City of Saints & Thieves

City of Saints & Thieves

by Natalie C. Anderson

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399547607
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 01/24/2017
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 506,782
File size: 870 KB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Natalie C. Anderson is an American writer and international development professional living in Geneva, Switzerland. She has spent the last decade working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014–2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer-in-Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints & Thieves.

Read an Excerpt


If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.
And I mean, you really have to know it. You have to own it. Bug Eye taught me that. Because if you do exist, you might snag someone’s eye who will frown and wonder who you are. They’ll want to know who’s letting you run around. Where you’ll sleep tonight. If you’ll sleep tonight.
If you exist, you won’t be able to slouch through a press of bodies, all warm arms and shoulders smelling of work and soap. You won’t be able to take your time and choose: a big lady in pink and gold. You won’t be able to bump into her and swivel away, her wallet stuffed down your pants. If you exist, you can’t exhale and slip through the bars on a window. Your feet might creak on the floorboards. Your sweat might smell too sharp.
You might.
But I don’t.
I’m the best thief in this town.
I don’t exist.
I’ve been sitting in this mango tree for long enough to squish seven mosquitoes dead. I can feel my own warm blood between my fingers. God only knows how many bites I have. Ants are exploring my nether regions. And yet Sister Gladys, bless her, will not sleep.
Through the windows I see her bathed in the light of the common room’s television. Her face shines a radiant blue, and her belly shudders with laughter. Feet propped up on a stool, her toes bend at odd angles like antelope horns. I won­der what she’s watching, relaxed now that all the students are asleep. Old Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns? Churchill Raw? What do nuns think is funny?
I check the time on my phone and briefly consider coming back tomorrow and lifting that ancient television once and for all. Shouldn’t she be praying or something?
Eight mosquitoes. My stomach growls. I clench it and it stops.
Finally, the sister’s head slumps. I wait for the rhythm of her breathing to steady, then slowly lower myself over the wall that surrounds the school.
A guard dog materializes from the darkness and rushes toward me.
I put my arms up. Dirty leaps on me, slobbering all over my face. “Shh . . .” I say to his whines. His wagging tail thumps my legs as I walk toward the washroom at the end of the dorms.
“What took you so long?” Kiki asks, pushing open a creaky window as I approach.
I wince at the noise and look around, even though I know there’s no one in the tidy yard but Dirty. He leans against my thigh, panting happily as I rub the soft fur between his ears. Dirty and I are old pals.
“I think Sister Gladys has a crush on Will Smith,” I say.
My sister grunts and pushes a white bun through the bars on the window meant to keep thieves like me out. It tastes sweet, store-bought. I give a bite to Dirty, who wolfs it down in one gulp, licks his lips, and whines.
“Everything okay?” I ask between bites. “The penguins aren’t beating you up too bad?”
She shakes her head. “You?”
“No penguins up on my roof. Can’t fly.”
“You know what I mean, Tina.”
“I’m fine,” I say. “Hey, I brought you something.” I rum­mage in my bag and pull out a pack of No. 2 pencils, still wrapped in cellophane. I slide them through the bars.
“Tina . . .”
“Wait, there’s more,” I say before she can protest, and fish out a notebook. It has a cartoon of happy kids on the front, and the words SCHOOL DAYS! in dark, emphatic capitals.
I push the goods toward her. Her eyes linger on the tat­toos that cover my arms.
 “The nuns will give me school supplies,” she says. “You don’t have to steal them.”
“They’ll give you the reject bits. You don’t have to depend on their charity. I can get you better.”
“But you’re giving me charity.”
“That’s different. I’m family.”
She doesn’t say anything.
I step back, leaving the gifts on the windowsill. “You’re welcome.”
“Tina,” she blurts, “you can’t just live on the streets for the rest of your life.”
I zip up my bag. “I don’t live on the streets. I live on a roof.”
