The Thief of All Light

The Thief of All Light

by Bernard Schaffer


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“Tense, fast, and excellent—I loved this book.”
—Lee Child

From veteran police detective Bernard Schaffer comes a powerful new thriller that crackles with authenticity, page-turning suspense, and spellbinding glimpses into the criminal mind . . .
“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, an encounter that haunts her to this day. Now, as a detective in training, she finally has her chance to make a difference; to hunt down a psychopathic sadist who embodies the very nature of evil itself.
“. . . but it was something different when it knew your name.”
The killer draws inspiration from the most twisted minds in modern crime. Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. Ed Gein. The Green River Killer. As the body count rises, Carrie and her boss, Chief Bill Waylon, realize 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. Who has seen the heart of darkness. And whose insights on evil could lead Carrie to the point of no return.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496717139
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 07/31/2018
Series: A Santero and Rein Thriller Series , #1
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

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, PA. Visit him @BernardSchaffer or

Read an Excerpt


THAT NIGHT, HE WAS ED. THE LAST TIME, HE HAD BEEN DEAN, AND before that, Earle. He maintained a list in his mind, and he was marking names off of that list. Working his way toward the top.

Being Ed was a big deal.

He looked down at his guest's feet, studying the painted color of her toenails. A smooth, luxuriant bronze, applied perfectly. He would remember that shade when he was no longer Ed. He squeezed her bare calf, feeling its shape and musculature. Long, lean, firm, and tight, the way only a young woman's can be. Her head bobbed at the touch of his hand. The chemical locomotive slowed its pace through her system. Soon, the conductor would blow his whistle, and the engine would brake, and then the doors of her mind would slide open in a cloud of benzodiazepine-opiate steam, delivering her into his waiting arms.

"In terms of numbers, America is pretty low on the list," he said. "People always forget to include the other countries. Believe it or not, Colombia has the top three spots. In terms of provable numbers, we only have one in the top ten, and he just barely squeaked in. Gary Ridgway," the man calling himself Ed said. "You've heard of him? Green River?"

When she did not answer, he leaned back against the cool basement wall, setting his hands down on the damp cement. The water heater was leaking again. He was going to have to fix it himself, obviously. His guest would stay there for a few days, at the least, and he imagined he'd need hot water at some point. There was always something.

"Top three, are you ready? Luis Garavito, Pedro López, Daniel Camargo Barbosa," he said, counting the names off with his fingers. "Crazy numbers. Big, impossible numbers. Luis got a hundred and thirty-eight, and he had a fantastic nickname, too. La Bestia. The Beast. Pedro got one hundred ten. They called him the Monster of the Andes. In all fairness, López might have done a lot more than just those hundred and ten. When they caught him, he said he'd done as many as three hundred. Can you believe that? Three hundred. Most of them kids. And just to give you an idea what a different world it is down there, he got released from prison. See, that's why you can't really rely on the numbers anybody puts up in Colombia. If you can do three hundred kids and still get out of jail, well, that's not really trying, now, is it?"

The woman muttered something inaudible.

He turned toward her. "What was that?"

The red rubber ball strapped between her teeth prevented her from speaking clearly, and she grunted against the weight of the chains binding her wrists and ankles.

Typical, he thought. They never contribute anything.

He hadn't expected her to, really. "So, anyway. Barbosa was another one. High numbers on paper, but in reality? He had twelve years to work, from '74 to '86, and the most they'll credit him for is one fifty. Even then, that's only twelve a year. Twelve! If you can't strangle more than twelve little girls a year, with nobody stopping you, I don't see why you even bother. You ask me, that's just lazy," he said, shaking his head.

"Most people here have only heard of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. Their numbers are pretty low, comparatively, but they're definitely the most famous. Gacy, because he dressed up like a clown, and most people agree that's pretty terrifying. Bundy was famous because he was so good looking and well spoken. People just couldn't believe he was doing what he was doing. I guess there's a lesson to be learned in that somewhere. Say what you want about his lack of production, but in terms of style and originality? You have to give credit where it is due. Now, sure, Green River did bigger numbers than either Bundy or Gacy, but he also came along after they did, and it's always easier to build on what's come before. You know what they say the mark of greatness is?"

When she didn't answer, he told her. "When everything before you is obsolete, and everything after bears your mark."

