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On Thursdays I like to give an update on new books in series I’ve already reviewed. Stay up-to-date on your favorite series!

The Holy Thief: A Novel (Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, #1)The Holy Thief: A Novel by William Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

U.S. Release Date: August 31,2010
Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Setting: Moscow, 1936 (Russian Federation)

I’ve read this series out of order starting with the second book. Ryan’s publisher, Minotaur Books, had sent me a preview copy of The Darkening Field to review and I liked that book so much I had to get the first book so I could read the introduction of the Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev series. I’m so glad that I did as the first book is a great murder mystery with forensic detail, political intrigue, and cultural observations all set in a very interesting historical setting.

As I was reading The Holy Thief I realized that Korolev reminds me of James Garner’s TV character in The Rockford Files.

  • Both investigators just want to do their job and yet every assignment somehow gets horribly complicated.
  • Both investigators want to do the right thing, and yet sometimes that means going outside the law. And both characters have been matured by life and yet still have a sense of optimism and humor.

Ryan writes of a difficult political time in Russian history that can only be described with dread and yet the author is available to show how even at the worst of times people find humor and friendship that binds them together regardless of their struggles.

One of the things I found most interesting in this first book was Ryan’s obvious powers of observation. Korolev notes several times throughout the book how another character, Babel – who is a writer –watches people. Babel goes on to explain that writers are interested in how people do things. I feel this must be true of Ryan as well as he seamlessly adds small physical movements and character details into the story so that his characters come alive. You can feel their stress and the wear of life on them, but also you can feel the heartbeat of hope within them and their will to survive. It makes for a very enjoyable read.

Another interesting thought about Ryan’s work is that he has used children in both books as key supporting characters. Whether it is little Natasha who has clearly adopted Korolev as a father figure, the little redheaded orphan Kim Goldstein who has a great future as a thief already established, or a child actor who uses a movie set as his playground, Ryan portrays children with maturity beyond their years. Maybe it is a nod to the historical period they live in where children must grow up quickly to survive, but it is also efficient use of characters. Ryan gets the most out of every character he introduces regardless of their age and that makes for a very rich reading experience.

You can learn more about this series on Ryan’s website including photographs from 1930’s Russia and some background information on the time period.

Sneak Peak: I chatted with Ryan and he says that Kim Goldstein will play a big part in book 3. I can’t wait to see what our little street urchin is up to next! Look for the U.S. release of The Twelfth Department this summer.

Books in the Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev series:

  • The Holy Thief – published  August 2010 (book #1)
  • The Darkening Field – published January 2012 (book #2)
  • The Twelfth Department – coming July 2013 (book #3)
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