The Holy Thief: A Captain Korolev Novel 1 Paperback – 1 May 2011
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- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0330508407
- ISBN-13 : 978-0330508407
- Dimensions : 13 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
- Publisher : Macmillan (1 May 2011)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 757,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the Author
William Ryan is an Irish writer, living in London - having worked as a lawyer in the City for a number of years. In his spare time, he wrote on an occasional basis for television and film before completing a Masters in Creative Writing at St Andrews University in 2005.
His debut novel, The Holy Thief, is the first in a series of cases and adventures for Alexei Korolev, a detective working for the Moscow Criminal Investigation Division in 1930s Russia.
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Gunther and Reinhardt fans will recognise Korolov; a man with a damaged past but with a humane conscience who wants to be thorough and yet get to the truth of an issue. The Holy Thief might get slightly long winded in places, but the story does carry you along and you do discover many fascinating aspects of 1930's life under Stalin, the all-pervasive climate of fear and how this distorts truth, and the relationships between many of the organs of state. I had no hesitation in moving on to the second novel, and recommend this book.
The Holy Thief takes place in 1930s Soviet Moscow and follows a rather complex investigation by a police officer into a grisly murder. The investigation leads the somewhat world-weary and rather un-Sovietly inquisitive Korolev into a world of truly dangerous and complicated plots. The murders are associated with the sale of valuables by the Russian state to fund the Five Year Plan and the disappearance of one particular valuable. A simple (though not really so much) murder investigation is made more difficult by the interference of the NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB) who have their own connected investigation going, foreign nationals, the now-banned Orthodox Church, the semi-official organised crime echelons and so much more.
You know those American movies where it turns out not to be a simple FBI investigation, because the CIA and the NSA are involved and some senator or other is out for himself and using them all, and everything descends in a spiral of espionage and deceit? Well that sort of thing plays equally well in 30s Russia, apparently. The plot is well weaved, but it made all the better by the labyrinthine webs of official government departments.
The feel of the book, for me, is something like a cross between the movies Gorky Park and Enemy Of The State with a healthy dose of film noir. The main character is extremely believable and despite the clever connections he makes and the string of punishments he suffers, there is nothing unrealistic there. He is simply lucky, bright and bloody minded.
But for me there is one aspect that makes the book a win. Despite great characters and a good plot, the best thing about the Korolev mysteries so far is the atmosphere. The author’s knowledge and research have been poured into the book until it surpasses the ‘full’ mark and have left us with something that feels REALLY authentic. It made me endlessly grateful that I don’t live in 30s Moscow, for a start. You can almost feel the grimy, rainy street beneath you as you read. Few authors have achieved quite such a level of authenticity in a setting.
Basically the book wins on so many levels. I recommend buying it and reading it. It’ll keep you riveted right to the very end.
'The Holy Thief' by William Ryan is a well-crafted book. The sense of time and place is superbly evoked; the reader can feel the cold, see the shabbiness and feel the fear. Ryan brilliantly captures the paranoia pervading all of Soviet society at this dark period in its history. Ryan also presents the protagonist well: Korolev comes across as a likeable character with depth whom the reader wants to learn more about.
There are elements of crime fiction, spy thriller and historical fiction in this enjoyable read. I felt, though, the pace was quite plodding for a thriller and the plot sometimes hard to follow. To sum up, it is a competent though not outstanding novel.