Kiki’s doing that thing where her brow pinches, and she looks like Mama. I see more and more of our mother in Kiki every time I come here, which hurts sometimes, but still, bet­ter Mama than him. He’s most obvious in her lighter skin and eyes, in her loose curls. You can still see that we’re sisters; I just wish it wasn’t so obvious that we’re half sisters. Not that I would ever call her that. I hate how it sounds. Half sister. Like half a person.
But there’s no hiding that Kiki’s dad, unlike mine, is white. Once she let it slip that the other girls call her “Point-Five,” as in, point-five black, point-five white. I told her to tell me their names, but she just said, They don’t mean anything by it, Tina. It doesn’t bother me, and besides, you can’t go around beating up little kids. But sometimes I see her looking at my dark skin, comparing it against her own, and I can tell she wonders what it would be like to fit in for once, to not be the “Point-Five” orphan.
Kiki squeezes the bars separating us, as if she could pull them apart. She’s not finished. “You can come stay here with me. You know you can. Sister Eunice would let you. You’re not too old. She let that other sixteen-year-old in. They’ve got lots of books and a piano and—”
“Shh.” I put a finger to my lips. “Too loud.”
She glances over her shoulder into the dark washroom. From somewhere I hear one of the other girls cough.
“Seriously, Tina,” she whispers, turning back. “They could put you on scholarship, like me.”
“Come on, Kiki, you know they won’t. It’s one per family.”
“Enough,” I say sharply. Too sharply. Her shoulders sag. “Hey,” I say, and reach my hand through the bars again to smooth down the curls that have escaped her braids. “Thanks for dinner. I’ve got to go. I have to meet Boyboy.”
“Tina, don’t leave yet,” she starts, her face pressed up close against the metal.
“Be good, okay? Do your homework. Don’t let the pen­guins catch you out of bed.”
“You’ll be back next Friday?” she asks.
“Like always.”
I gently push Dirty off my leg and make sure my pack is tight on my back. Scaling the wall to get out is always harder than climbing the tree to get in, and I don’t want to get caught on the barbed wire and broken shards of glass embedded in the concrete.
Kiki is still watching me. I force a grin. For a moment her face is still, and then it softens and she smiles.
For half a second, I exist.
And then I disappear in the dark.

Rule 2: Trust no one. Or if you must, trust them like you’d trust a street dog around fresh meat.
Take the Goondas, for example. Just because I am one doesn’t mean I trust them. Bug Eye is okay. I probably wouldn’t be alive without him. But guys like his brother, Ketchup?
No way. I learned that a long time ago.
The Goondas are everywhere in Sangui City, and they pick up refugee kids like that street dog picks up fleas. It might make my life easier if I lived at the warehouse with them, but then someone would probably wriggle in beside me in the middle of the night and next thing you know I’m like Sheika on the sidewalk with her toddlers, begging for change. Most girls don’t last long with the Goondas.
I’m not most girls.
I hurry through the dark alleys, the route from Kiki’s school to the Goonda warehouse so familiar that I hardly have to keep my eyes open. But I do. A girl on the streets alone after dark is prey. Generally, I try not to stand out too much. My face is usually hidden under my hoodie and my clothes are purposefully shapeless. I keep my hair cropped short. Being scrawny and flat chested helps.
I skirt mud and concrete and garbage rotting in gray pools. The pink glow of the sky over the city lights my way well enough. When I reach Biashara Avenue, I see the hawkers have gone home for the night. The only people left are night crawlers: drunks and restless prostitutes bathed in neon from the bars. The twilight girls watch me suspiciously from their side of the street. I ignore them and walk fast, until I’m at the bridge that separates Old Sangui Town, where Kiki’s school is, from the industrial Go-Downs, the Goondas’ home turf. The lights of the warehouses and factories shimmer in the river like a sort of magic dividing new and old.
Once I saw a body float by as I crossed over this bridge. It was the middle of the night and nobody noticed but me. I guess it floated until a crocodile got interested, or maybe it got all the way out to the mangroves and then the ocean if there was anything left. But there are no bodies tonight, just a handful of wooden dhows anchored in the current, fisher­men asleep in their hulls.
