Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Holy Thief

The Holy Thief

A Novel

Captain Alexei Korolev Novels (Volume 1)

William Ryan

Minotaur Books




Taut, atmospheric, and electrifying, this stunning first novel brings Stalinist-era Moscow to heart-beating life and shows us how good, how rich, and how satisfying a thriller can be.

Moscow, 1936, and Stalin's Great Terror is beginning. In a deconsecrated church, a young woman is found dead, her mutilated body displayed on the altar for all to see. Captain Alexei Korolev, finally beginning to enjoy the benefits of his success with the Criminal Investigation Division of 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 Zone, where enemies of the Soviet State, both real and imagined, meet their fate in 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.

With Captain Alexei Korolev, William Ryan has given us one of the most compelling detectives in modern literature, a man dogged and humble, a man who will lead us through a fear-choked Russia to find the only thing that can save him or any of us— the truth.



The Holy Thief by William Ryan--Audiobook Excerpt

Listen to this audiobook excerpt from William Ryan's mystery novel The Holy Thief. Moscow, 1936, and Stalin's Great Terror is just beginning. In a church, a woman is found dead, her body on display. Captain Alexei Korolev of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia is assigned, but the NKVD is watching and exile is a real possibility. Committed to the case, Korolev enters the realm of the Thieves, rulers of Moscow's underworld.


Praise for The Holy Thief

"Without a doubt, The Holy Thief is one of the best historical mysteries I've read in the last ten years.” —David Liss

“One of the year's most exciting [debuts] . . . While the search for Russian icons will bring to mind Martin Cruz Smith's brilliant Gorky Park, Ryan puts a fresh, original spin on the briskly paced The Holy Thief.” —Oline H. Cogdill, Sun-Sentinel

"Impressive.... 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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Watch out, Martin Cruz Smith, there's a new kid on the block and he's really good. William Ryan's debut opus, The Holy Thief, set it Moscow in 1936, stars Captain Alexei Dmitriyevich Korolev, a detective in the Moscow Militia who might eventually give Arkady Renko a run for his rubles…Flawlessly narrated, as expected, by Simon Vance.” —BookPage

“A powerful first novel by British author William Ryan that I certainly hope will not be his last.” —Winston-Salem Journal on the audio edition of The Holy Thief

“The drama, excitement, intrigue, and fear are portrayed with authenticity and emotion.” —"

“In his solitude and resolve, Ryan's Korolev evokes Martin Cruz Smith's fierce Arkady Renko, while the period detail and gore call to mind Tom Rob Smith. Remarkable thriller...” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A subtle, superb mystery, a wonderful central character and with a sense of place and period to rival even the greatest of the Russian masters. More please!” —Kate Mosse, author of Sepulchre

“With The Holy Thief, Ryan establishes himself as a fresh voice, rendering the snow-slicked streets of Thirties' Moscow with brilliant clarity. His picture of Captain Korolev as a conflicted, yet loyal, state servant is acutely real, as is his world, slouching toward terror and war. A masterful evocation of a dark time, wrapped around an even darker mystery, The Holy Thief does its magic on the head as well as the nerves.” —Olen Steinhauer, author of The Nearest Exit

“A powerhouse debut, intricately plotted, tautly written, richly imagined. With effortless, page-turning ease Ryan leads us into the mirror-world of 1930s Stalinist Russia where nothing is quite what it seems and no one is quite who they claim to be. For Captain Alexei Korolev of the Moscow Militia, the price of failure is a bullet through the head--and so is the price of success. Thrilling.” —Paul Sussman, author of The Hidden Oasis

“A first-rate crime novel: a genuinely memorable detective, powerful story and a seamlessly convincing setting. William Ryan is the real thing.” —A. L. Kennedy, author of Day

“The Holy Thief is an utterly compelling and beautifully lucid novel, in which murder, history and suspicion combine to create an atmosphere of ever-increasing and constantly shifting suspense.” —John Burnside, author of The Glister"

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

William Ryan

WILLIAM RYAN was born in London in 1965 and attended Trinity College, Dublin. He practiced briefly as a barrister before completing his Masters in Creative Writing at St Andrews University. His work has appeared in the short story collection, Cool Britannia. He lives in London with his wife. The Holy Thief is his first novel.

William Ryan



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