30 June 2012

Review: THE HOLY THIEF, William Ryan

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Moscow, 1936 and Stalin's Great Terror is beginning. In a deconsecrated Church, a young woman is found dead, her mutilated body displayed on the altar for all to see.

Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, finally beginning to enjoy the benefits of his success with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia, is asked to investigate. But when he discovers that the victim is an American citizen, the NKVD -the most feared organisation in Russia- becomes involved. Soon, Korolev's every move is under close scrutiny and one false move will mean exile to The Zone, where the enemies of the Soviet State, both real and imagined, meet their fate in the frozen camps of the far north.

Committed to uncovering the truth behind this gruesome murder, Korolev,enters the realm of the Thieves, who run Moscow's underworld. And as more bodies are discovered and the pressure from above builds, Korolev begins to question who he can trust; and who, in this Russia where fear, uncertainty and hunger prevails, are the real criminals. Soon, Korolev will find not only his moral and political ideals threatened, but also his life . . .

My Take

In an author's note on the final pages of THE HOLY THIEF he writes
    I've done my best to recreate 1930s Moscow accurately in this book, but it should be remembered that it remains a work of fiction and that I've allowed myself some flexibility from time to time, particularly with regard to the interiors of buildings. For any inaccuracies that aren't deliberate, I apologize.
The story is a reminder that even in times of great political turbulence crimes are still committed and policemen are still required. Often the criminal and the political are enmeshed with each side playing the system to their own advantage. In the case of Communist Russia of 1936, at the end of the first Five Year Plan, not everyone has the welfare of the State in mind, and capitalists are only too willing to take advantage of a society in a state of terror.

Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, veteran of the War against Germany, is a very well drawn character, who comes to the realisation that his assignation to the murder investigation smacks of manipulation. It is difficult in this volatile Russia to know who to trust, and sometimes knowledge can be very dangerous.

THE HOLY THIEF has all the elements you look for in good historical crime fiction: authentic historical settings and details, and intriguing story threads, and credible characters.

My rating : 4.7

Other reviews to check:


About the author

William Ryan is an Irish writer who has lived in London for a number of years. After leaving Ireland after university, he practised briefly as a barrister in London. In his spare time, he wrote on an occasional basis for television and film before deciding to take writing more seriously. He completed a Masters in Creative Writing at St Andrews University in 2005. William is married and lives in West London.

Author's website
Check it out for a glossary, list of characters and more.
See also Korolev's World for images of Moscow and Russia of the 1930s.
#2 in the series THE BLOODY MEADOW (US title THE DARKENING FIELD)

4 comments:

Sarah said...

Thanks Kerrie for linking to my review. I enjoyed this book v much. I believe book 3 in the series has been written so that is something to look forward to.

Margot Kinberg said...

Excellent review, Kerrie! Thanks! I agree this is a very well-written novel, and what I like about it among other things is both the sense of place and the development of the characters.

Irene said...

Great review and yet another author I must add to my list.

Bill Selnes said...

Kerrie: My only reservation about the book was the detailed description of torture to open the book. The story itself was very clever.

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