He sifted through her purse and found her driver's license, glanced at it, flicked it away, and removed her cell phone. The screen was locked, but he was able to scroll down through the multiple missed calls and text messages she'd been receiving all evening. They were mainly from her mother asking where she was and why she wasn't responding. He grabbed her hand and stretched out her index finger as she squirmed. He forced her finger against the bottom of her phone, holding it there until it unlocked.

She slumped forward when he released her, whimpering mutely. He ignored her, focused instead on finding her phone's airplane mode, to prevent anyone tracking its location. It was an unnecessary measure, he knew. There were homes in his area that did not even have indoor plumbing. The nearest cell tower was twenty miles away.

"Well, I guess we should get started," he said as he placed the phone on his workbench. "There's a lot to do." He picked up his mask and fit it down over his face, adjusting its large eyes and droopy mouth so that he could see and still be heard. The microphones placed around the basement were of the highest quality he could afford, but the acoustics were tricky because of the cement walls. He reminded himself to speak clearly and keep his voice raised. He would want to hear every word when he watched the video later.

A vast array of tools lay assembled on the workbench, and he waved his hands over them like a magician about to perform a mystical deed. He hovered over the handle of a long machete, then picked up a small ball-peen hammer. Its wooden handle was warm in his palm. He looked down at the woman, squirming on the floor like some kind of crab, and he decided the hammer would be best to start with.

She trembled as he came forward in his mask, trying to scream but gagging on the rubber ball strapped between her teeth. He looked down at the dark stream traveling from between her legs across the basement floor toward him, and stepped out of the way, hearing its soft trickle inside the industrial drain he'd installed four years prior.

"You know, I'm starting to worry that I gave you the wrong impression. I apologize if that's the case." He reached forward and unbuckled her ball gag, smiling when her eyes rose up to meet his.

She spat the ball out and worked her jaw, trying to stretch out the ache in the sides of her face. She blinked, unsure of what she was seeing. In the foggy chemical haze, she thought his face might be melting. "You're not going to kill me?" she panted. Hope blossomed inside her eyes, spreading like a rash across her entire face. "This was just some kind of joke, right? Did someone put you up to this?"

"Well, actually, I mean that I gave you the wrong impression that I just care about numbers. It's not about that. It's about impact. Do you remember what I told you my name was?"

"You're Ed," she said quickly, desperate to invoke his name. To let him know she'd been paying attention. This was all just a sick game, she told herself. There was a way to play it. She just needed to figure out how. "You're Ed, and I'm Denise. My name is Denise Lawson, Ed." She repeated her name, needing him to know it, needing him to see her as a real person, not a plaything. Force him to see you, she told herself. Buy time to think. Keep him talking. "Can you say it?"

His head tilted sideways as he listened to her.

"My name is Denise. My parents are going to know I didn't come home, Ed. Do you know why I sat down with you at the bar tonight? Because you have kind eyes. I know you're not going to hurt me, okay? I believe you won't do that." She rattled the chains holding her to the wall and said, "Can you please undo these? I promise, it's okay. Things just got out of hand, right? I should have been more clear that this wasn't what I was into. I know you're a good person, Ed. I know you won't hurt me. Right?"

He studied her, never wanting to forget any of it. The cameras and microphones would record everything, but only he could see the colors in her face change. The pure waters of hope in her eyes clouded over and darkened for him alone. She was still unsure. Her voice quickened, a long stream of words spilling out of her all at once.

"Listen to me, Ed," Denise continued. "People know where I am. I told everyone where I was going, and they are probably coming here right now, because I said I would call. If you just let me go, I will never say a word. I promise. I swear on my life. Ed? Please."

His voice was gentle when he said, "Do you know why I picked Ed? Ed Gein only had two, or at least two that we know of, but it was what he did with them that we remember. It's not about quantity. It's about quality. Impact. True greatness. Do you know Ed Gein?"

"No!" she said, trying not to lose it. "Take these chains off of me. Right now and let me go home! Okay, Ed? Right now. I need you to listen to me. This isn't funny anymore. I need to go home."

He stroked her cheek with the tips of his fingers. "Ed Gein was an artist. That's why we remember him. He inspired us with his beauty. Now you're going to help me make something beautiful too."



Carrie Santero turned away from the passenger-side window to look at the older man sitting next to her. His hair was dyed brown a few shades too dark, making his eyebrows and the scruff of hair on his chin look mismatched. He was in good shape for a man his age, tall and lean, it was obvious he cared about his appearance. She watched as he tapped the underside of his cigarette pack and popped one out, pursing it between his lips.

"You mind?" he asked from the corner of his mouth.

