Sunday, July 08, 2012

Edi's Spotlight: The Lighthouse Keeper by Alan K. Baker

Dear Readers,

I read more books than I review. But most of the time I leave at least a comment over at GOODREADS where I manage my book shelves.

And if you did not know so far, authors read reviews and comments on GOODREADS!!
During my past two holidays I read and enjoyed the first two books in the Blackwood & Harrington Mystery series by Alan K Baker:
- The Martian Ambassador (pb, 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-1907777-080]
The Feaster from the Stars (pb, 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-1907777-080]

Based on my The Feaster from the Stars GOODREADS comment Alan K. Baker left a comment on my blog:

"Alan K Baker said...
Hi Edi. So glad you enjoyed The Feaster from the Stars (and thanks for giving it the thumbs up on Goodreads). If you're interested, my standalone supernatural mystery The Lighthouse Keeper is just out from Snowbooks. All the best, Alan"

Of course I wanted to read The Lighthouse Keeper (pb, 2012)[ISBN-13: 978-1907777622] and to my pleasure Alan K. Baker sent me a signed copy. I added the book to my summer reading list 2012. But only reading has been not enough this time.

Last night I finished The Lighthouse Keeper and today I present you my The Lighthouse Keeper review. That is a kind of evolution for me.

Are you familiar with the Flannan Isles mystery? I never heard about it before. If you want more  and visual information then watch the two videos at the end of the review and follow the links.

Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store. The world of books is changing which means I also will take in account blurbs and descriptions on GOODREADS and other places.
Here we go:

The Lighthouse Keeper 
(pb, 2012)[ISBN-13: 978-1907777622]
Alan K. Baker


In December 1900, three lighthouse keepers vanished without trace from the remote Scottish island of Eilean Mòr. An emergency relief crew was sent to man the lighthouse. At the end of their month-long duty, they resigned from their posts, and never spoke of what they had experienced on the island. The mystery of Eilean Mòr has never been solved. Until now.
In the present, a group of environmental researchers arrives on the island to observe the wildlife. While exploring the lighthouse, now automated and deserted, one of the team discovers a manuscript written by one of the relief keepers, a man named Alec Dalemore. As a sudden storm moves in, cutting off their escape, the researchers come to realise that Dalemore wrote the manuscript as a warning to all the lighthouse keepers who would come after him. A warning of something on Eilean Mòr and in the surrounding ocean - something ancient and powerful, and strange beyond imagining...
The Lighthouse Keeper is a supernatural tale based on the Flannan Isles mystery, one of the greatest unsolved enigmas in maritime history. Blending factual firsthand reports with speculative fiction, the novel takes the reader on a journey to the edge of reality, where the greatest of human fears - the fear of the unknown - holds dominion." [Source]

My Expectations
Sooner or later it must happen. The  Book Lighthouse reviews a lighthouse book. Based on my experience with the previous books by Alan K. Baker and after the book description I expected a most entertaining and excellent written book that would drive me to the edge of my chair. I was pretty nosey to see how Alan K Baker would explain the vanish of the three lighthouse keepers and if he keeps his promise stated in the last sentence of the book description:
"[...], the novel takes the reader on a journey to the edge of reality, where the greatest of human fears - the fear of the unknown - holds dominion.

The Delivery
I read the 276 pages in two sessions which is not usual for me and should give you a first hint that I have been hooked by the story.

Within the first 21 pages Alan K. Tuner delivers the full set up for the story. After the introduction done by a telegram from 26 December 1900 the author moves forward to the year 1999 on Sunday 19 July, 4.30 PM, location Eilean Mòr (= big isle) part of the Flannan Isles. We meet a group of people - Jennifer Leigh, Donald Webb, Max Kaminsky, Nick Bowman - all working for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee  (JNCC) and Rebecca Garratt who is in her first year of her MA in history.
Of course there are certain relationships in between the protagonists which I do not explain. Beside that there are only two more information (one vague and one precise) necessary to set the wheel in motion.
Some unusual things happen and Rebecca discovers a book:
The Testament of Alec Dalemore, Occasional Keeper

From that point on the story continues with two interwoven narrative threads. There are the events of the group itself and then they read together the discovered book which contains the story of Alec Dalemore. A story which starts on 5th of January 1901. Alan K. Baker mix these two threads perfectly together. It is fascinating to follow the group and Alec Dalemore and his two companion.

Of course the idea of a book within a book is not new but the execution is what counts. Alan K. Baker use The Testament of Alec Dalemore for different purposes. Without the book the story would not work!
The book is at the same time a revelation of the past, an anchor in the here and now, a book of despair and hope, a survival manual and the legacy of Alec Dalemore.
There is the group in 1999, a group of intelligent and well-educated people and on the other hand these men, shaped by nature and their jobs. You think modern people are superior when it comes to cope with the unknown, on the contrary. When it comes to the unknown the primal fear takes over and it gets worse when the differentiation between fiction, dream and reality disappears.
Alan K. Baker managed these double, triple, quadrouple rollercoaster of emotion in a gripping way. But it is not the description of the emotion alone. The author has a talent to describe nature (water, storms, sky) in a way that you hear voices in your head, the wind runs through your hair and you have to turn around because you felt someone breathing in your back.