By the time I reach the other side, I’m practically running. The Go-Downs are still; no bars on this side. I hear only a few far-off alarms and the growls of dogs fighting over garbage.
They don’t even look up when I scurry by. I don’t need my phone to tell me I’m late. I curse Sister Gladys and her TV shows. I shouldn’t have gone to see Kiki. There wasn’t enough time. But if I hadn’t shown up like I always do on Friday nights, she would worry.
Plus, I didn’t want to do what I’m about to do without seeing her first.
When I finally reach the salt-rusted warehouse door, I’m breathing hard and hungry again. I rap three times. Pause. Rap two times. Pause. Once.
A peephole opens to reveal a malevolent eye.
“It’s Tiny Girl,” I say.
The guard opens up for me.
Boyboy is waiting inside. “You’re late,” he says, skinny arms folded over his chest, petulant scowl on his face. I take in his bright pink see-through shirt and mascara.
“You were supposed to wear black,” I say. As if the Goondas don’t give him a hard enough time already. “Let’s go.”
He follows me down the hall to Bug Eye’s office. I can’t see them, but I hear Goondas through the walls. They’re hanging out on the warehouse floor, getting high, watching football, waiting to be sent on errands. Maybe some of them are prac­ticing in the gym, beating up old tires and lifting concrete blocks, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Another guard slouches out of the way to let us into Bug Eye’s office. When I open the door, Bug Eye and Ketchup are bent over the desk, looking at blueprints and maps, their sleeves rolled up in the heat. The tattoos on their arms twitch
as they jab at the paper, arguing about something. They’re going over the plan one last time. Good thing too. Bug Eye got all the brains in that family. His brother, Ketchup, on the other hand, is as dull witted as two rocks in a bag. We’ve all worked together on break-ins before, but never one with such high stakes. I don’t like it that Ketchup is in on this job. He makes stupid gay jokes about Boyboy that throw him off his game. Plus I just don’t like the guy. I don’t like counting on him to have my back. But it’s not the sort of thing you complain about to Bug Eye. Where Bug Eye goes, his little brother goes too.
You’d never guess the two Goondas were related. Bug Eye is older, maybe twenty-five. He’s muscled and broad, with a serious face and eyes that can see straight into your dirty, lying soul. People say he looks like Jay Z. Ketchup, on the other hand, is scrawny and seems way younger than his eigh­teen years. He has a narrow face and a laugh like a hyena. People say he looks like a starving weasel.
At their feet are two duffel bags full of gear: laptops, dark hoodies, wires, tape, potato crisps, and energy drinks. All the essentials.
I step up to look over their shoulders.
“We’ll roll up here,” Bug Eye says. He taps the blueprint and fixes me with his trademark unnerving stare. I nod and he turns back to the paper. “Then what, Ketchup?”
“Man, we been over this a hundred times. We drop Tiny Girl and cruise the block, try and park here.” He stabs the paper with his finger.
“And what’ll we do while we wait?”
Ketchup snickers and makes a dirty hand gesture. He looks at me to see if I blush. I don’t.
Bug Eye smacks him on the back of the head. “Weh, grow up,” he says, not looking up from the plans.
Ketchup rubs the back of his head and sulks, but doesn’t protest. Even he knows better than to fight Bug Eye.
“Okay, Boyboy’s gonna be with me in the van, doing his computer thing,” Bug Eye goes on.
Boyboy keeps his arms crossed tightly over his chest, maintaining a respectful distance. He doesn’t say anything. He isn’t a Goonda.
“And you’re lookout,” Bug Eye tells his brother.
“So what’s your smart ass going to be doing?” Ketchup retorts.
“Being in charge of you,” he says smoothly. “Reporting back to Mr. Omoko. And that just leaves Tiny Girl. You know where you’re going?”
All three are looking at me now.
I lift my chin. “Yeah.”
