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The Holy Thief: A Novel
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The Holy Thief: A Novel (Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev #1)

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,005 ratings  ·  191 reviews
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 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 i...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Minotaur Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,377)
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James Thane
In 1936, Captain Alexei Korolev is a rising star in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia. He's called to the scene of a murder in a former church that now serves as a community center. There, a young woman has been tortured to death on the (former) altar. Korolev, is shocked by the brutality of the crime and by the fact that it occurred in the former church. Although a devoted citizen of the new Soviet Union, Korolev still has some religious inclinations and hides a Bible be...more
A grisly murder. A Russian Detective in Moscow handed a hot potato of a case he knows he shouldn’t take. Especially as it’s 1936, you’re 42, your boss is Stalin, and he’s getting twitchy… But what are you gonna do? A nice new flat, is a nice new flat, no matter where it is, who you have to share it with and who might have just been kicked out of it to make way for you. When you’re in favour, you learn to take what you can get, ask questions later and hope the answers are what your bosses want to...more
Theresa de Valence
THE HOLY THIEF by William Ryan © 2010 was captivating with some clever twists.

For years I’ve complained that anyone whose life was not solely focused on a story would benefit from the help of a Cast of Characters, maps, and an index. Most memorably, William Tapply wrote that the presence of a Cast of Characters was an indicator to him of a poorly written book. THE HOLY THIEF is a case in point, and it’s further complicated by the apparent Russian tendency to use the last, first and middle names...more
As I was reading The Holy Thief I realized that Korolev reminds me of James Garner’s TV character in The Rockford Files. Both investigators just want to do their job and yet every assignment somehow gets horribly complicated. Both investigators want to do the right thing, and yet sometimes that means going outside the law. And both characters have been matured by life and yet still have a sense of optimism and humor. Ryan writes of a difficult political time in Russian history that can only be d...more
Doylestown Bookshop
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Step into 1930s Moscow, with everyone afraid of Stalin's Secret police, the regular citizens as well as the Komsomol and the Militia. When a woman and a thief are both found horribly tortured before they were killed, Captain Korolev is called upon to investigate the murders. When General Gregorin of the NKVD summons Korolev and shows an interest in these murders as well, demanding daily reports, Korolev knows he's potentially stepping into a minefield, with one misstep leading to his arrest and...more
At the book’s heart is Captain Alexei Korolev of the Moscow Militia CID. When a girl is found murdered in a deconsecrated Moscow church, he struggles with his sense of outrage at the brutality of the killing and the ramifications for his career and indeed his life when it becomes apparent that the Russian hierarchy are taking an interest in the investigation. The victim is identified as an American citizen with an interest in Russian icons and is therefore deemed ‘political’ by the Moscow NKVD,...more
Copy received from the Author.

Alexei Korolev is a criminal investigator with Moscow’s Militia in 1936. When he is told to investigate the murder of a young woman who was found, horribly mutilated, in a disused church he has no idea how much trouble he is going to end up finding himself in.
Although this is a criminal investigation, a political investigator from the NKVD takes an active interest in the case and the investigation, demanding daily updates from Korolev and providing titbits of inform...more
I would not give it completely 4 stars ( I would say more 3.5 or 3.75). The writing was very good, I learned some minute details that I didn't know before and I definitely plan on reading the continuation of this series. The only reason why I graded it a little lower is because the actual case that was being solved wasn't what I had hoped it would be, but that is just personal preference.

Looking forward to book 2!
Maggi Hesseling
With a great new cover and rerelease, I could 'r help but get myself a copy of this novel. Then no sooner had i finished the first half of the novel that i told my manager that this was going to be our next book of the month.

This novel is just so Russian, that i'm still finding it hard to believe that it's not written by one. The absudity alone pulls me back to my years in Moscow. Not anything close to as dangerous as it can be in the novel, but with it's own unique difficulties. Ryan shows not...more
Joe Moffa
Nicely done mystery with setting in Stalinist Russia.
Cj W
I would give this 'almost' 4 stars. So I decided to round up.

Taking place in a Russia that is in the thralls of war and starvation because of Stalin and his reign of terror.

Korolev is an integral and respected member of the Criminal Investigation Division of Moscow, and when murders start popping up with bodies being left brutally tortured in churches, he is ask to use his expertise to help bring the killer to justice.

