THE HOLY THIEF by William Ryan
For years I’ve complained that anyone whose life was not solely focused on a story would benefit from the help of a Cast of Characters, maps, and an index. Most memorably, William Tapply wrote that the presence of a Cast of Characters was an indicator to him of a poorly written book. THE HOLY THIEF is a case in point, and it’s further complicated by the apparent Russian tendency to use the last, first and middle names in various combinations depending upon the intimacy between speakers. As it was, my attention skipped over any number of names whose history and relevance I couldn’t quite remember.
The setting is Moscow in 1936 where persecution of anti-Communists is pervasive and ordinary citizens are terrorized. Further, it’s the onset of winter and nobody has quite enough to eat or wear. Truthfully, this is an utterly miserable place to visit. If this is reasonable portrayal of pre-war Soviet Union, then I’m demmed glad to be an impoverished capitalist. Fair warning: the crimes are gruesome.
The most redeeming factor is the protagonist, Captain Alexei Dimitriyevich Korolev of the Moscow CID, a man whose charm becomes more endearing as the story wends.