City of Thieves: A Novel
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From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.
During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.
brick. You want to ask me how I know?” “I take your point,” said Kolya, quite agreeable. He peered into the darkness of the building’s vestibule. “Well, for what it’s worth, a brick is quicker.” Kolya patted me on the back and stepped inside. Everything I knew told me to run. This man was leading us into a trap. He had practically just confessed to being a murderer. Kolya had stupidly admitted exactly how much money we had on us. It wasn’t much, but three hundred rubles and two ration cards—
was remotely attractive to me. This man saved my life yesterday and today I cursed him because girls grew awkward in his presence, blood rushing to their faces, staring at the floor and playing with the buttons on their coats? But Sonya I liked. Sonya with her crescent dimple and her warmth, welcoming me into her home, offering me a place to stay whenever I needed it, even though one more week without food would kill her— the shape of her skull was too easy to read beneath her near-translucent
table, holding one of my hands in both of hers. She was a very small woman, barely five feet tall, and I had been afraid of her from birth. “You are an idiot,” she told me. Maybe this sounds insulting, but my mother always called me “her idiot” and by that point I thought of it as an affectionate nickname. “The city was here before you. It will be here after you. Taisya and I need you.” She was right. A better son would have gone with her, a better brother. Taisya adored me, jumped on me when I
too long; I was too exhausted, too hungry, to feel anything with proper intensity. But if my fear had diminished, it was not because my courage had increased. My body was so weak, so spent, that my legs trembled from the effort of standing upright. I could summon no great concern for anything, including the fate of Lev Beniov. Vika finally removed her rabbit fur cap and held it between her hands. Abendroth downed half his glass with a single swallow, pursed his lips, and nodded. “You will be
all of it shimmering beneath a layer of frost and snow. “Look,” she said, pointing north. “Do you see it?” Far beyond the valley below us, past the hills that blocked the horizon in the shadowy distance, a slender pillar of light rose to the sky, bright enough to spotlight the cloud far above. The powerful beam began to move, a brilliant saber carving the night, and I realized I was looking at an antiaircraft searchlight. “That’s Piter,” she told us. “You get lost on your way home, that’s your