She rolled down the window a few inches and lied, saying she did not. The gun was uncomfortable on her hip. It dug into her ribs. It was her large-frame duty weapon, meant to be carried on a thick patrol belt in a sturdy polymer holster with Level III Retention levers and buttons, not the flimsy nylon holster she'd borrowed earlier that day. Still, it was her first time working plainclothes and she did not mind. She moved the gun's handle aside and leaned back in the seat.

Harv Bender snapped his lighter open, and the flame licked the tip of the cigarette until it flared, brightening his face inside the dark car and catching the curve of the plain gold band of his wedding ring. "I was on the street back then, not even a detective yet. You were probably still in middle school."

"More like grade school," Carrie said, flashing a smile.

"All right," he said, nodding as he inhaled. "So it's midnight shift and the town is real quiet. Kind of a night like this. Warm, dark, fog rolling through like something out of a bad movie. I used to think about sailors back then."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "I had no idea you went that way, Harv."

"Not like that, smart-ass," he said. "I used to think about ancient sailors, out on the black water in the dead of night, thick fog everywhere, no idea what was out there. Must have been enough to drive some of them crazy. Every little light and sound must have seemed terrifying. Hell, that's where all them stories about ghost ships and mermaids and sea monsters came from."

"Actually, a lot of things they took for monsters, like giant squids, turned out to be real. They found a few. I watched a show on it."

"Mmm," he said, taking another long drag. "Well, look at you. Not just pretty but smart, too. That's a shame. Smart women don't do well in this job. They come off bitchy and make people nervous." His hand reached for her knee, giving it a slight squeeze, and he laughed, trying to play it off as a joke in case she objected. She didn't pull away so he left it there, keeping still, not wanting to spook her. "Anyway, I was out in the middle of the sticks one night, driving real slow because I didn't want to hit any deer, and I took a ride through this cemetery at the far edge of town. I'm cruising through the trails, just trying to watch where I'm going, and I see something in the shadows. I can't spotlight it, because in fog like that, all it does is reflect the light right back at you. So I stop my car, and I just sit."

His hand moved up her thigh the slightest fraction of an inch. "The fog starts to part, and I see this tiny thing standing in front of one of the graves, looking down at it. She had long, blond hair, but not dark like yours is. Golden. Shining so brightly I could still see it in all that fog. Scared the living shit out of me, I'll tell you."

"What did you do?" she asked.

"What do you think? I got the hell out of there."

"You didn't."

"You're damn right I did." He laughed.

"What if it was a lost kid? Some kind of runaway? What if it was one of the Krissing girls who somehow got away?"

He finished his cigarette. "I checked on all that afterward, believe me. No kids were missing, and the Krissing girls weren't from around that area. Anyway, none of them ever escaped. Old Man Krissing kept all the ones he took. The girls anyway. He had other plans in mind for the boys. Believe me. I was there. Right in the thick of it."

"So you just left without seeing if it was a lost kid?"

"You're a one-track-minded person, aren't you. It's cute. Honest. Let's talk about something else, though. How do you like being on the Task Force so far?"

"I'm real glad to be doing it," she said, looking down at his hand. She told herself to play it cool. Harv Bender was the Deputy Chief of the County Detectives. He needed to personally sign off on her overtime details with the Anti-Crime Task Force, and telling him to get his fucking hand off her knee before she broke it was not going to help her stay assigned to those details at all. "It's good to get away from the barking dog complaints and stop sign violations to do some real police work for a change."

"Well, you keep up the good job and we might be able to make it permanent," he said, now stroking her leg with his thumb. "You ever get bumped to County D's, you get a take-home car, all the overtime you can stand, no more wearing any polyester monkey suit. Get you out here with us big boys, making real cases. Is that what you want?"

He smelled like cigarettes, and now her clothes were going to stink like them too. His hand rested on the inside of her thigh, with his splayed fingers creeping inward. "The only reason I became a cop is because I want to make detective," she said.

"Let me see what I can do," he said, smiling at her. "I'm always happy to help a friend."

She shifted in her seat and closed her legs, pulling away from him enough that he let his hand rest on the gearshift instead of following her. "Speaking of Krissing, you said you were there? I know my chief and his old partner worked that job. Did you help them?"

"Did I what?" He sniffed. "Your chief's a good guy and everything, but I didn't just help them work it. I was doing all the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting while him and that asshole Rein were taking all the credit."

