AH's Reviews > The Holy Thief

The Holy Thief by William   Ryan
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's review
Jun 03, 2010

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bookshelves: first-reads, mystery, historical, zzread-july-2010
Read from July 18 to 23, 2010 — I own a copy

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 - everyone was afraid of being arrested, tortured, or shot. People were suffering from serious shortages of the basic necessitities of life. Shortages of food, clothing, and shelter were common. Korolev, the main character makes observations about the shortages of basic toiletries such as soap.

During this time period, many religious artifacts were being removed from the churches and sent abroad. The Holy Thief follows the brutal murders of several people who were associated with this trade. Captain Korolev of the Moscow Criminal Investigative Division is assigned to the case. At this point, I did have the CSI:Moscow image in my head, but without The Who soundtrack.

Korolev is an interesting character. I was picturing a Columbo type - a little crumpled, a little overweight. Korolev is in his forties, and has been a detective for a while. His solve rate is high, and as a result, he was offered a better (shared) apartment in a nicer neighborhood. He is intuitive, resourceful, and diplomatic. Korolev was able to work discreetly with the American art dealer and the leader of the thieves. Korolev does get beat up a lot towards the end, suffering from several concussions.

The story started off slowly for me. Perhaps it was because I am not familiar with Russian names. It did hold my interest and the last 10 chapters are very exciting. This is a good first novel for William Ryan and I hope that he continues to write.

Side note - as I did receive an advance copy, I am hoping that the final copy will have better editing.

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Reading Progress

07/18/2010 page 1
07/18/2010 page 15
4.0% "I listened to the CD that came with the book. I have never listened to an audio book before. Is it normal that the reader's text not match the book? By the way, the reader is pretty good. He pronounces all the Russian names quite well." 5 comments
07/18/2010 page 31
9.0% "So in Stalinist Russia, being a good detective and having the ability to solve the most crimes, gets you a bigger and better apartment that you have to share with someone and their kid. Interesting."
07/19/2010 page 45
13.0% "The amount of politics involved to solve a crime is incredible."
07/20/2010 page 109
31.0% "Korolev makes some observations about life in Stalinist Russia...How in the newsreels the carts and horses are absent...how the simple basic items like soap are missing...and how everyone is afraid to speak freely." 5 comments
07/22/2010 page 256
73.0% ""We should be pleased. And Paunichev will find someone that fits for the murder in the church. It won't be the right person, of course, but the statistics won't care." Semionov was looking at him as though he'd farted at the ballet."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana You've been winning a lot lately, haven't you?

message 2: by AH (new) - rated it 3 stars

AH I won about 3 in a week. Some I received right away, others I waited and waited and have still not received. About a 4% return on entries. So, why not?

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