In a small Appalachian town, an amateur detective unearths a dark conspiracy and his own haunted past, in a chilling novel about sacrifice, art, and revenge.
Med school dropout Harlan Winter returns to his impoverished West Virginia hometown, where the law is scarce, arsonists are turning everything to ash, and his family’s turbulent history lingers. All he wants is to keep the peace in a community cowering from The Lighthouse, a local cult preying on people’s fears. Harlan’s own fears, too, when he’s hired to play detective and find a young couple gone missing.
The vanished artist and his girlfriend have left behind a series of paintings that enrage The Lighthouse’s Pastor Logan, who believes art can have divine power. It’s not easy to believe for a rational man like Harlan. And impossible to ignore when his investigation is haunted by visions of the dead lurking in the shadows of his own violent past.
Revelations about the disappearances are being unearthed. The Lighthouse’s grip on the community is tightening. And Harlan fears he’s losing control. As the threats against his town, his sanity, and his life begin to mount, Harlan doesn’t know which is more terrifying: what’s real, or what’s in his mind.
Lighthouse Burning is set in a West Virginia coal town, and when the coal played out, the town started to die. There are so many social and mental problems that it’s hard to know where to start the review. At the top of the list is the economy. Without work people can’t buy food so there’s some bartering going on. People are living in tents, and Heaven help them if they need a doctor. Harlan our hero left medical school without a degree, and the local people consult him if they are ill or hurt. Sometimes he tells them that they need to go to the hospital, but they don’t go. Even if the doctor prescribed medicine they don’t have the money to buy it.
Law and order have virtually disappeared. A group called the Lighthouse, a true cult, is the real power in the town. They carry guns and never smile so they usually get their way. People are scared of them.Their leader a former minister is determined to maintain his power at all cost.
Juvenile delinquency is rampant. Harlan had a couple of vending machines that were vandalized and destroyed by two teens. They later regret their actions because they didn’t know Harland and had no idea of this identity. When they found out they apologized saying that they didn’t know he was deserving of so much respect.
Harlan’s family is so dysfunctional that it would take me a long time to tell you everything. He grew up in poverty, and lived with his father and uncle who were brutal to him. They made him learn to fight from an early age, and as an adult his hands aren’t extremely functional. Worse yet, they equated brutality with strength and superiority. Harlan often referred to the rush it gave him to beat up an opponent. His father and uncle are no strangers to prison. On the day that Harlan goes to the prison to pick up his uncle they stop at a bar where he shot a man. Later, he’ll murder two people in Harlan’s home.
There’s also an element of the supernatural woven through the book, and it isn’t a benign force.
Mental illness? Yes, the book has that too.
So what did I think of the book? It’s too dark for me. Only one character had a few redeemable qualities, and she got murdered. All of the people were violent, angry, and dangerous. If I had known anything much about the book I never would have read it. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The darkness is just too much for me. I know things like that exist in the world, but I don’t need my nose rubbed in it.
What about you? Have you read a book that you found very distasteful?