Dave Gurney, a celebrated but now retired New York detective, caught a few notorious serial killers in his years of service. In retirement he lives with his wife Madeleine in the country, where he pursues the artistic side of his character, drawing on his experiences as a cop. The two are peas from the same pod, can complete one another’s sentences and each can guess how the other is thinking (with Madeleine the highest achiever here). However, beneath the surface of the apparently idyllic in-retirement relationship, tectonic plates are shifting. Something is causing tension in this marriage.
Gurney’s life is suddenly pierced by contact from an old college ‘friend’, seeking his advice. Mark Mellery has lived through the bad side of life but is now renewed and reinvented as a modern day disciple, spreading the word of good life and how to achieve it, at a complex owned by his wealthy wife. Mellery has been shaken by some personal mailings he has received, from someone who appears to know his life far too intimately and this person becomes menacingly threatening.
Published in May, The Holy Thief was the launch novel for Macmillan’s new imprint Mantle, home to editor, Maria Rejt, the keen-eyed woman responsible for Colin Dexter, Minette Walters, C J Sansom and Sue Grafton, amongst others. It’s another novel set in Stalinist Russia – do not stop reading please – and, as I said for The Eye of the Red Tsar, deserves to be read on its own merits and not to be overlooked for fear it’s another one in the post-Child 44 trend entering the market this year. William Ryan’s The Holy Thief is an excellent read.
Opening with a scene of horrific torture leaving a dead woman lying in a deconsecrated church, the case is allocated to Captain Alexei Dmitriyevich Korolev of the Moscow Militia’s Criminal Investigation Division. Assisted by his young colleague Junior Lieutenant Ivan Ivanovich Semionov, Korolev soon discovers that the victim was an American citizen and this leads to the involvement of the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police tool of political repression feared by all. Korolev then finds his investigation ‘guided’ by the NKVD and his own actions and movements followed in detail.