Or so it seems.

When things start pointing in the direction of the NKVD, Ru...more
I won this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I received an Advance Readers Edition which contained an audio excerpt of the first 15 pages of the book. Intrigued, I decided to listen to the CD first. I am glad I did; some of those Russian names are a little difficult to pronounce. The CD did not match the book exactly, it looks like some additional editing had been done.

The Holy Thief is set in Stalinist Russia. The historical context felt authentic. The Russian population was nervous -...more
Jackie Molloy
It is set in Russia/Moscow in 1936 and follows Korolev through murder, theft, intrigue and political minefield that was Russia then. The stolen item, which was passed through various hands is a revered icon called the Kazanskaya. There is an underground movement to protect it and it’s eventually made safe by selling it to an American dealer. All made very complex by the various loyalties involved and the suppression of religion by the authorities. It opens with the grisly murder of an American n...more
Move over, Arkady Renko, there's a new sheriff in town, or at least a homicide investigator in fictional Moscow.
And, as Martin Cruz Smith phoned in the last one, it's about time. If you want to read a well plotted mystery, starring a very determined Russian detective (yeah, with all the usual cliches--divorced, lonely, smart but sometimes acts naive, etc.) who risks getting mired in the always shifting, dangerous political sands of the Soviet state (or in the later Renko series, post-Soviet), yo...more
The Holy Thief (Minotaur 2010) introduces Captain Alexei Korolev of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia. It’s 1936, and Korolev’s successful case resolution record has earned him his own room in a shared apartment and a feeling of security. Then the mutilated body of a young woman is found in the former sacristy of a deconsecrated church. Korolev is asked to investigate, but when he discovers that the dead woman was an American citizen, the NKVD, the feared state security d...more
This superb thriller, by an Irish author, is set in Moscow in 1936, a hungry, fearful place. The Revolution is in full swing. Stalin reigns supreme. The secret police stalk the streets and offices and homes and informers whisper in their ears and every now and then the statue of a Russian hero is taken down and his picture removed and he is never heard from again. The populace walk on eggshells, but the real Terror is yet to come. The churches are deconsecrated and religion is a crime, but Russ...more
Holy Thief by William Ryan is the first in series with the central character Captain Korolev. I bought the book from a discount bookstore on a recent interstate trip only $8 and I got my monies worth. The story is set in the Soviet Union in 1936, with the backdrop of the Stalinist regime. The story is peppered with references to denunciations and betrayal. Students of the period will be well aware of the purges and repressions that occurred during the bloody reign of Stalin.
Captain Korolev is a...more
This was an excellent debut novel, and I look forward to continuing William Ryan’s historical mystery series . The story is well-crafted and the protagonist, Moscow Militia Investigator Captain Alexei Korolev is a man one can’t help cheering on, as he navigates 1930s Moscow’s intricate political hazards in his quest for survival and justice. A veteran of the First World War, Korolev wants badly to believe that his country will now thrive under the new regime, but he is not without his doubts and...more
I received the Twelfth Department from Goodreads and read it before this one. I think it would have been helpful to have read this one first as it introduces Korolev and his character background as a man and as a militia captain. I enjoyed this one the most and will probably read the second as well. Korolev is a captain in the Moscow militia. He is assigned a murder case involving a mutilated and tortured woman found in a cathedral. He is manipulated by a Chekist unbeknownst to him or his boss,...more
I thought this was a great mystery. The setting - 1930's Russia under Stalin - only added to the sense of danger and suspense. I will definitely read another one. I thought the author did a great job capturing the inner conflict of the characters. There is conflict between the atheist state and the religious beliefs many of the older characters learned from their mothers and their grandmothers, conflict regarding knowledge of things that are happening that are wrong, wondering if they are justif...more
Abbie Ennis
A truly gripping book that kept me hooked the entire time. Though it is slighlty confusing with all the names.

The storyline has many twists and turns that are not always seen to be coming and the ending is nothing that I expected it to be and has left me thoroughly happy.

I look forward to reading the second in the series as it has truly kept me gripped with its gritty characters, its twists in plot lines and its general ideas and themes.