Bug Eye jerks his head at the blueprints. It’s a question, so I step forward. I reach between Ketchup’s and Bug Eye’s shoulders and plant my finger on the street outside the man­sion. I push it past the electrified perimeter fence, through eighteen-inch-thick walls, past laser scanners, down silent carpeted hallways, and between little notes: guards, camera, dogs. It stops deep in the building’s heart.

Rule 3: Thieves don’t have friends.
Every thief has a mother, and maybe even a little sister if she’s lucky, but you can’t help any of that. You can have people like Boyboy’s mom, who I say hi to every day on my way home. That’s just keeping tabs on the neighborhood. She sells tea on the corner and tells me if cops are around, and I make sure the Goondas go easy on her boy. You can have acquaintances. But friends, people you care about, and who care about you . . .
Well, you’re only going to get them into trouble.
Before you even ask, Boyboy is not my friend.
He’s my business partner. Big difference. He’s from Congo too, so I don’t have to explain certain things to him that I’d rather not talk about, like where my family is, or why I don’t really sleep, or why men in uniforms make me twitch. Sometimes he comes over to my roof and we share a smoke and watch the sun disappear into the smog that caresses the city. That’s it. Boyboy has his party boys, and I have Kiki. You probably think that’s sad or something, but I’m not sad.
Besides, I don’t have a lot of time for making friends. I have things to do.
We use a florist’s van to get there. Ketchup is driving, and Bug Eye keeps yelling at him to slow down and watch the road. It’s two in the morning and cops are just as likely to shake us down for cash as care that we’re running red lights, but still, better that no one remembers seeing a van full of kids dressed in black and obviously not florists. The closer we get, the more ready I am to be out and working. Ketchup’s constant prattle makes me nervous. He laughs his hyena laugh and says gross stuff about the twilight girls on the street corners we pass.
In the back, Boyboy and I are quiet, getting ready. I attach my earpiece and make sure the Bluetooth is connecting to my phone.
“Let’s see how the camera is feeding,” Boyboy says.
I look at him, aiming the micro-camera embedded in the earpiece. His face pops up on his laptop screen. “Good.” He watches himself pat his hair into place as he asks, “Mic check? Say something.”
I whisper, “Boyboy got no fashion sense,” and the little earpiece relays my words to my phone, and then to Boyboy’s computer, where I hear myself echo.
He flips me off seamlessly, between the adjustments he’s making to his equipment. “Can you hear me okay?”
“Yeah,” I say. “You’re clear.”
“You have to keep your phone close to the earpiece. When you had it in your pocket on that last job, the connection was bad. Where are you putting it?”
I tuck my phone into my sports bra and wave my hands—ta-da.
“Put this one in your pocket,” he says, and hands me a tiny USB adapter. “It’s the key to the treasure box and I don’t want it getting lost in your cleavage.”
“Ha.” My chest is barely larger than my eleven-year-old sister’s. But I do as he asks.
Boyboy is crazy good with tech stuff. He always has been, ever since I’ve known him. He told me when he was little the bigger boys would beat him up and call him a fairy, so he spent a lot of time in his room, taking phones and computers apart, putting them back together. His latest trick is hacking ATMs so they spit out crisp thousand-shilling notes.
He won’t join the Goondas, but he’ll work with me. He does his IT genius thing when I need him, and in exchange I lift fancy gadgets for him—computers, phones, the occasional designer handbag—whatever he needs. He says he’s the best hacker in East Africa, and from what I’ve seen, he’s telling the truth.
He’d better be. He’s about to break us into the most forti­fied home in the Ring.
The Ring is where you live if you can afford it. Lush, hilly, and green, it sits above Sangui City, peering down its nose at the rest of us. The houses squat on neatly clipped lawns behind fences and flame trees and barbed wire and dogs and ex-military guards with AK-47s. Fleets of Mercedes descend into the city in the mornings carrying the Big Men to work. We call these guys the WaBenzi: the tribe of the Mercedes- Benz. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, hail from all over the world, but speak a common language: money. When they return to their mansions in the Ring in the evening, they complain about traffic, drink imported scotch, and fall asleep early on soft cotton sheets. Their wives oversee small armies of servants and get delicate headaches when the African sun is too hot. Their kids play tennis. Their dogs have therapists.
