Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No-Nonsense Nonfiction: Death at the Lighthouse

Reading local books is always cool because the reader can recognize the places mentioned or alluded to, or perhaps knows the people in the book (when nonfiction) or people that inspired characters (when fiction).

The book I would like to tell you about today, Death at the Lighthouse by Loren Graham, is set on Grand Island, near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the small town of Munising.  While I have not visited Grand Island, I saw it six days a week during the past year.  Now that I am no longer working there, I will tell you that I was a library assistant at the library in Munising.  So there were locations in this book that I knew, and family names that I recognized.  I admit, that makes it more interesting.

Checkouts: 2 at the small public library where I am the director
Typical reader: True crime fans, fans of the author, residents and tourists of the area
Do the Dewey: 364.15 (true crime)
Source: Snowbound Books

Synopsis: In the early 1970s, the author and his wife bought the Old North Light on Grand Island, Michigan, as a summer home.  During the early renovations, they discovered that the lighthouse keeper and his assistant were allegedly murdered in 1908.  Graham spent years researching what had transpired, and this book is the result.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

In June 1908, the assistant lighthouse keeper from North Light of Grand Island turned up dead in a battered boat, looking like he'd been beaten to death and set afloat.  The lighthouse keeper himself was missing, and turned up weeks later, dead on a beach.  What happened?

Good question.  The author delves deep into not only the deaths of the men, but also the history of the Upper Peninsula and Munising, the clashing, multi-ethnic cultures of the denizens, and the lives of the imperious tycoons that established industries and towns.  This is a fascinating read, if you like a bit of true crime in your history, rather than the other way around.

But was there a crime, and whodunnit?  The conclusion the author drew took me by surprise.  Maybe it's accurate.  Maybe not.  If you read this book, please let me know what you think.