“A single black-and-white photo can damage a man’s mind if the image is powerful enough. A thousand can shred it beyond repair.”

I just finished The Photo Thief by J.L. Delozier, and this thriller is worth the read. Taking elements from the mystery genre, the author twists it together with a supernatural flair, crafting a story that’s fresh and inventive. 

The Photo Thief features Dan Brennan, a Philadelphia detective who is still mourning his toddler’s death when he returns to work and is immediately assigned to investigate the seemingly accidental death of a wealthy socialite. But things take a wild turn when the deceased’s teenage daughter Cassie tells him her mother was murdered. Her proof: a ghost told her. A ghost that lives in a photograph.

And this is where The Photo Thief really takes off. So yeah, the dead talk to Cassie through old photographs — photographs her great-grandfather stole to start what would eventually become a massive media empire. In the family’s mansion is a photo room where these photos are on display. These photos all include victims of unsolved murders from decades past. It’s these victims who speak to Cassie….

But here’s the thing: Cassie has epilepsy and is prone to severe seizures, leaving both us, the reader, and Brennan, the detective, to wonder: is it all in her head? Or does she truly have a gift? The author walks this line of doubt perfectly, leaving it entirely up to the reader to decide, and I love that. 

From here on out, the mystery gets deeper and deeper before Brennan has to claw his way out again. And those unsolved murders from decades before, it’s all connected. And solving those murders is key to finding who murdered Cassie’s mother. 

Overall, The Photo Thief is a riveting read that is both heartfelt and emotional, as well as creepy and atmospheric. Grief is certainly a theme in this book: how people cope with loss and tragedy, how people cope differently, some negatively. But in the book, for the characters and readers alike, there’s a hopefulness about it; that moving on in life is what our loved ones would want. And that message is delivered pitch-perfect.

I’ve liked other books by this author, but I loved this book. I really enjoyed the characters and the setting. And mysteries like this are just fun to read. Hopefully, this is the first in an ongoing series! The Photo Thief (CamCat Publishing, 2022) is available to purchase here. You can find J. L. Delozier on Twitter at @jldelozier — as always, thanks for reading!

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