At this time of night, the Ring is quiet except for frogs and insects. It’s rained up here, and the mist is thick. The eerily familiar tree-lined streets we drive are empty. The florist van doesn’t look too out of place. Maybe we have just come from a banquet. A power wedding.
I look out the window. We pass a break in the houses and trees, and I catch a glimpse of the dark Indian Ocean. Sangui: city-state on a hill, port to the world, and a fine bloody place to do business. You do the dirty work down there in town, and the Ring is where you retreat.
I should know. I’ve seen it all up close. I may live down in the dirt now, but once upon a time, a fortress in the Ring was my home.
Rule 4: Choose your target carefully.
It’s a magic word. Full of power.
Just saying it out loud on the street can get somebody killed. I’ve seen it happen. The police are worthless, so folks are disposed to make their own swift justice. And believe me, no one feels sorry for the thief when the dust settles and blood soaks into the ground. Better be sure no one’s raising a finger at you.
So listen up. Choose carefully. Choose the right target. Most of the time that means the easy target. If you’re pick­pocketing, go for the drunks and people having arguments on their mobiles. If you’re robbing a house, make sure it’s the one where they hide the key on the doorjamb. You want to go for bank accounts? Try the old rich lady. Odds are her pass­word is her dog’s name.
There are plenty to choose from. No sense in making it hard on yourself.
But for every rule, there is an exception.
Roland Greyhill’s home isn’t a natural target. His gates are locked and his guard is up. The man makes his living deal­ing with warlords and armies and vast amounts of cash. He knows he’s got enemies. He’s spent years watching his back. He trusts no one. There is nothing easy about him.
But make no mistake: Difficult or not, tonight he is the right target.
We’re getting close. I swallow the jangling feeling in my throat and roll down my window a little. The air is wet and smells like jasmine.
Boyboy is quiet beside me. I know he wants to ask how I’m feeling. Everyone else has been going over the plan all day, but I’ve been thinking about it for years. I’m not sure I would even know how to explain how I feel right now. Like I swallowed a hive of bees? Is that an emotion?
But Boyboy knows better than to ask me dumb questions.
When we’re two houses away, Ketchup turns the lights off and rolls to a stop.
“We’re here, Mr. Omoko,” Bug Eye says into his phone.
The mansion takes up twice the space of any other home on the street. Over the high wall, only the red tile roof is vis­ible. What we can’t see are half a dozen dudes with AK-47s and two German shepherds prowling the grounds. But we know they’re there.
Everyone looks up at the house, dead silent. Even Ketchup.
Bug Eye rubs his hands together. “You ready, Tiny Girl?”
I touch the earpiece. It’s secure. I pop my shoulders and twist my back. It takes everything not to shout, I’m here. I’m doing this. This is my house.
“I’m ready,” I say, and slip out of the van.

