New Release Book Review: The Thief of Light by Bernard Schaffer

The Thief of Light…

About the Book:

‘It was one thing to fantasize about evil, to reach into the darkness and play with it a little . . .’

Rookie cop Carrie Santero has always been fascinated by serial killers. As a teenager, she wrote a letter to Charles Manson in prison – and received a chilling reply. Then she came face to face with a child murderer in her small Pennsylvania town. Now, she finally has her chance to make a difference. To hunt down a psychopath who embodies the very nature of evil itself…

‘… But it was something different when it knew your name.’

The perpetrator draws inspiration from the most twisted minds in modern crime. Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. The Green River Killer. Soon Carrie and her boss, Chief Bill Waylon, realise they’re dealing with an unpredictable ‘omnikiller’ who cannot be profiled. Their only hope is to enlist the help of Jacob Rein, a brilliant but tarnished former detective who has plumbed the darkest recesses of the soul. And whose insights on evil could lead Carrie to the point of no return…

My Thoughts:

Police procedural crime thrillers are my favourite within the crime genre, their gritty authenticity elevating them far above the growing body of domestic noir thrillers that are saturating the market at present. The Thief of Light is top shelf crime fiction, a sophisticated combination of police procedural with psychological thriller. The author, Bernard Schaffer, is a police detective himself, and this shows in the realistic edge that permeates the entire narrative. Some things you just can’t replicate with research.

‘See, to get a confession sometimes means putting the well-being of the victims over your own mental health. Jacob used to always say that it felt like he was unlocking areas of his mind that weren’t meant to be unlocked. Going places that you never come all the way back from. A kind of darkness, was how he put it.’

Rookie cop and budding detective Carrie Santero, along with Chief Bill Waylon and his former partner, disgraced former detective Jacob Rein, are the main characters within this novel. I liked how Bernard spent time developing each of them, humanising them and exploring their inner motivations. It wasn’t all about the crime and solving it in this novel. Carrie is on the way into her career, Bill is on the way out, and Jacob gave it up; but for this case, hunting down an ‘omnikiller’, they are all on the same page. And this killer is frightening, diabolical and unstoppable. He is obscene in his violence and there is nothing he won’t match from his list of historical serial killers he is intent on copying.

‘For years, profilers have had a theory about a different type of offender. A chameleon, with no form. No pattern. No one’s ever been able to confirm their existence, because how could you? You’d have such a wide mix of victims from such a large area, all taken or murdered in such various methods, that it would never track. As far as anyone can prove, it’s just a theory.’

At times brutal, this novel digs deep into the personal sacrifices those in law enforcement make each time they do their job. The things they see, the people they interview, the cases they never solve, the people that remain missing, the ones they do find, alive or dead; the sheer trauma of living with the knowledge of how debased humans can become. It’s not light reading, but it’s good reading. Bernard writes beautifully, at times with a poetic flow that is rare in crime fiction. And he has a cracking sense of humour which served to punctuate the more heavy moments, balancing the narrative with the finesse of a seasoned writer.

‘Rein looked down at Carrie. She’d found him in the wasteland. He’d been wandering the barren desert of his own life for years until she’d convinced Bill Waylon to come for him. In return, he’d escorted her to the brink of the void, watching as she accepted it and let it crawl within her. Soon, it would begin to dissolve her own light.’

I am so pleased that The Thief of Light is the beginning of a new crime series because I enjoyed the dynamics between these three so much. I feel like there are big things on the horizon for Carrie’s career and Jacob is just too much of an incredible detective to simply fade away once more. I loved how Jacob couldn’t help but mentor Carrie from the outset. And that ending! Not quite a cliff-hanger but it certainly left me with a craving for more.


Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of The Thief of Light for review.

About the Author:

Bernard Schaffer is an author, full-time police detective, and father of two. As a twenty-year law enforcement veteran, he is a decorated criminal investigator, narcotics expert, and child forensic interviewer. Schaffer is the author of numerous independently published books and series. He lives and works in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

The Thief of Light
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Released on 20th August 2018

One thought on “New Release Book Review: The Thief of Light by Bernard Schaffer

  1. Pingback: 2018 Reading Highlights | Theresa Smith Writes

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