The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke
This atmospheric, Gothic thriller is perfect for this time of the year and an absolutely compelling read.
Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.
A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.
Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation. Coincidence? Or curse?
Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.
Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .
But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?
I love a Gothic novel and this book ticked all the boxes for me. It was dark, haunting and such a compelling read. The story is set in a secluded part of Scotland where Liv, a mother of three girls has been commissioned to paint a mural inside an old abandoned lighthouse. Fleeing from her former life Liv is happy to start over again, much to the annoyance of her teenage daughter Saffy, causing a rift in their relationship. Working on the lighthouse is a challenge especially with the nuisance of the bats to contend with and the strange symbols that appear along with other ghostly happenings. The lighthouse was once a place where women, who were accused of witchcraft, were kept before their trial.
Strange things start to happen when Saffy decides to hide from her mother to punish her for bringing them to Lòn Haven, and a child identical to her daughter, Luna, knocks on her door one evening. The locals believe this child is a wildling who is there to kill everyone in the family. They warn and plead with Liv that the only way to protect her family is to kill the child/wildling. Running alongside this storyline is Luna's story, she is now an adult and still trying to deal with losing her family when she was a child. Saffy never returned and then both her mother, Liv and her little sister Clover went missing. Luna was taken into foster care and has always been trying to locate news of her family. Then one day she gets a call saying they have found Clover. When Luna arrives at the hospital Clover is still a child and hasn't appeared to age in the twenty years since she last saw her. But how is this possible? Is this the real Clover or an impostor?
There was so much going on in this novel and I was truly gripped. I needed to know what had happened to the family and was very intrigued to find out who Clover was. The story alternated between the two time lines: 1998, when Liv brought her girls on to the island and 2021, when Luna and Clover are reunited. It was deliciously creepy in parts, and I loved the story of the witches, who although didn't dominate the story were always present in the background. Having finished the book I read the author's note and was elated to find out that this was inspired by the Scottish witch trials, which I found fascinating. Give me a Gothic thriller and a bit of witchcraft thrown in and I am a happy reader but C.J. Cooke exceeded my expectations and enjoyment of the novel by also providing a gripping mystery to unravel and the lives of four women to follow. What a delight to read.
Many thanks to the author, the publisher Harper Collins and to Anne Cater for inviting me to join the blog tour of The Lighthouse Witches. This is one of my favourite reads this year. Highly recommend.
C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications written under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Her work has been published in twenty-three languages to date.
Born in Belfast, C.J. has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health.
C.J. Cooke lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.