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City of Saints & Thieves 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
LittleFoxAndReads More than 1 year ago
This book was a big surprise. I knew I’d like it after reading the synopsis, but it was far more enjoyable than I expected. The writing is pretty darn good for a debut author and Tina is a protagonist that you’ll immediately fall in love with. She just felt so real and to top it all of: she’s badass. She has a quite intensity and she’s smart. Also, she’s a very talented thief of one of Sangui City’s gangs. Tina is Congolese, but she and her mother came to Kenya as refugees. Her mother never mentions their past life and Tina has no idea who her mother really is. Because of that their relationship is a bit strained. When her mother is murdered, Tina sets out to find the killer and exact revenge. I would say that this book has two parts. The first half is set in Kenya where Tina is working for the Goondas (thief gang) while setting her plan of revenge in motion. The second half mostly takes place in Congo, Tina’s home country, where she delves into her mother’s past in hopes of finding the killer and their motive. The author did a good job with the setting; the cities and villages were depicted in rich detail and the perfect amount of tension is invoked when needed, which made her writing almost atmospheric. I liked all the side characters are interesting; they’re all complex and intriguing. There are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters. The synopsis doesn’t even begin to describe what this book is about. Things go unexpectedly dark later on. It goes deep into crime and corruption that is the reality of many African countries, and the harsh lives of women caught in the midst. Overall, an intense and fast-paced read that kept me on edge throughout. The fact that it was set in Kenya and the amazing set of POC characters won me over from the beginning, and the mystery kept me latched on to the pages till the very end. An easy 5-star for me. TRIGGER WARNINGS : • Kidnap and Rape
Shawscribbles More than 1 year ago
I loved this book primarily because it was SO different from other young adult books on the market. Tina is an intriguing character. She's tough but sensitive and she's been through hell. It is easy to root for her success in her desire to avenge her mother's death (and to believe she can actually pull it off). Anderson transports the reader to a variety of settings from the streets of Kenya to the Congo. Tina leads us on a thrilling adventure that will have you biting your nails and questioning whether she really knows what the truth of her story is. The book ends with a finale worthy of Hollywood. Highly recommend - a must read!
Aditi-ATWAMB More than 1 year ago
If I could describe City of Saints and Thieves in one word, if would be haunting. Set in Africa, this book captures the raw, honest and pained voice of a teenage refugee planning her revenge for her mother’s murder so perfectly, it’ll leave you stunned and desperate for more. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even EXPECT to love this book so much – the powerful voice, the backdrop and the plot ensnared me and left me wanting either a sequel, 200 extra pages in the book or ANYTHING else that the lovely Natalie Anderson writes. Let’s go more into detail: WRITING: Like I said above, the writing in this book was EXCEPTIONAL. Natalie Anderson managed to create the pain and determination in one teenage refugee’s voice so perfectly, that I could feel it through the page, all the way in India. I’ve never read a good book set in Africa before, much less one from a refugee’s POV but HOLY CRAP did this book do a good job of everything it took on. IDEA: As I found out in the end of the book, the author worked with refugees in Kenya first hand, making her well-equipped people to tell the world their stories. I loved the revenge and mystery tied up in this book, stark against in’s authentically African background – all the way from Sangui to the villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I loved that this book was a murder mystery that also managed to capture the violence and war of the place it was set in, making them both equally important. PLOT: While the idea for the book was good, the execution was even better. Just as I started feeling annoyed that Tina was stuck in the same place in Sangui, Natalie Anderson upped and moved the book to a whole different atmosphere and I loved it. The plot, especially how Tina unravels her mother’s secrets is SO GORGEOUSLY done. She’s this headstrong character finding out that she didn’t know some of the most important things about the woman who brought her into this world and the journey I took with her was absolutely heart-breaking. The only think that I felt could have been better was the ending. City of Saints and Thieves ended in this guns blazing thing that felt like something straight out of a third rate action movie. The rest of the book had me on the edge of my seat, unsure about what would happen but as soon as the guns came out and the helicopter, I knew the ending from a mile away. CHARACTERS: If I haven’t praised Tina enough already, I absolutely HAVE to say that I LOVED HER SO MUCH. Her voice was so powerful, it was one of the first things I noticed about this book. She was in pain and yet so strong and trust me, if you read this book you’ll fall in love with her too. I really liked Boyboy and Michael too. They were awesome sidekicks, but I find myself wishing that the three of them were equals and not sidekicks to Tina. They did have some great qualities, they were just drowned out by Tina’s light. CONCLUSION: Obviously, if the FIVE star rating didn’t already tell you, THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I honestly expected to like it, but not fall in love with it as much as I am right now. A wonderful, truthful and powerful book that you simply shouldn’t miss if you call yourself a reader.
sheltisebastian More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story. I love you Tina!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting and satisfying young adult murder mystery. Good female lead character.
