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Extended Audio Sample The Holy Thief: A Novel Audiobook, by William Ryan Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (564 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: William Ryan Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Related: The Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev Series Release Date: August 2010 ISBN: 9781427210401
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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.


William Ryan's remarkable debut will storm into ten countries in what is sure to be an international publishing event. 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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. SoundCommentary.com

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matt | 2/10/2014

    " First we had Martin Cruz Smith, then Tom Rob Smith, and now William Ryan-- yet another murder mystery set behind the iron curtain and starring a staunch Soviet detective. I've loved this genre so far, so hopefully this book can remove some of the bad taste in my mouth left behind by Smith's latest Arkady Renko novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clyn | 2/9/2014

    " A very well-written novel set in pre-WWII Moscow. I absolutely loved the language and the images conjured by the beautiful writing, not to mention the well researched authentic presentation of not only the mindset, but the way of life for citizens of this era. The story was intricate and unpredictable, which i found very intriguing. A solid 4 star book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karyn Gustafson | 2/3/2014

    " This book is exactly what I'm hoping to get when I read a historical mystery. Interesting characters, great story, and well-written atmosphere. I could just about smell the Soviet winter while I was reading in the July heat. The main character's morality intrigued me, too. I love everything Cold War-related and the subplot about a potential defector made me think differently about those who did defect and why. I always like to picture them as heroic, leaving godless Communism for the bright hope of the West, but perhaps some were actually just criminal traitors looking to avoid consequences with no thought for the repercussions to those left behind. I'm interested enough that I think I'll check out some of the books in the bibliography-there's one about the history of jazz music in the Soviet Union. Seriously? Jazz, there? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 C.j. | 1/24/2014

    " Neither height nor depth, but nonetheless, a reasonably well-tailored and paced in-between. There are those books that are raised by the quality of characters--this wasn't one. But for a summer sun laze around, it needed neither too much nor too little attention. One word? bemused. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paula | 1/24/2014

    " I found the characters and setting to be vibrant and engaging. Unfortunately, I found that more interesting than the actual mystery. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pat | 1/18/2014

    " Moscow in the 1930's with a great plot and admirable main character. Very engaging. I loved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mom | 12/17/2013

    " A novel about Russia in 1935. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robin | 12/12/2013

    " Good historical mystery set in 30's Stalinist Russia. Korolev the lead character is a Moscow CID officer caught up in politics and he just wants to solve the case. Hope this one becomes a series. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marie | 12/7/2013

    " This was a great combination of not-too-distant history and the anatomy of "right" and "wrong." There are plenty of plot twists and suspense which kept me turning pages into the wee hours. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tammie | 12/2/2013

    " Loved this book! Mr. Ryan did a great job developing the main character and portraying the internal struggles of the individual during the 1930's in Moscow. Clean, no swearing, the descriptions of the crimes were graphic however. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe Moffa | 12/1/2013

    " Nicely done mystery with setting in Stalinist Russia. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melanie | 11/21/2013

    " Awesome historical mystery. I could not ask for anything more out of a book. Excellent characters, basis and plot. I just wish difficult Russian names weren't such a chore to repeat in your head over and over when you're reading a book. Otherwise, excellent book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 11/3/2013

    " I liked this more for the glimpse into 1930s Russia than the story (which was enjoyable). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Penelope | 8/15/2013

    " I really enjoyed the setting of this book but really wanted to know more about the 'Thieves', perhaps in the next book there will be more detail. Worth a read, especially if you have an interest in Russia. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jae | 4/19/2013

    " I found the prose consistently clunky, but the characters made up for it (even the minor characters feel like full-fledged people). I was most impressed by the research that must have gone into it, though. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marci | 6/13/2012

    " There was something about this book that just didn't sit well with me. I liked the story and the main character, but I think the author was too ambitious and introduced a lot of side stories that never really went anywhere. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ken French | 10/30/2011

    " Tense thriller set in Stalinist Russia in 1936. Great atmosphere. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tarrant Figlio | 10/28/2011

    " Pretty average as far as historical mysteries go--a bit of a guide to the names in the story would have helped since many of the characters were called very different names within the course of a single conversation. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Neil | 10/26/2011

    " What an excellent Novel, I really enjoyed it, both the History of Russia and the excellent characters and story. Can't wait for the follow up. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robert | 6/30/2011

    " Three and a half stars, rounded down. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ashley | 5/28/2011

    " a good introduction to the characters on a suspensefull mystery. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jake | 5/6/2011

    " Audio Book. Mostly a good book but it painted a very depressing picture of communism and life in Russia. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tarrant | 4/11/2011

    " Pretty average as far as historical mysteries go--a bit of a guide to the names in the story would have helped since many of the characters were called very different names within the course of a single conversation. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Godowd | 3/24/2011

    " A pretty light read - nothing to mentally challenging. Perfect for a plane or train. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Naomi | 1/17/2011

    " The locale of the story was very well written but beyond the first few chapters, I couldn't seem to care about any of the characters. The Russian detective was a really good one but his efforts to solve the murders became frustrating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stevens | 1/6/2011

    " Very good, especially since it's his first book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gail | 12/29/2010

    " Bleak, dreary picture of Moscow during the '30s. An honest policeman trying to solve murders where nothing is as it seems. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dawna | 12/8/2010

    " I liked the Russian history. The ending surprised me a bit. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Neil | 11/21/2010

    " What an excellent Novel, I really enjoyed it, both the History of Russia and the excellent characters and story. Can't wait for the follow up. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike | 11/7/2010

    " What made this book fascinating was the setting -- early Stalin era Russia, where patriotism, religion and political intrigue mix in an old fashioned murder mystery. The author is very convincing. "

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About the Author
Author William Ryan

William Ryan is author of The Holy Thief, which was a Barry Award nominee for Best First Novel and shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Born in London, Ryan attended Trinity College, Dublin, and completed his master’s in creative writing at St. Andrews University.

About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with fifty-eight Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.