Book Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke

Posted October 4, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

by C.J. Cooke

Also by this author: The Nesting

A standalone tale that combines the paranormal with science fiction and thriller revolving around two foci: a single-parent family and the lighthouse’s past history. This eARC was sent to me by NetGalley and Berkley Books for an honest review.

My Take

The Lighthouse Witches is creepy, confusing, and kept me taut as a bowstring.

What is it with people needing a scapegoat? Shoving their fears onto a class of people, so they can blame their life’s ills on someone else. And when it comes to a people who have only helped others . . . ? I just don’t get it. What’s worse is it’s still going on, just picking on different people.

I do want to smack Saffy upside the head, but I can also understand her wanting a normal life. As for the “older” Clover, yep, I wanna smack her too!

Unluckily for Luna, she’s the one who gets the lousy life. Twenty-two years of hunting, searching, for her family. The trauma of getting part of her family back, sort of.

Kids can be so cruel. They’re also adventurous, keen to prove themselves, desperate for acceptance, willing to abuse the trust they’re given. But children have an excuse that adults don’t have. They’re still learning. These people . . . jeez . . . these people are so caught up in the frightful past. The ignorance of some of these people is terrifying. Adults should know better by the time they reach maturity.

This Clover is a little beast! Acting out.

I never did understand why Patrick thinks Olivia is Amy? I think Olivia is a bit of a twit. She can’t run from her fears. The life she leads isn’t one for children. She’s amazingly dense when it comes to her oldest, although to be fair, Saffy is a handful.

There is so much happening here, mostly taking place in three time periods: the now, 1998, and the years around 1662. Which does affect Cooke using third person global subjective point-of-view from the perspective of so many characters. But it doesn’t really help tip you off as to whose viewpoint we’re reading. Sometimes Cooke pops the year and character into the chapter epigraph, but not always. It takes some work to keep track, which is tricky as I was desperate to find out what was going on! I hated trying to figure out when and who in addition to this!

It’s about bigotry/stupidity(!) and relationships — the good and the bad. The story does move along, partly because I wanna know what’s going on! I know, this is a recurring theme for me — what is going on?

It’s action, it’s character, it’s a pace that makes it easy to push on with prose that does make it an easy read. And just keep reading. Don’t try to make sense of it, for it all most of it makes sense in the end.

I suspect that last line is because I want to know more. It’s not enough for me.

The Story

It’s a bit of a shock, that lighthouse. Not at all what Olivia had been expecting.

Luna . . . she hadn’t been expecting everyone to disappear.

The Characters

2021, all over but eventually in Lón Haven
The pregnant Luna Stay had been living with Ethan Singh for six years. She specializes in art therapies for adverse childhood experiences. Women are always flirting with Ethan: Jenn from the Pilates club; Uche, a neighbor; and, Maeve, his ex. Gianni had been Clover’s stuffed giraffe.

Grace had been Luna’s foster mother. Cassie has grown and is living with Lucia, her wife, in Edinburgh, having lived in Auckland.

Dingwall PD, Scotland
Police Constable Cullen has found Clover.

Eilidh is the social worker. Shannon Young is her cold supervisor.

2020, Lón Haven
Michael and Jenn McKenna live in St Andrews and became a foster family.

1998, Lón Haven, The Black Isle, Scotland
The cursed lighthouse is called the Longing and is owned by Patrick Roberts. Max is Robert’s diving partner. Isla is Roberts’ housekeeper; Bram Kissick, a chief inspector, is Isla’s husband. Rowan “Row” is their fifteen-year-old daughter and a self-proclaimed green witch. Jamie had been Isla’s brother who went missing. The cave under the lighthouse is called the Witches Hide. Angus McPherson is a fisherman. Basil is the basking shark in the bay. Braemeith is a fairy hill — no sledding! Cam Maguire was seven when he went missing. Mrs McGrath is a teacher. Brodie is Rowan’s boyfriend with a roving eye. Fia and Fen are the weird twins. Machara is a friend of Saffy’s; Sibyl is Machara’s mother. Thomas McKee is in Clover’s class. Isla; Mirrin, who works at the grocery store; Greer, a painter, is Mirrin’s partner; Ruqayya runs the mobile library; Ling is a shaman, yogi, and sculptor; and, Alisa and Louisa are veterinarians who run an animal sanctuary show Liv the mareel, a.k.a. sea sparkle. If you include Ailsa, you have the wildling committee. Niamh is a great-grandmother with a sheepdog, Ginger. Allie is Ruqayya’s neighbor. Ian Ewart had a bat problem in his barn.

Finn McAllen is a plasterer, pest controller, forest restorer . . . a bit of everything . . . on the side. His daughter, Cassie, is ten. Jane is the wife who left. Finn’s grandfather, Angus McAllen, who had been the lighthouse keeper, made the iron banister. Malcolm was a guy Finn had worked with. Finn’s rewilding team includes Willy, a window fitter; Kirwin, who works at the ferry port; and Finn’s brother, Leo.

Olivia “Liv” Stay is an artist commissioned to paint a mural. Sapphire “Saffy” is the oldest at 15 with all the turmoils of teen angst. Luna is nine. Clover is seven. Sean Stay had been Saffy’s beloved stepdad and the birth father for Luna and Clover. Peter had been Sean’s “friend”. Uncle Liam. Drew had been Liv’s latest boyfriend. Olivia’s mother, grandmother, and Aunt Lynn had died of cervical cancer. Anna Taylor is another artist.

Inverness PD
Chief Inspector Bram Kissick is the contact point for the missing family. Police Constable Thomson works with him.

York is . . .
. . . where the Stays used to live. Saffy’s boyfriend, Jack, is there. The crabby Margaret lives in the flat upstairs. Stephanie Bennett could be Saffy’s competition.

1662, Lón Haven
Hamish and Finwell Hyndman were the only friendly family. Jenny and Amy were their daughters; Tavish and another are their sons. Aileen will be Hamish’s second wife. Patrick’s mother, Agnes, gave birth to a stillborn girl, Elizabeth. Father is a sailor and handyman.

Duncan McGregor was the church elder and a rapist. Calan, Gordon, and Alasdair are his sons. Mrs Dunbar and Morag are gossips. Witnesses at the “trial” included Margaret McNicol, who had been a wet nurse, and Elspeth Mair who’d been assisted so often at the market by Jenny. Father Skuddie presided over the burning. Blair Reid, seven, has gone missing, but the lad is found with numbers on his hip.

Years later
Christopher Darroch has a daughter, Marion. Amy has a friend, a good friend, Isobel Boyman, she thought. Stevens, Angus Reid,, Fotherham, and Argyle only want blood. Father Ross has been installed after Skuddie. Mrs Wilson was a healer.

William O’Daly ran the butchery in Ireland. Agnes Sampson had been a healer; she’d been tortured until she’d confess to anything. Wildings are fae who take on human form.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a range of blues and neon yellow. The background is a vertical view down the circling spiral staircase of deep, deep navy stairs and a grayed-out turquoise for the banisters, tread edge, and side walls. At the bottom is a seven-pointed star outlined in red against a white backdrop with symbols in red at the edges and between the spokes of the star. At the very top of the cover is a testimonial in white. Immediately below that is the title in the yellow. A pair of info blurbs are right above the author’s name at the bottom. The blurb on the left is white while the blurb on the right is in a pinkish red indicating this is “A Novel”. The author’s name is in the yellow.

The title is quite accurate, for it does start with The Lighthouse Witches back in 1662.

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