silverfox518 More than 1 year ago
This was basically a perfect book for me. I loved it. I enjoyed the action and adventure, the credible characters, the fast paced plot, and fictional Sangui City. I could feel this book as I was reading it. I could see everything happening so clearly. There was also a splash of romance in there for a little bite of "Awww" if you needed it. I was engaged til the very end and was sad when it did end because I wanted to read more. The upside was that the ending had a twist I didn't see coming. I appreciated that. Also, the book jacket was beautiful! One of the best I've seen in a while, and I really liked the raw edge pages too. Very cool. As for characters, Tina was a wonderfully complex, strong and inspiring heroine. I'd read more stories about her any day. My guilty pleasure was BoyBoy. He was TOO MUCH and I adored him! Additionally, I liked the fact that the author didn't shy away from the dark, difficult and brutal facets of war torn Africa. Life isn't a fairy tale and all stories shouldn't be told as one. In conclusion, I will eagerly await for the movie to come out :) I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves to read books about great adventures and thrilling suspense in foreign lands comprised of dynamic and strong characters. READ THIS BOOK!
MsArdychan More than 1 year ago
An Action-packed mystery that kept me guessing! When I first received this book from the Random House First In Line program, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read a murder mystery. I hadn't read that many mysteries before, but I have just now started to read quite a few of them, so I gave it a go. I am so appreciative that I did. This book was entertaining, scary, and took me to a world I knew nothing about. What I Liked: Setting: This book is set in the countries of Kenya, and Congo, Africa. Sadly, I really don't know enough about this part of the world beyond the fact that there is unimaginable suffering there due to never ending wars. The author clearly knew this place well and was able to convey not only the desperation of certain parts, but also the immense beauty. She captures what is obvious, that in every place there are 1000 little dramas going every day. Real people populate these countries with a plethora of experiences. The book alternates between the privileged enclaves of business executives in Kenya, to the rough streets of Sangui City, to the lush countryside of Congo. Each place was brought to life with vivid details. Characters: The main characters, Tina and Michael, are from different social groups. Tina's mother was a servant in Michael's household, where the two of them became childhood friends. This all changed with the murder of Tina's mother, and the realization (as they became teens) that Michael's Dad and Tina's Mom were lovers. I love how resilient Tina is and how she never gives up. She has to think on her feet in order to survive now as an orphan. But she is not perfect. She has embraced an idea that Michael's dad murdered her mom, and she has nurtured her revenge for years. But could she be wrong? Also, she underestimates people and doesn't question their motives until it is too late. She also writes Michael off as a spoiled rich kid. Michael certainly lives in a bubble, but he is also a conflicted character struggling with how to reconcile his privilege with what his father may be doing illegally. Did Michael's dad kill Tina's mom to keep her quiet? Michael must uncover the truth. The adult characters mostly acted in their own self interest. With the exception of a nun, there really weren't any adults who were trustworthy in this book. However depressing this was, these characters were presented as complicated individuals who each had questionable moral compasses guiding their actions. Given how difficult life can be, can we really judge them? In regards to how they affected the kids in the story I vacillated between outrage and acceptance. Story: The mystery of who killed Tina's mother (and why) is wonderfully complex. One of the reasons I usually do not read mystery books is because often it is either too easy to figure out who did it, or it is wildly too hard. This book had the right mix of presenting the clues and keeping me guessing. What I Was Mixed About: Triggers: I will say that sometimes this book was difficult to read, given what I do know of what women experience in war-torn nations. I worried that female characters would be raped in the story. I cared about Tina so much, I didn't want anything bad to happen to her! While there were references to sexual violence, the details were not so vivid that I got nightmares. But some people who have triggers for sexual violence, may want to steer clear of this book.
