I always get a little nervous when I pick up a thriller because it can go one of two ways. First, you are disappointed that there was no thrill, or alternatively you are devastated that the book has ended and you’re metaphorically dying for more. I am pleased to announce that Bernard Schaffer’s The Thief of Light falls in the latter and I am rather lost now that my journey with Carrie Santero has finished.
The book starts from the perspective of our bad guy who, from the outset, is beyond ‘normal’ bad. He’s horrifying and the characterisation is almost too life-like given the current state of the world and recent news in Australia. You’re caught up because you have to know how it ends – if it ends. The obsessive detail in the internal monologue adds a depth that you don’t want in the bad guy because the bad guy is not allowed to be human. Conversely, Schaffer’s lead, Carrie Santero, is just the right level of brains, heroine and flawed that you can’t help but like her (even if you don’t agree with the work ethic). She’s always thinking, yet she’s making mistakes and that level of realism is always important in building a thriller that has unexpected twists and turns, to keep the audience engaged.
One of the strongest style features of Schaffer’s work is his way of flicking between past and present, lead character and supporting, but as the story progresses it starts to drop away and be only Carrie – which is a real shame. I would have loved to have gotten further background on the other characters, more than the heroic tale that eventually comes to light through the dialogue. A weakness of the text is perhaps the way Carrie handles the casual sexism as a new police officer – whilst a likely scenario, it always pains me to see women shafted in such a way. In saying that, she is the true hero of the story and the way Schaffer has crafted the dialogue and set the scene must be commended. He writes hard and fast and the story progresses in such a whirlwind fashion that you’ll be surprised to discover that you have reached the end.
Schaffer writes with an authenticity that is rare, as a veteran detective himself, making for a very satisfying read. For those who love to read a conclusion that is absolutely finished – this is the story for you. It’s short, sharp and brutal, with a dash of gory dismemberment that will satisfy the worst of crime thriller fans. Overall, a very good and quick read.
Reviewed by Zoe Butler
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: August 2018
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback