Monday, January 14, 2013

The Lamplighters (Samhain), by Frazer Lee

What would you say if, in your hour of greatest need, you were offered a twelve-month job on the secluded tropical island of Meditrine, where your only duties would be to turn lights on and off,  run the appliances, cook, clean, and run the water in a posh mansion to make it looks as if someone were home?  Would you take it?  Would you be a Lamplighter?

Marla Neuborn, her life a complete mess and epic failure, jumped at it, and discovered, once on the island, that there was a downside, too.  For instance, the weird rules:  no smoking, no alcohol, no drugs, no swimming in the ocean, no books, no television, no lying on the beach, no phones or computers, either.  Oh, and she has no idea where the island she’s on is located.  Complete isolation.  Not only that, but the security on the island is run by a draconian paramilitary group and she’s seen a frightening figure on the property at night.  And just who are the owners of all these mansions?  And why are so many animals dying all over the island?  And if no one knows where the island is, that would preclude any random burglaries that the Lamplighters are supposed to be heading off; so what’s with the tight security?

It’s “Gilligan’s Island” meets the Gestapo meets Freddy Kruger.  And wait until you get a load of the Skin Mechanic.  Nightmare city, I promise you.

The Lamplighters is a wonderful first novel by Frazer Lee.  He handles the difficult and subtle building and maintaining of suspense like a pro.  From the day of her arrival, Marla’s intuition begins to tingle about something off about the island, and things slowly, but deliciously, go to hell from there.  She meets a couple of other Lamplighters, as well as Vincent, a most memorable lighthouse keeper; but this is really Marla’s story.  Her growth and transformation as the book spins out is most gratifying.  She begins as a weak-willed substance abuser and ends in a place of strength—always the sign of a well-told story.  I didn’t like Marla initially, but Lee managed to change my mind about her in a deft and nearly seamless way—difficult to do once an opinion about a character is formed.  Again, this addresses Lee’s formidable writing skills.

Lee so well orchestrates the progression to the climax that the end of the book will have you reeling.  In some ways, it seems to come out of nowhere; however, when you look back at the quiet clues sprinkled throughout, you’ll realize that it was the only ending that would make sense, and it was right in front of you all along.  All the loose ends are tied up in a bright, bloody package.

Frazer Lee is an author to watch.  His is a remarkable first novel, and I urge you to pick this one up.  I, for one, can’t wait for his second.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Carson Buckingham

Carson Buckingham is a writer living in the great American Southwest and she reviews horror/paranormal suspense novels. Stop by to view her scriblins.

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