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The Lamplighter by Anthony O'Neill

The Lamplighter (2003)

by Anthony O'Neill

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It's Victorian Edinburgh and several well-known people in the area are dying. Inspector Carus Groves is assigned to the case and is hoping that this will prove what he sees as his superior investigative powers. He's baffled by the power of the murderer. He enlists the aid of Thomas McKnight a Professor of Logic and Metaphysics to help.

Evelyn Todd claims to have dreams of this and the questions start.

It's strange and surreal story and I did find it interesting. The descriptions of Edinburgh rang true and felt real, however the story didn't really work for me. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Sep 6, 2008 |
I read this in one sitting, unable to put it down once I'd started. This was quite different than anything you'll read again, and sort of reminded me of The Testament of Gideon Mack. (If you haven't read that one, run, do not walk to your local bookstore and pick it up).

Anyway, it is a difficult book to review, but I'll give it a go.

Set in Edinburgh, during the reign of Queen Victoria, a group of highly-respected citizens are being killed off. The cases are being investigated on two fronts: first, by Professor Thomas McKnight of the University of Edinburgh and his friend Joseph Canavan, a cemetery caretaker; second, by the city police's Acting Chief Inspector Carus Groves. Groves spends much time considering how the actions he takes will be set down in his personal memoirs -- and I'm not sure why, but it seems like the author is poking fun at Groves' character and isn't sure whether he's a bumbler who lucks into things or a detective who's hot on the trail. Nevertheless, to get back to where I'm going, whoever is killing these people is capable of superhuman strength, but the only lead the police have is a young girl who works in a book shop named Evelyn. Evelyn, it seems, knows that the killings are happening because she dreams about them. She tells police that the culprit is someone named Leerie, who is a lamplighter, but she is written off as a crank. Basic outline of story. From there, the author delves into the realm of what I'd label fantasy cloaked in the mysterious and dark underpinnings of a gothic novel.

I spent a LOT of time after finishing the novel trying to understand exactly what the author had in mind here and came to my own conclusions. It wasn't easy. Be open minded as you read it.

So: the question is, into which category do I lump this book? Psychological suspense? Yes. Supernatural, yes. Gothic? Most definitely. Mystery, yes, but not your average historical mystery. It sort of rises above genre, if you want my opinion.

I can recommend it to people who don't mind supernatural tone in their novels; I can also recommend it to those who enjoy the realm of fantasy. As a mystery, it's so-so, but overall, a very good (but challenging) read. ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Jun 19, 2007 |
I'm not sure if O'Neill's concept was original overall but it was original to me. Never read a story quite like it. You feel sorry for Evelyn and her predicament. You feel contempt for Carus Groves, who seems to figure out the villain despite his arrogance. Thomas and Joseph are the ones I ended up rooting for. They seemed to have a handle on things (for good reason).
This book takes a look into the mind and what it will do to preserve itself.
It took me awhile to get through it, not that I didn't understand it, I've just become so used to romance (serial) books, reading a real book threw me off a little. ( )
  TwilightBlue | Dec 14, 2005 |
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There is a dreadful Hell, And everlasting pains; There sinners must with devils dwell In darkness, fire and chains. - Isaac Watts, Divine Song for Children

If God has thought proper to paint "thief," "robber," or "murderer" on certain brows, it isn't for nothing: may it is for something - that the like of me shoudl read the marks, and try to save the good and virtuous. - James McLevy, Edinburgh police detective, 1861
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There were nearly sixty of them in Edinburgh and they swarmed out of their crevices at dusk and swept through the city in a systematic raid on the streets, closes, wynds and parks. (Prologue)
Thomas McKnight, professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, had certainly noticed the young lady busily taking notes in one of the rear benches, but did not stop to contemplate the incongruity, the implications, or indeed to give it much thought at all. (Chapter I)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743464273, Mass Market Paperback)

Edinburgh, 1860s: At the Fountainbridge Institute for Destitute Girls, clever orphan Evelyn Todd spins fantastic tales of the lamplighter who passes her window nightly. Her imaginings, forbidden by the home's strict governor, are all but forgotten when Evelyn is spirited away by a man who claims to be her father.

Years later, a wave of vicious killings stains the city's cobbled streets. Three men from different worlds are drawn to the sensational case: a detective hungry for recognition, a disillusioned professor of logic, and a strapping gravedigger. Their paths lead to Evelyn Todd, a woman haunted by dreams of the murders and of a mysterious lamplighter. As her nighttime terrors begin to illuminate the face of the dreadful predator, this unusual trio of investigators uses reason, intuition, philosophy, and luck in a hunt that rapidly hurtles past the bounds of conventional detection.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:10 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

When 19th century Edinburgh is horrified by a series of brutal murders, a young woman claims to have dreamed each crime in detail and blames them on a lamplighter who may or may not be real. The official investigation headed by police inspector Carus Groves; the unofficial one, by professor of logic and metaphysics, Thomas McKnight, and his assistant, Joseph Canavan, gravedigger.… (more)

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