She frowned, thinking of the man she'd worked for since graduating the police academy, the one she'd begged to let her join the Task Force and made her swear to Stay clear of Harvey Bender. He thinks he's a tomcat. "I guess all that matters is that the girls got found when they did and Old Man Krissing won't ever hurt anyone again"

Harv drew another cigarette and chuckled. "You got that right. Rein might be a psychopath, but one thing he got right was how he did Krissing. I can't believe he got away with it, either. Really took some balls, and bigger ones than what they took from Old Man Krissing, if you know what I mean," he said, laughing so hard at his own joke that he had to stifle a cough with his fist. He cleared his throat and said, "But if you think about it, everything shook out the way it was supposed to in the end. I mean, look at me. I'm second-in-command of the County Detectives, while Bill is stuck in a department with idiots who think finding a dime bag is the bust of the century." He looked at her and said, "No offense, I mean."

"None taken," she said.

"I guess all that credit and glory they got after finding Krissing didn't amount to much. But at least Bill has a job. Rein's lucky they didn't keep him in prison for the rest of his life. Bill said I just assisted them?" he muttered. "Tell you what, if you want to see who was really pulling their weight on the Krissing job and who was just in it for show, all you need to do is see how the players involved turned out. The goddamn truth is sitting in this car next to you."

* * *

They were the last ones back to the meeting spot, a gravel driveway set behind the rotting frame of an old barn. It was midnight, and the woods around them croaked with life. The autumn moon hung low in the sky, close enough to reveal its craggy face, the air surprisingly cold for so early in the season. Harv cut their headlights as they pulled up to the group, a half-dozen older detectives in flannel shirts and tactical pants that had too many pockets up and down the sides of their legs. As Carrie got out, she heard one of the men say, "Aw shit, I bet she's pregnant."


