamplighters is a triumph.
HIS ONLY WIFE by Peace Adzo Medie (Oneworld £14.99, 288 pp)
HIS ONLY WIFE
by Peace Adzo Medie (Oneworld £14.99, 288 pp)
Afi, a young girl from Ghana, is persuaded by her mother into an arranged marriage with Elikem, a wealthy, handsome businessman who is unable to attend the wedding himself.
What Afi doesn’t realise at first is that their union is a ruse by his family to end Elikem’s long-term affair with an unsuitable, dislikeable woman from Liberia, with whom he has a child.
Afi moves to Accra, a city of money and opportunity, to be with her husband, only to find herself accommodated in a fancy apartment, while her rival for Elikem’s affections lives in his nearby mansion.
But Afi is resourceful and undeterred, refusing to settle for anything less than she deserves.
This fierce young woman’s struggle for independence in a city that is way out of step with the time-honoured traditions of the rural village in which she grew up is vivid, witty and utterly absorbing.
GIRL IN THE WALLS by A.J. Gnuse (4th Estate £12.99, 368 pp)
GIRL IN THE WALLS
by A.J. Gnuse (4th Estate £12.99, 368 pp)
Orphaned in a car crash, Elise, 11, runs away to her former family home, where another family now lives.
Knowing the secret places between the walls and under the floors, Elise hides away, only emerging when the family are out to raid their larder, read their books and watch their TV.
But when the two sons of the household sense a presence in their home, they determine to find who or what it is and to drive them out. Their method has results that spiral wildly out of control.
A gentle start builds to a tense dramatic climax in this unsettling novel that looks at loss, loneliness and the need to survive.
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