My grateful thanks to Laura Mayer at Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of Lightseekers by Femi Kayode in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.
Lightseekers was published by Blomsbury imprint Raven Books on 4th February 2021 and is available for purchase through the links here.
Three young students are brutally murdered in a Nigerian university town, their killings – and their killers – caught on social media. The world knows who murdered them; what no one knows is why.
As the legal trial begins, investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo is contacted by the father of one of the boys, desperate for some answers to his son’s murder. Philip is an expert in crowd behaviour and violence but travelling to the sleepy university town that bore witness to the killings, he soon feels dramatically out of his depth.
Years spent first studying, then living in the US with his wife and children mean he is unfamiliar with many Nigerian customs and no one involved in the case seems willing to speak out.
The more Philip digs, and the more people he meets with a connection to the case, the more he begins to realise that there is something very wrong concealed somewhere in this community.
My Review of Lightseekers
Philip is doing his father a favour.
Lightseekers opens in dramatic fashion and draws in the reader immediately. I actually found it quite an uncomfortable read because it is such a compelling and horrifying narrative that is far too close to the truth to be read as pure entertainment without affecting the reader. I thought it was excellent.
Lightseekers uncovers layers of corruption and racism at every level. It isn’t just the rotten state of racist or xenophobic views and actions between nations that Femi Kayode makes terrifyingly clear, but those within nations and neighbours too. This seam of discomfort runs from student cults, through so-called state institutions like the police, and right to every individual. Add in the impact of the internet, hearsay and rumour and Lightseekers has all the ingredients of a first class thriller. Femi Kayode’s professional background in psychology shines through. He writes with elegant authority that is completely convincing, making the reader terrifyingly aware that shining a light also casts some very dark shadows. There’s very much a feeling of being part of the investigation with Philip and Chika and an unnerving sense of threat and menace permeates every page. The frequently dramatic final sentences of chapters compel the reader onwards too.
Indeed, Lightseekers is a difficult read in as much as the author leaves the reader questioning where they themselves fit in a corrupt world. Philip is investigating three brutal murders and meets barriers of obstruction and corruption at every turn, and whilst he is the positive protagonist, he isn’t above dubious and underhand tactics to get to the truth. This makes Philip fascinating. His family dynamics, his sense of displacement, his desire for approval and truth all blend into a complex and intriguing person I though seemed vivid and real.
The plot is a corker. Quieter moments with conversations between Philip an Chika balance the more dynamic aspects so that there is even more light and shade to enjoy. A smattering of recognisable real people and cult names add to the authenticity. In fact, so convincing was Lightseekers’ narrative that I did some research into Nigerian University cults and discovered that Femi Kayode’s captivating story is more firmly rooted in factual research than I might have liked, because I didn’t want to believe some of the actions could happen. As a result, I found this story even more disturbing and intelligently written. It also made me appreciate the consummate skill of the author in blending fact and fiction in order to present an utterly captivating story.
Lightseekers is a brilliant start to a new series that I found totally compelling. I want to know more about Philip and his relationship with Folake and I’m hoping Chika will make further appearances too. If you’re looking for a thriller with a new perspective, Lightseekers has it all. Don’t miss it.
About Femi Kayode
Femi Kayode trained as a clinical psychologist in Nigeria, before starting a career in advertising. He has created and written several prime-time TV shows. He recently graduated with a distinction from the UEA Creative Writing programme and is currently a PhD candidate at Bath Spa University. Femi won the UEA/Little, Brown Award for Lightseekers when he was still writing the novel. He lives in Windhoek, Namibia with his wife and two sons.
You can follow Femi on Twitter @FemiKay_Author.