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City of Thieves Audiobook

City of Thieves

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Audible Editor Reviews

Two unlikely young men charged with desertion and facing execution in the besieged city of Leningrad are charged with an impossible task: they can have their freedom if they can find a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of a powerful colonel's daughter. The two make an odd couple: one a scrawny Jewish outsider, the other an erudite charmer, and their journey takes them from the war-torn city to the snow-covered countryside. Sound like the basis of a classic movie? That might be because the author, David Benioff, is a successful screenwriter, and City of Thieves is halfway between movie-script and roman-a-clef, between airport blockbuster and serious literature.

It's a difficult balancing act, but it succeeds here in no small part due to Ron Perlman's unforgettable narration. His voice is as full of character as his celebrated face, and his bar-room drawl brings a hard-boiled noir quality to the narration. It's a voice dripping in contraband and cordite, easily navigating the Russian names and injecting a sly, seductive humor into the dialogue that offsets the occasional lapse into sentimentality. It's a fantastic performance that succeeds in tying together the disparate elements of this rich tale.

Perlman also takes great relish in conveying the myriad of tiny details that Benioff weaves into the narrative, and which lend a cinematic quality to the work. Indeed, the author's screenwriting background is evident throughout: there's a tightly-constructed plot that never loses a sense of forward propulsion, even during the quieter moments; there is a skilful interweaving of film-school tropes — the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, the WWII film. And there's that attention to detail. Although Benioff has clearly done his research, it's the off-beat imagery that brings to life the reality of living in a besieged city: concrete dragon's teeth are arranged to hinder the approach of enemy tanks; leather boots still bloody from the feet of the previous owners; malnourished children's bones break easily.

A slightly superfluous framing narrative alerts us to the novel's more literary aspirations. The art of storytelling is central to this tale, and the narrative brims over with literary references: doomed poets, scabrous novelists, callous propagandists. The picaresque plot recalls A Hero of Our Time, and the main action begins with a German parachutist's corpse drifting down the empty streets, an image halfway between a movie storyboard and Lord of the Flies — just one of many evocative set-pieces in this highly entertaining adventure. —Dafydd Phillips

Publisher's Summary

A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won't talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds. Lev Beniov considers himself "built for deprivation." He's small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building.

When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, 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 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 to find the impossible.

A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust-filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman.

Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming-of-age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

©2008 David Benioff; (P)2008 Penguin

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.5 (2873 )
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4.6 (2027 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Gayle 03-17-13
    Gayle 03-17-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "In the minority - not a fan"

    While I found the major quest of the story improbable, I thought the conclusion was predictable. I couldn't help but want the protagonist to succeed, but I wasn't truly invested in his mission or him or his desired relationship.

    I finished the book just to finish it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Corey Brookyln, NY, United States 03-14-13
    Corey Brookyln, NY, United States 03-14-13 Member Since 2009

    Hi, I'm a cop, alumi of NYU and I'm also huge into MMA. I love books I read a lot and review the stand outs. I'll give you guys the goods.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "WOW !"

    This is truely an amazing work. The dialogue between the characters is funny and likable . The descriptions of the environment and historic setting are deep. The plot is exciting and never predictable. Ron Periman does an amazing job as a narrator. I loved this book and I highly recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. P. Cunningham North Carolina, USA 03-06-13
    K. P. Cunningham North Carolina, USA 03-06-13 Member Since 2008

    I listen to books while I do the repetitive part of my job and while I do yard work. I can't use audiobooks that require strict attention.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Leningrad in WWII was a hard place to be."

    This is the story of a Jew caught out after curfew and a deserter from the Russian army. They are forced to work together for a week and they become friends in the process.

    This insiders' view of the privations and dangers of living in and around Leningrad, still thought of as St. Petersburg by the population, is well told. The characters are engaging. I wanted extra socks, a warm coat and a cup of something hot to drink the entire time I listened to it.

    It isn't always easy to hear. One part in particular had me cringing as I listened. And the disadvantage of listening rather than read is that you can't skip the hard stuff as easily.

    This isn't light, but it is very, very good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lorilyn S. Coleman Santa Barbara, Ca United States 03-05-13
    Lorilyn S. Coleman Santa Barbara, Ca United States 03-05-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Incredible story"
    Any additional comments?

    I totally loved this book that wove an amazing WW2 story around a young Jewish man needing to find a dozed eggs to save his life. The plot was full of unexpected twists and never let up. Narrator was fabulous.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John B MILFORD, NEW JERSEY, United States 02-24-13
    John B MILFORD, NEW JERSEY, United States 02-24-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I wanted to like it less!"

    This is very difficult. You see, dear reader, I wanted to like this book a lot less. That may seem very harsh and unfair, but it is true. It is for the sole reason that the premise is kind of ridiculous. A looter and a deserter are tasked with finding a dozen eggs in Russia during WWII. That's right, eggs. Not to mention that it seemed the author thought that, while the middle of the chapters could seem a little too light hearted at times (the protagonists pick some strange times to talk about girls), the end of the chapters always seemed to have a scene intended to add to the drama whether it was the protagonists actually finding themselves in a precarious position, or just a sad scene the characters stumble upon.

    Like I said, these happened at the end of every chapter, but to give credit where credit is due, they never feel too forced. I wanted to like this book less for these reasons, true, but I couldn't and found myself having enjoyed the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather 02-19-13
    Heather 02-19-13
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    5
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    "Good read, strong performance."
    Would you listen to City of Thieves again? Why?

    I would not listen to this again because the despair and tragedies of war are emotionally distressing to me, but the book is quite good and I'm glad I listened.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The characters are well formed and relatable. The story has many twists and turns and the result is an unexpected adventure.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The end brought the whole story together very nicely.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jon rocky mount, VA, United States 02-17-13
    jon rocky mount, VA, United States 02-17-13 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pleasantly surpised"
    Any additional comments?

    This book was amazing. Originally I picked it up on sale just to have something to listen to and it was just a wonderful story. Along with a great story the reader was perfect for this one as well. Get this and read it, you won't be sorry!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura United States 02-13-13
    Laura United States 02-13-13 Member Since 2016
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    39
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    "Loved It"
    What did you love best about City of Thieves?

    I loved how the author put these two people together and incorporated how hard it was to find food during the war in Russia. By the end of the book, I had became endeared to the two main characters.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer long beach, CA 02-12-13
    Kindle Customer long beach, CA 02-12-13 Member Since 2012
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    3
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    "Loved the narrator"

    Ron Pearlman's voice and the story of Russia during WW2 makes for an entertaining and insightful listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Russell 02-06-13
    Russell 02-06-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Couldn't Stop Listening"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    The book is everything you want. Funny and sad but keeps you entertained from beginning to end.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of City of Thieves?

    Too many to just pick one.


    What about Ron Perlman’s performance did you like?

    I wasn't sure at first if Hellboy could pull it off. Now I want to hear him again!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It's too long for one sitting but I found myself finding time to listen more than other books.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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