William Ryan is a truly outstanding writer, through histori...more
This is the first novel I have read based during the 1930s of Soviet Russia. After studying Soviet history, I really enjoyed the description of everyday life under the start of Stalin's regime. It was great. The story had a bit to be desired, but it worked well with the way the author describes Russia. There was more comment about Soviet society, than there was crime story line, but I like it that way. If you like history, give the book a go, if you want crime, and the hunt for perpetrators, you...more
Tom Buske
This book works effectively on several levels: First as a police procedural/ murder mystery. You could call it "CSI Moscow 1936". The other level at which this book is effective is as a historical novel. Though lacking the depth of a Hilary Mantel historical novel, it still provides a lot of insight into pre-World War II, Stalinist Russia and the paranoia, and the pride, that existed at that period in Russian history. It is a bit reminiscent of Martin Cruz Smith's fine books, Gorky Park and Red...more
Severine Chat-cal
Nous sommes en ex-URSS, sous les ordres de Staline, en 1936. La révolution est finie, mais elle n'est pas encore complètement oubliée par les moscovites, qui vivent de façon précaire, connaissent la faim et vivent en colocation à cause du manque de logements. Dans un état où tout est contrôlé, surveillé et hiérarchisé, une nonne américaine est retrouvée morte sur l'autel de l'église proche du Kremlin et aurait été torturée. Le capitaine Korolev et son collègue de la milice, Semoniov se retrouven...more
Dianne Landry
A grisly murder of an American nun in a converted church in Moscow starts Alexei Korolev on a journey no one should go on. As a police officer in Stalinist Russia in 1936 he has to be wary of everyone, his co-workers, his neighbours and especially the secret police. I kept thinking how I can't imagine living the way people did back then in that place. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next one, although I am a little disappointed that Vanya won't be in it.
A meticulously developed police mystery, with a believable and colorful array of characters who wind their way through great plot highs and lows. The silent character however, ever present, always lurking in the bleak grayness - Stalinist Soviet Russia in the 1930's - is really the star. One is constantly reminded of the dismal, coldness of both the land and people. The poverty, starvation, the secrets, the fear, the escape into the warmth of vodka-induced stupors, the desperation that sets neig...more
Πάνος Τουρλής
Το πρώτο βιβλίο της σειράς με ήρωα τον Αλεξέι Ντιμιτρίεβιτς Κόρολεφ.

Μόσχα 1936. Η μεγάλη εκκαθάριση του Στάλιν που αγωνίζεται να καθιερωθεί στο χώρο της προεδρίας της χώρας. Ο κομμουνισμός και η Επανάσταση έχουν επιφέρει τα αποτελέσματά τους: πείνα, εξαθλίωση, ανέχεια, φτώχεια και άφθονη βότκα, που φέρνει με τη σειρά της σωρεία βίας: βιασμοί, δολοφονίες, κλοπές. Μέσα σε αυτό το ζοφερό περιβάλλον ζει και ερευνά ο αστυνόμος της Διεύθυνσης Ποινικών Ερευνών και Λοχαγός της Πολιτοφυλακής της Μόσχας (...more
Leslie Roper
The Holy Thief is the Nov selection for our mystery book club and is a good example of why I am in a mystery book club. I get to read authors I may not have known before & may not have picked up on my own. I thoroughly enjoyed it if that can be said of a somewhat gruesome book that takes place in Stalin's 1936 Soviet Union. The author, William Ryan, even manages some quite convincing levity. I hope to read the 2nd installment to the series.
Maire Flannery
Goodreads Review
The Holy Thief
Not quite a 4; 3.75 from me...but I don’t usually read mysteries so this review is from the perspective of someone whose experience of the genre runs to a couple of Mary Higgins Clark. There is a lot of violence, torture and throwing up in The Holy Thief. A bit too much of the latter actually.
This is a good thriller and it kept me up late. Interesting characters, good suspense and plot twists. The main character, Korolev, is very likeable, I was on his side immediat...more
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William Ryan is an Irish writer living in London. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and the University of St Andrews and worked as a lawyer before taking up writing full-time. His first novel, THE HOLY THIEF, was shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, The CWA John Creasy New Blood Dagger and a Barry Award. His second novel, THE BLOODY...more
More about William Ryan...
The Darkening Field (Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, #2) The Twelfth Department (Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, #3)

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