Movies Books Music Food Tv Shows Technology Politics Video Games Parenting Fashion Green Living more >

Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Holy Thief: A Novel » User review

Murder at midnight in Moscow

  • Aug 6, 2010
Recently we've seen a slew of books based in Stalin era Russia, and involving murders and mysteries. "Child 44" immediately comes to mind, among others. This book also takes place in Russia, in 1936, right before Stalin initiated the great party purges, and millions disappeared forever.

The protagonist of this story is a detective Captain in the Militia, whose job it is to investigate and solve crimes. The Militia, as was the Cheka, was not loved by the average citizen, because they believed that these organizations merely carried out orders, often brutal, that targeted those who didn't think or act the way the regime felt that they should. The Captain is somewhat different from the usual Soviet police person, in that he is not disillusioned by Stalin's regime, but supports it, and expects it to eventually become the norm all over the world. Having said this, he is not the type of person who deliberately tortures or arrests someone for their unpopular beliefs, as he is a Believer, that is a person who still has religious inclinations even at that time.

The plot begins with the brutal murder of a young woman in a deconsecrated church, and moves on from there. It's a thrilling plot, and involves many people, including the writer Isaac Babel. There are many byways and dead ends in the plot, and not everyone the hero encounters is who or what they appear to be at first glance. As the book progresses, the hero begins to believe that he has been deliberately chosen to fail in his investigation, and ultimately to take the blame for this failure, while others succeed in what they are doing, or planning to do.

The author creates a very believable Stalinist Russia, and a gritty Moscow. The reader turns the pages quickly in order to see what is going to happen next. This is a first novel by this promising author, and I sincerely hope that he writes future books concerning his Russian character. I, for one, will certainly look forward to any new books from him.

What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
August 10, 2010
Sounds like this combines all of my favorite mystery book elements and is a great first novel for this author! I'll be on the lookout for this one. Thanks for sharing!
August 10, 2010
I'm sure you'll enjoy this book. Thanks for the info on the other sites; I'll be sure to check them out.
August 07, 2010
Sounds like a compelling mystery, I'd be very intrested in looking it up, thanks for the review :)
More The Holy Thief: A Novel reviews
review by . September 01, 2010
Ryan's novel is set in Moscow 1936, where Captain Alexei Korolev, a veteran of the Revolution and member of the Moscow Militia's Criminal Investigation Unit is assigned the case of a murdered and mutilated young woman. Once the body is identified, the case takes on a life of its own, every aspect fraught with political implications as Korolev and his new assistant, Semionov, are led from one mutilated body to another. But the real tension in this novel comes from the strained atmosphere of Stalin's …
About the reviewer
Frank J. Konopka ()
Ranked #89
I'm a small town general practice attorney in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. Books are my passion, andI read as many of them asI can. Being the President of the local library board for over … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this book


Starred Review. Set in 1936, Ryan's impressive debut introduces Capt. Alexei Korolev of the Moscow Militia's Criminal Investigation Division, who looks into the murder of a young woman found butchered in a church. Signs of torture suggest the killer may have been trying to get information out of the victim. Colonel Gregorin, an NKVD officer who takes an interest in the case, believes the crime has "a political element." With Gregorin's help, the captain identifies the woman as an American nun, who may have been involved with smuggling valuables out of the Soviet Union for sale abroad. After a second similar murder, Korolev enlists the help of a motley assortment of allies, including a contingent of would-be Baker Street Irregulars and acclaimed writer Isaac Babel. Ryan, who merits comparison to Tom Rob Smith, makes palpable the perpetual state of fear of being reported as disloyal, besides dramatizing the difficulty of being an honest cop in a repressive police state. Readers will hope Korolev has a long career ahead of him. 125,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
view wiki


ISBN-10: 0312586450
ISBN-13: 978-0312586454
Author: William Ryan
Publisher: Minotaur Books

First to Review
© 2015 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since