CITY OF SAINTS AND THIEVES
Written by Natalie C Anderson
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books, January 24 2017
My star rating: 3.75 stars
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it. With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller. (Goodreads)
I originally found out about this book through a Goodreads giveaway back in 2016. I remembered reading the synopsis and thinking it was interesting, but by the time it was released I had completely forgotten what it was about. And when reviews started coming out, I almost changed my mind about this one. The media was comparing this book to Gone Girl (Which I HATED), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I thought was just ok), so I was incredibly apprehensive. Luckily I took the advice of some fellow book bloggers who said that it didn’t feel like Gone Girl at all – and I would agree! I was also nervous because mystery/thriller is probably my least favourite genre to read. But if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while you will never grow as a reader. In the end I’m so glad I picked this one up! This one is classified as a YA thriller/mystery. A mystery, yes, but a thriller, I wouldn’t really say so.
As I said above, mystery is not my favourite genre. I find that with mystery there are too many questions and not enough answers, and you spend the vast majority of the book confused until it all comes together in the end. I don’t like feeling like i’m in the dark and not being able to understand what’s going on! Luckily I didn’t get that at all with this book. Tiny Girl (or Tina) has lived her life being protected by her mother and was never let in on the truth. Her mother would have let her in on everything but she was killed before she got the chance. So Tiny Girl had what she thought was a complete story of her mother, but when she took action against her mothers killer, she realized just how little she actually knew. The layers of the story peeled back at a decent pace and you always felt satisfied with the bits of information laid out before you. A few things were a bit easy to figure out, but the majority of the time I was surprised with the truths of the story. This book took you to different places and new people to uncover the life her mother lived before Tiny Girl was born, so the mystery and setting always remained fresh and interesting.
What I really loved was Tiny Girls life in a gang. After her mother was gone she was left to fend for herself and take care of her younger sister. It was really interesting that she was so willing to sacrifice herself to a life of theft, running, and gang violence just so she could keep her sister away from it all. I thought that the dynamic of the gang itself was also intriguing – everything from the boss down to the lowest level member. The contrast of her life living with the Greyhill’s and her life as a Goonda showed just how much her life had changed without her mother around and just how much she was willing to sacrifice to get revenge against her mothers killer.
This book also dealt with a man who owned a mining company who may have possibly been working with the militia in Congo to buy and sell gold. I absolutely loved this aspect! Not only did we get to experience different African settings, but we also got bits and pieces of the horrors experienced with war and the militia. I feel like it was very clear that peoples lives are very different depending on your social and financial status.
Unfortunately I felt emotionally distant from the characters and the story at times. Secrets were sometimes revealed in a very factual way forcing me to keep my emotions at arms length. I wish that the author did more flashback scenes, giving us more depth and detail to the connections and events. In the scenes where characters who were close to her mother looked back, I understood so much more. The emotions of the character speaking and of Tiny Girls mother were explored giving you an understanding of both what they experienced and what drove their actions. There were so many connections and events where I felt I only got the tiniest hint of emotion and it wasn’t nearly as impactful.
Also the ending. I’m not going to spoil anything but I felt a little unsatisfied and still had questions about what was going to happen next for a few of the people. It wasn’t bad by any means! I just wish there were more details and concrete finality to it.
Even though I did have a few small issues with this book, the enjoyment I got from it far outweighed the problems. And for me to say that I really enjoyed a mystery novel is a feat in and of itself! So if you like mystery novels I’m sure you’ll love this one! This is a debut novel by Natalie C. Anderson and I’m very much looking forward to what else she writes!
Until next time, happy reading!