Excerpted from "The Thief of All Light"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Bernhard Schaffer.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Thief of All Light 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Beatrice1213 12 months ago
Buckle your seat belts, your about to go on a Highly Anticipated Thrilling Ride!Looking for a Cunning Serial Killer you won't soon forget !
Jamie_G_bookworm 12 months ago
JAMIE G highly recommends this book! Wow...just wow! I won't give away any spoilers but, this is a fantastic book. Schaffer is so knowledgeable because of his personal experience in law enforcement (as a detective) and that is very evident in this book. The details are fascinating and the killer is gruesome. I could hardly put it down once I started reading it. The character of Det. Rein really pulled me in and I cannot wait until the next book to hear more of Rein's backstory. This is one that you will recommend to all your friends to read. This book stands out to me above all the rest I have read in this genre. If you love thrillers that show off great detective work and skills, this one is a must read! (less)
Militarymom98 More than 1 year ago
Intriguing, fast paced, can't put it down type a book! The Thief of All Light (A Santero and Rein Thriller #1) by Bernard Schaffer. I used to read all the time, then life happened! This by far was my favorite read since my last John Grisham book. A few of us purchased the book, no words except I was addicted. I read the book front to back in 2 days. Every time I went to put it down, I wanted to know what happened next. Definitely a THRILLER! The author Bernard Schaffer is the real deal! A veteran police detective who I recently read solved a cold case from over 20 years ago.(Do I envision another best seller?) It is very apparent that his real life cases/experiences spilled over to this book. It brought all the characters alive, you felt like you knew them and what they stood for but, you just needed to know more... Of course my favorite character was the aspiring Rookie cop Carrie Santero and her obsession with serial killers. In her teenage years, she went as far as to write a letter to Charles Manson while he was in jail and received a reply. Carrie will now face the real life drama in this enthralling thriller. You feel like your growing up real fast alongside Carrie, from being this pretty little thing, a new cop trying to be a detective that has to not only do her job but constantly prove herself to others on the force. Although I do not feel as I am alone Bill Waylon, not only Carrie's boss but you can just tell he looks after her like a daughter. This is a glacial, calculated psychopath they are hunting, nothing they have ever seen before. Danger is uncalculated and everywhere, no one is safe. We will learn about Carrie's childhood and best friend Molly. Molly's daughter was seized but not by the police, she is held captive by what appears to be a serial killer. The author then introduces former police officers, family members and others that we can hope will be in the sequel that have worked similar cases in the past. That alone intrigued me, this book goes much deeper than a suspenseful thriller of a serial killer but also dives to the down and dirty of what the life of a police officer is really like. Their personal life, their addictions, their habits and more. Just because they go home at night, their minds are constantly on overdrive. They see things that most individuals should never have to encounter especially with their lives on the line every day. TRUE HEROS' DEFINITE DON'T MISS!! I am anxiously awaiting the next called An Unsettled Grave Militarymom98
Jennspenn83 More than 1 year ago
This was tense and fast paced! A great thriller to read and it’s easy to get sucked in. Santero and Rein are very like able characters. Neither one is afraid to tell it like it is! If you have a weak stomach it may not be for you. Some parts can be highly detailed but other than that a GREAT read!!! I would definitely be recommending this book to people!
M3Block- More than 1 year ago
Take one small town rookie cop with some outstanding personal baggage, add in another seasoned cop, a damaged former detective and top it all off with a serial killer who idolizes the worst of the worst predecessor serial killers. Bernard Schaffer takes us on a journey into police work, from procedural to personal perspectives. Without overwhelming the details, allowing us to understand the case and yet not get bogged down in facts. The writing was amazing, story flowed with my heart pounding, chills ran down my spine, left me turning the pages madly until I reached the perfect ending. BUY. THIS. BOOK!! This book is available now and honestly cannot wait to start An Unsettled Grave Pub Date 7.30.2019
WritersSoul More than 1 year ago
The Thief of all Light by Bernard Schaffer is a grisly, gruesome tale of a young Detective who wants a big break. The thing that helps her reach detective. Coming with a right hook is an omnikiller, someone who is out to mimic some of the cruelest serial killers to date. Carrie, the young female detective, is a simplistic character at times. She is a bit bull headed, but talks too much. She also has a tendency to not stand up for herself, which is evident in the first part of the book. Although there is some growth visible, I am hoping to see more as Schaffer continues the series. Jacob Rein is a character that I really enjoy and want to see more from. He is loveable and honest, no matter the darkness that he brings. The book could use some more fleshing out of the inside of the brain of the killer, as he feels more like a secondary character when he should feel like the center. Some of the gruesome details seem to be thrown in for shock value verses adding to the story, but it does help shuffle the plot along.
book-worm-2 More than 1 year ago
Wow ,what a book .catches you from the. first page til the end ,best thriller I’ve read in a long time.! Carrie is a cop hunting a serial killer ,she’s spunky but she gets the job done !
Kittylou More than 1 year ago
The Thief Of All Light is a psychological Thriller/ police procedural. Oh. My. Gosh! One of the best thrillers I've read this year! I knew I was hooked from the first sentence! It took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions! The ebb and flow of the authors writing is wonderful and keeps your attention..keeps you guessing...makes you yell at your book (lol). Yet he adds light moments to take off some of the rawness that will have you holding your breath! The plot is suspenseful. The characters are real and gritty, tough yet human. I loved them!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hope this is a series?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters, fast pace and some really good lines.
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
The Thief of All Light by Bernard Schaffer Santero and Rein #1 Murder mysteries with serial killers are not uncommon but this one is uncommonly good. After starting to read I could not put it down. The Santero – Rein team had the rookie wannabe detective eventually teaming up with an older scarred detective no longer on the police force and the two together was one that I “got” and enjoyed watching. The serial killer was devoid of humanity and if there was anything that I might have liked to see more of it would have been his backstory but…sometimes it doesn’t really matter what the backstory is as no matter what it was it would not justify the deeds perpetrated. The idea that evil is dark, might have a face, is alive, can see and pull on a person and that doors are involved to let it in or keep it out…not really personification…but the way it was presented here resonated with me. The fact that good people may have to access that evil to find and put away evil people and the impact it can have on the ones that capture such evil was also interesting and resonated. Carrie Santero is relatively new on the job and her boss often sees her more as a daughter than a rookie cop. Her boss, Bill Waylon, is strong and fair and a great person to act as her leader. They get along well and seem to see eye to eye though sometimes he is more friend than boss. There are a few more interesting characters in the detective section that no doubt will appear again in future books…as will perhaps Thome – son of Rein who calls Waylon “uncle”. And then, there is Jacob Rein. Rein and Waylon were once partners who put away a heinous serial killer. Rein has dropped off the radar for a number of years but is pulled in again when a serial killer appears that takes Carries best friend Molly and Molly’s daughter captive. From that point on there is a race to the finish that may or may not be what the reader hopes for. Did I like this book? Definitely Would I like to read more in this series? Of course Is this a new-to-me author I will read again? Without a doubt Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC – This is my honest review. 5 Stars