It is rare to find a book that can combine so many different styles and attack you on every front. That is what the Stoker nominated novel, The Lamplighters will do to you. Prepare to get out your Hawaiian shirt, flip flops and sunscreen as we take a trip through Frazer Lee’s brilliant story. Just don’t forget to keep checking your back because this paradise isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
Marla Neuborn has found the best post-grad job in the world – as a ‘Lamplighter’ working on Meditrine Island, an exclusive idyllic paradise owned and operated by a consortium of billionaires. All Lamplighters have to do is tend to the mansions, cook and clean, and turn on lights to make it appear the owners are home. But the job comes with conditions. Marla will not know the exact location of the island, and she will have no contact with the outside world for the duration of her stay.
Once on the island, Marla quickly learns the billionaire lifestyle is not all it is made out to be. The chief of security rules Meditrine with an iron fist. His private police force patrols the shores night and day, and CCTV cameras watch The Lamplighters relentlessly. Soon Marla will also discover first-hand that the island hides a terrible secret. She’ll meet the resident known as the Skin Mechanic. And she’ll find out why so few Lamplighters ever leave the island alive.
Frazer Lee has crafted one wild story. Everything about The Lamplighters is put in place to engage the reader and draw them into this strangely fascinating world. The characters are all just flawed enough to make them realistic, yet retain enough nobility to keep us rooting for them. They smoke, they drink and they encounter hardship- just like us. The only difference is we have to face our problems while the characters in story have the option to escape to an island paradise although given the island’s secrets, I’m not sure that escape is much better. There is an ample dose of mystery to keep the pages turning at a breakneck speed as we are treated to a mysterious killer, a crazy old lighthouse keeper and a security team led by one of the most ruthless characters you’re liable to run into. The reader is never able to get a firm grasp on the goings on of the island until the insanely unexpected climax. Think the mystery of ‘Lost’ mixed with the bizarre beauty of Dario Argento and you might just be close to The Lamplighters .
The true success of THE LAMPILIGHTERS lies in Lee’s ability to birth beautiful imagery with his prose. Meditrine Island is a lush tropical locale that is painted with painstakingly fine detail as it wisps the reader away into a land of lush greens, vibrant oranges and juicy reds. This is the real deal people. When reading the book, I could not help but draw comparisons to the Giallo genre. Whenever I am jonesin’ for a vacation, I can put in a Bava or Martino and simply escape to faraway lands for 90 minutes. These directors understood that vivid scenery played a vital role in the story, much like Lee does. The man does such a wonderful job that I would be willing to plan my next vacation to Meditrine Island, despite my knowledge of its dark underbelly. That is the mark of a master wordsmith.
At its core, The Lamplighters is superb story that teases the readers with all the subtle nuances of the genre. Lee has a great knowledge of the genre as he mixes elements of subtle psychological horror with the over-the-top gore and sex of those Leisure pioneers, Laymon and Ketchum. This keeps the reader on their toes because Lee has the ability to gracefully torment your mind by working his way into your psyche or, if he so chooses, he can crack your skull open with violent blows from a splintered 4 x 4.