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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 (3056 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer Tryon, NC, US 09-14-15
    Amazon Customer Tryon, NC, US 09-14-15 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent period Look into mankind"

    A chilling,, captivating story of Russians in Leningrad. The story of a man's life in horrid times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kathyp eden, UT, US 09-07-15
    kathyp eden, UT, US 09-07-15 Member Since 2014
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    "You will feel the cold. "

    City of Thieves succeeds in describing the cruelty of the siege of St Petersburg/Leningrad, the Russian winter, slowly starving to death , and especially, of the einsatz groupe.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jrc Los Angeles 07-27-15
    jrc Los Angeles 07-27-15 Member Since 2017
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    5
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    "tender story difficult time loved it"

    compelling story of friendship and love beautifully read those are the parts i wish true

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. WORLEY OKLAHOMA 07-06-15
    L. WORLEY OKLAHOMA 07-06-15 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a surprise!"

    Great story. Ron Perlman is an awesome narrator. I am very glad I picked this out.

    Musical interludes were a little distracting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Courtney J. Baird 06-10-15 Member Since 2015
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    "I couldn't finish it."
    Would you try another book from David Benioff and/or Ron Perlman?

    No, which is a bit surprising because I love David Benioff's work in "Game of Thrones," so I'm familiar with the dark themes he plays with.


    Has City of Thieves turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No. I just don't think this was a particularly interesting book, though.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I didn't have a favorite scene. I must admit that readers should take my review with a grain of salt, because I couldn't finish this book. Lev was an easy enough character to identify with, but you obviously knew he survived his ordeal because he was the grandpa relating the story. I couldn't stand Kolya and couldn't care less if he died, so I stopped listening to it about 1/3rd of the way through. The story was also just so bleak and Russian; it offered such a disgusting portrayal of humanity. I read/listen to books to escape the troubles of the world, not to wallow in them.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Boredom. I couldn't care less what happened in it.


    Any additional comments?

    I honestly don't see what people found appealing about this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara L. Bedford Ithaca, NY 05-10-15
    Barbara L. Bedford Ithaca, NY 05-10-15 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Get rid of the music!"

    Story & performance excellent but I hated having the addition of music between chapters. Music at the beginning & end of the book is OK but please keep it to that. I listen for the spoken word and found the music interrupted the flow of the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DRG Lost Angeles 05-07-15
    DRG Lost Angeles 05-07-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Wonderbar"

    Brilliant blending of history and fiction. What's real, what's not, who cares? Pearlman is fantastic and the story doesn't stop. An absolutely wonderful and tragic ride.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louise 04-08-15
    Louise 04-08-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Very good"

    Good book very entertaining dramatic good good good good good good good good it was good I liked it good good good and great inspiring good liked it a lot.
    Ok I'm done.





    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shaun Bossio Boston, MA United States 03-09-15
    Shaun Bossio Boston, MA United States 03-09-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent"

    Overall, it was a great experience. Ron Perlman only added to my enjoyment, as he was the perfect narrator for this. The orchestral pieces at the end of each chapter were a nice touch. Felt much more like a movie than a novel, though that is Benioff's area. Not a criticism, but an observation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brian 03-05-15
    brian 03-05-15
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    "AMAZING"

    A very tragic and very humorous novel. Would recommend it to anyone who loves a good laugh and some adventure and action

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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