Thursday, December 11, 2008

City of Thieves by David Benioff

A buddy-story set during the Nazi siege of Leningrad, City of Thieves is the latest novel from David Benioff, author of 25th Hour and When the Nines Roll Over (as well as various screenplays). The story throws together a dashing lothario who's gone AWOL from the Red Army and a half-Jewish seventeen-year old resident of Piter (the characters all refer to Leningrad as Piter).

In classic buddy-story style, the two characters get on each other's nerves as they trundle through the Russian winter on an impossible mission in search of a dozen eggs. Their picaresque adventure takes them from cannibals to the secret police to prison marches as they bond in their attempt to survive. The setup is a bit shopworn, but Benioff does a nice job with it. The characters are likable and believable (though some of their situations stretch the believability factor). Even the elements of the novel that were entirely predictable (it seems quite obvious early on who will not survive the adventure) were still enjoyable because of Benioff's craftiness with a story and readable style.

It's not a great novel that will change your view of literature or the world, but a well-told bit of escapist fiction.

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