Al Bità's Reviews > The Holy Thief

The Holy Thief by William   Ryan
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's review
Jan 14, 2012

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A murder mystery set in 1936 Moscow, at the time when Stalin's Great Terror is about to commence. Our main detective is Captain Alexei Dmitriyevich Korolov of the Militia, and his youthful offsider is Ivan Ivanovich Semionov (aka Vanya), both attractively three-dimensional characters (the triple-barrelled names Russians use, in various combinations, together with quaint (to our ears) expressions such as Comrade, and Citizeness, for example, take some getting used to).

What makes this different to 'regular' murder mysteries is the setting: what starts off ordinary (if grisly murders involving repulsive torture of the victim can be considered ordinary) slowly but surely becomes caught in the political and social mores of the time. The reader becomes aware of the increasing paranoia surrounding the case, where political levels of 'social security' forces gradually intermesh, where loyalties develop into suspicions, trust becomes ephemeral, and there is a sense of growing dread that is almost paralysing. We also get a glimpse of the various layers of Moscow society and a feeling of just how claustrophobic and even mysterious life can be, and where anything can and does happen, not always for the best.

Not a masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination, but an interesting read nevertheless.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Wayne (new)

Wayne It is rather unusual to see you reading a nOvel!!!

It is soooo easy after ALL the history/science/philosophy etc etc.
One just flies through like having a conversation.
And one gets another type of feeling for life
as it is /was lived, too.
Where did you pick htids one up from???
Soundd good.
Hope to read yiour Peter Abelard
but the very first page is somehow deadly DULL.

message 2: by Wayne (new)

Wayne I just read reviews of these two boks in my Dec/Jan Lit Review.

Moscow,the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931 - 1941
by Katerina Clark.


"It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway:
Russia and the Communist Past.
by David Satter.
A chilling portrayal of Putin.

I'll have to give you copies of the reviews!!1

message 3: by Al (new) - rated it 3 stars

Al Bità Wayne wrote: "It is rather unusual to see you reading a nOvel!!!

It is soooo easy after ALL the history/science/philosophy etc etc.
One just flies through like having a conversation.
And one gets another type o..."

Every now and then I like to read a novel or two — as you have pointed out elsewhere, it is always a relief to simply let the author take you on a fantastic journey into other worlds. I must also confess that with novels, so long as they are well-written, I tend to rate them highly — if only because they are creative products that deserve recognition as such... And if they also contribute to making one think about the human condition, all the better! I still have the sneaking suspicion that good and great novels, precisely because they are novels, allow the reader 'room to think' and often, as a result, allow the reader to come closer to a more truthful awareness of ourselves and our own world, and perhaps even become more tolerant of alternative world-views... All, perhaps a bit high-faluting, and maybe pretentious, but then again, that's me!

I found "The Holy Thief" at Elizabeth's second-hand bookstore in Newtown: $5 for a hard-cover copy... and it sounded like an interesting read — and it was!

Whether this means I should start a series of readings on Russian politics and society at the beginning of the 20th century is another matter altogether... (More books to add to the unending list...)


message 4: by Wayne (new)

Wayne HOW TRUE!!!...Arrrrrh!

By the way I wrote to Gary re his Philosophy book to tell him it was Numero 8 on Abbey's Non-fiction list.He was Chuffed.

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