Book Review: The Holy Thief

Set in 1936 while the Soviet Union is weathering the turbulent early years of Stalinist rule, the tortured and murdered body of a suspected smuggler, an American nun is discovered in a church graveyard. Given the atmosphere of the time, it is hardly surprising when Moscow Militia Criminal Investigator Captain Alexei Korolev aided by Colonel Gregorin with the NKVD decide the nun’s murder has political connections. With the discovery of another similarly tortured victim, Korolev enlists help from a hodgepodge of acquaintances as the country he loves slides ever deeper into chaos.

Ryan’s riveting debut immerses readers in the dark, harsh realities of Stalinist Moscow yet balances the stark deprivations with Korolev’s steadfast belief in his country despite the threat of being shipped off to the Zone. As Korolev attempts to do the right thing in a situation, where there is no simple answer and crossing certain invisible lines will have dire consequences, readers get a taste of what life was like during those turbulent times. With a debut novel this stunning and a character as likeable as Korolev, Ryan is certain to win a devoted following.

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