Moscow, 1936, Stalin’s Great Terror is beginning and, in a deconsecrated church, a young woman is found dead. Captain Alexei Korolev, finally beginning to enjoy the benefits of his success as a detective with the Moscow Militia, is asked to investigate. But when he discovers that the victim is an American citizen, the NKVD - the most feared organization in Russia - becomes involved. Soon, Korolev’s every step is under close scrutiny and one false move will mean exile to the frozen camps of the far north.
Committed to uncovering the truth behind the gruesome murder, Korolev enters the realm of the Thieves, rulers of Moscow’s underworld. As more bodies are discovered and pressure from above builds, Korolev begins to question who he can trust and who, in a Russia where fear, uncertainty and hunger prevail, are the real criminals. Soon, Korolev will find not only his moral and political ideals threatened, but also his life.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2011 THEAKSTONS CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR AND THE KERRYGOLD IRISH FICTION AWARD
Impressive. Ryan … 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.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Ryan writes with narrative drive and urgency, a good sense of place and a central character who is conflicted, moral and above all likeable: whodunnit heaven.
Times Literary Supplement
Ryan can really write — an elegant, evocative English that savours each scene while propelling the action unerringly onwards.
Such details make The Holy Thief … one of the year’s most exciting mysteries
Atmospheric, beautifully written and meticulously researched.
It is Ryan’s details of life in the bad old USSR that make the story so engrossing.
It’s a tough, suspenseful premise for a debut, contrasting claustrophobic atmosphere with personal optimism.
Set in a vividly imagined Stalinist Russia, where the creeping paranoia of a surveillance state blends perfectly with the brutal serial murders
Metro (Crime Book of the Year)
Ryan’s novel has an authority that belies his first-novel status… The auguries for a series ... are very promising indeed.
Excellently-observed characters who exist in a nightmarish world of fear, suspicion and danger. Ryan skillfully captures the reality of life in the most spied-upon society in history.
Yorkshire Evening Post
Fans of Phillip Kerr, Tom Rob Smith, and Olen Steinhauer have a treat in store with this strong period thriller from debut author Ryan . . . Book List
A first novel written with all the narrative assurance of someone who’d been perfecting his art for years.
Books of the year, Irish Independent
Remarkable thriller . . . In his solitude and resolve, Ryan’s Korolev evokes Martin Cruz Smith’s fierce Arkady Renko.
Ryan’s research, and the genuine feel he has for the unique place and time, made The Holy Thief an especially good read.
Ellery Queen Magazine
While THE HOLY THIEF is a dark book, Ryan peppers the narrative with some grim humor to keep things from becoming too stark. The star of the novel, however, is the plot, which provides a plausible, surefooted explanation for the motive behind the murders..
Ryan captures the pervasive fear of Stalin’s reign, where even a joke amongst friends can lead to denunciation and exile to the ‘Zone … An impressive debut.
Historical Novel Society (Editor’s Choice)