Let me give you an example:

"But that night, it was easy to believe that humanity was gone from the earth and that we three were the last of a race and a civilisation that was no more, cast to oblivion by a storm that covered the entire world with destruction." [page 85]

Keep in mind where Eilean Mòr is located. This small island exposed to the forces of nature. And that is similar to all people on the island in 1900, 1901 and 1999. But they have to cope with more - with the unknown, faith, belief, trust, loneliness, primal fears and group dynamics processes.
There is a high risc that you lose your mind when the that which must not, can not be, does not work.
To lose control is as gruesome as to run out of explanantions. You will beseech answers like a picture of misery.

Don't try to explain your doubts or unknown vision with
"[...] the tiny things that float within one's eyes, and which can be seen drifting across the field of vision on occasion." [page 235]

I'm pretty sure I did not deliver you any hint how Alan K. Baker explain the 1900 Flannan Isles mystery. I'm sure not everbody will like his explanation but it fits perfectly to his promise in the book description.

Anyway I must tell you the very last sentence of the story which tell you all or nothing:
"The kitchen door opens."

I'm glad that I read The Lighthouse Keeper. Despite it is an excellent read I found a quote which shows the relation between books and lighthouses:

"Reading is a great pastime amongst Lightkeepers, [...] most take great comfort from losing themselves in the worlds to be found within the pages of a book" [page 86]

I promise you that you easily can lose yourself on Eilean Mòr. The border between your reality and the fiction of the book, the fiction and reality within the book and finally the fiction and reality in the book within the book is fragile.

This book is like a lighthouse. There are moments where you do not need the light because everything seems to be obvious and clear (day time) and then you are suddenly caught in the dark where fear rises,
doubts lead to despair and the light gives you a short insight blurred by the afterglow.

The cover fits pertfectly to the story. The black and whit and grey delivers hope, fear, myst  and the unknown depths.

The Lighthouse Keeper - buckle up for a timeless, mesmerizing, disturbing, rollercoaster ride to the edge of human mind on an unspoilt island.
Or in other words:

The Lighthouse Keeper - that which must not, can (not) be !!

More information about the Flannan Isles mystery:

If you want to know more about the opera by Peter Maxwell Davies mentioned in the video then follow THIS LINK.
If you want to read the poem by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson mentioned in the video then follow THIS LINK.
You find a lot of documents and newspaper articles over at
Mike Dash Calendar of Sources.
Finally you can visit the official Northern Lighthouse Board site.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have to read it now!

ediFanoB said...


I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Awesome review. We have two local lighthouses that have their own set of 'truth is stranger than fiction' stories.
The Lighthouse Keeper sounds wonderful. I have placed it at the top of my to read list.
Another great post Edi. Thanks for sharing.

Alan K Baker said...

Hello Edi!

Thank you so much for your very kind review of The Lighthouse Keeper. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and I greatly appreciate your kind words about the book.

I'm approaching the end of the third Blackwood & Harrington Mystery, entitled The Gods of Atlantis. I should have it finished by the end of this month, and it should be published early next year.

I also have a story in Snowbooks' steampunk anthology Resurrection Engines, which is due out in hardback at the end of this month, and hopefully in paperback in time for Christmas!

All the best,


ediFanoB said...

Dear Rosalie,

I think I forgot to write that The Lighthouse Kepper is definitely no book for Vulcan (Star Trek) like people.

I know you have nothing in common with Vulcans which you showed impressively with your Chronicles of Caleath books.

Thank you for your honest and kind words

ediFanoB said...

Hello Alan,

it is always great to get a feedback from the author himself. Your comment shows that I have not been that wrong with my review of The Lighthouse Keeper.

It would be a pleasure to read and review The Gods of Atlantis and Resurrection Engines. I have a knack for mysteries and steampunk.

Thank you!

Zoltán Gecse said...

I just wish I had more time... :(

But I was happy yesterday, because I could read 40 pages from a book.

ediFanoB said...

Hi Zoltán,

Imust admit I read a lot at the weekend while my family sleeps.
That means a wake up at 5:20 am and then I have time for reading until 9 am.
During the week I try to spend two hours per day for reading.

But I think the most important thing is that you enjoy every page.

There have been days where I rea maximum 15 to 20 pages.

nutschell said...

a book within a book? Well that certainly intrigues me. Thanks for this great review. will have to check it out.

nutschell said...

a book within a book? Well that certainly intrigues me. Thanks for this great review. will have to check it out.

ediFanoB said...


thanks for stopping by.
I hope you will like the book.

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