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19 November 2018

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The Holy Thief

by William Ryan

And now for something completely different. Well, maybe not completely. After all, detective novels based in Stalinist Russia are an emerging trend (Child 44, City of Thieves) that could well compete with Scandinavian noir.

Ryan’s debut takes place on the eve of the Great Purge, with the investigator and protagonist, Militia Captain Alexei Korolev, becoming increasingly conflicted as a gruesome string of murders draws into his sights all manner of unpleasantness, with a conspiracy that hits a bit close to home.

Ryan weaves a very compelling plot with well drawn characters (although his family name choices can be a bit odd, e.g. Andropov and Pushkin), and his 1930s Moscow is mostly believable, though it does have a slight British accent. One suspects that this is not the last we will hear of Captain Korolev.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Sep/Oct 2010