Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Thieves by Steven Max Russo is a debut novel, a crime fiction/psychological thriller. Schooley, the male protagonist, is a psychopathic killer and thief whose path no one wants to cross, especially the pretty young house cleaner, Esmeralda, and her unfortunate co-worker, Raymundo. Esmeralda makes the mistake of telling Raymundo too much about one of the homes she cleans for; the wealthy Russells. When she shares her information with the nasty Schooley, including the fact that the Russells will be away for a month, she unwittingly puts herself and Raymundo into Schooley’s dangerous hands. A seasoned thief, Schooley knows where to look for stashed money and valuables in rich people’s homes, and though Esmeralda didn’t plan for it to happen, being familiar with the house, she ends up as Schooley’s accomplice. As Schooley and Esmeralda diligently search the house for money and valuables, the tension mounts. Schooley becomes increasingly aware that Esmeralda is no dummy, and Esmeralda recognizes the maniac inside Schooley. The big question is will they get away with the theft and will she live to tell the tale?
Far be it for me to reveal any more of the plot, but what is perhaps even more captivating than the plot, with its surprise ending, is the callous, narcissistic, self-assured character of Schooley. Russo has done a superb job of creating this “creep,” for lack of a better word. Schooley talks up a storm and charms and smiles his way into people’s psyches, all the while seeing himself as smarter than everyone else. He is infuriating in his lack of respect for the Russells' home and possessions. His sense of entitlement surpasses any other considerations. Schooley is the villain you love to hate and can’t wait to see get what he deserves. But does he? Readers who like to rush through a psychological thriller might feel a bit slowed down by Russo’s meticulous attention to details. He is specific in describing what Schooley sees in the Russells' home. But stick with it. Once the thieves have completed casing the house, the plot forges ahead at a rapid pace that will have you holding your breath. Enjoy!