The job seems too good to be true. Live on a secluded island for a year, maintain swanky, millionaire mansions...and get paid for it. For Marla Neuborn, a former nanny fallen down hard on her luck, with no prospects left, the job is a godsend. Especially the way the offer just pops into her email inbox one day.
All she has to do is cook, clean, tend to the mansions, turn on the lights, and pretend that someone is home. Be a lamplighter, to ward away potential burglars and vandals. Not only is it the perfect job, but a heaven-sent second chance for Marla, right when she needed it most. Maybe some of the terms are a bit draconian: she won't know the location of the island, and won't be able to contact the outside world...but she's just desperate enough not to care.
However, it's not long before she discovers something is wrong on Meditrine Island. The head of island security does more than just run a right ship: he's downright fanatical. Also, there's no television. No books or puzzles or even children's books, even. There are security cameras everywhere. At night, she's convinced she sees a shadowy, haunting figure standing at the edge of the property, looking through the glass...
And he has no eyes.
And when she learns a shocking truth from her fellow Lamplighters, she realizes that her heaven-sent second chance is more like an invitation...to hell.
The Lamplighters, by Frazer Lee, tries to be many things: creeping, eerie horror story. Serial killer novel. Enthralling mystery of conspiracy and intrigue. Supernatural horror. And for awhile, it sustains an admirable amount of tension. But ultimately, it doesn't quite live up to the expectations it raises.
The story drags in places, sapping tension and suspense. And while the prose is solid, some of the third person point-of-view exchanges aren't handled well. Certain POV switches read as if they've been made out of convenience, rather than to advance the story forward. Some writers are masters at hiding plot elements inside limited third-person point of view, but the efforts feel a little too obvious, here.
It is, however, a serviceable novel, and does nothing to diminish the overall quality of Samhain's new Horror Line. I look forward to Frazer's second offering, if only on the strength of his prose alone.
Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine and a blogger for The Midnight Diner. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's
currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at
Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives
in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is
the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at www.kevinlucia.com.