Reading_With_Cupcakes More than 1 year ago
City of Saints & Thieves is definitely not one of those books that I tend to gravitate to normally, but that is a good thing! This year I told myself that I would do my best at reading more diversely and this book is definitely assisting me with that goal! This story takes place in Kenya. Our main character is Tina aka Little Girl. Tina is a member of the local gang called the Goonda's. She steals things for them. And I don't mean she just pick pockets people on the street, she breaks into highly fortified locations that should be next to impossible to get into. Of course, she doesn't do the jobs alone. She has a team behind her being her eyes and ears. BoyBoy who is not a Goonda handles all the technology stuff and hacks into things when Tina needs him to. Bug Eye is the guy in charge. And there is Ketchup. He is...well he is Ketchup. Tina doesn't really trust him, but he comes in handy as extra back up on jobs. However, Tina's life was not always this way. Tina and her mother were refugees from Congo. Her mother found a place to work with a well to do family in a rich neighborhood. Her mother eventually had another daughter, whose father just happened to be the man that Tina's mother worked for. But over all, everything seemed to be going well for them and life was more or less just fine and dandy. Until Tina's mother was murdered. Tina, being pretty sure she knew who murdered her mother, took her sister and ran. She got her sister set up with the Nuns and in school with them and then took off. She never strayed far from her sister though, she felt she owed it to her mother to stick around and make sure that her sister was always safe and taken care of. It is during her time on the streets that she found her way into the Goonda's and her calling as a thief. There is no better motivation to become one of the best thieves out there if it means you can have revenge on your mothers murderer after all. And it is when she breaks into the house that her mother used to work at, where she used to live, that this story starts. It really does start off with quite a bang. Pulling you directly into the story. Action right from the get go. I really appreciated the characters too. Especially Tina. Often times we don't truly get a strong female lead, but here in City of Saints & Thieves we do. She is not one for apologizing and stepping aside. She is the kind of girl that is going to fight for what she needs/wants/believes in. And it is quite refreshing to have a character like this. Also, while some of the locations of the story are made up, I believe we are still getting a glimpse as to what life is really like for those in Kenya, especially refugees. I know not all end up in gangs etc...but I do think this book is allowing those of us who have never had the chance to go to places that these locations are influenced by to see what life can be like there. Does it tell me everything I should know about Kenya and the hardships they face? Does it tell me everything I need to know about the refugees from Congo? No, it does not. But it does give us readers a glimpse though, and what we choose to do with the glimpse is up to us. City of Saints & Thieves has strong characters and lots of intrigue and mystery. Definitely not one to miss. This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. Find more of my reviews her
Heather_Maclean More than 1 year ago
What a brilliant book! I was hooked from the first page. There is so much to love about this book starting with the MC: an orphaned refugee girl who fled the Congo for a bustling city in Kenya. Christina "Tiny Girl" is fierce, vulnerable, determined, conflicted, and beautifully written. It's easy to climb into her skin, no matter who you are as a reader, which is the point of great fiction. While the book is marketed as "Gone Girl" meets "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (which, to be honest, had me bracing for violent and sexually graphic scenes that thankfully never materialized), and there is a murder mystery at the heart of it, I found CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES reminded me more of "Sold" by Patricia McCormick, and "Forge" by Laurie Halse Anderson in that it was an exquisite journey into the mind and body of a teenager in a harrowing situation that is all too true but not often talked about. This should be required reading for American high schoolers. The book itself is so clever and so well-written, it was an absolute joy to read--even though it's about a really intense subject. An example of Anderson's lovely prose: "The sun hadn't yet cut through the haze, and the garden had milky edges. Iridescent sunbirds shoot through the mist, flinging themselves from flower to flower. I lean against the balcony railing for a minute, looking out, feeling the damp and chill of the night rising from the ground."* And: "They all have their own little monsters caged up inside them. Furies that urge them toward blood. Scaly, clawed things that were born in that moment when the world went so wrong that anything was possible."* As much as I think teens will love it, I think adults will too. It would be a perfect Oprah Book Club pick, and should scoop up every major book award this year. Finally, a huge hats off to the author for giving a voice to the voiceless. While not a refugee herself, Natalie C. Anderson spent a decade working with the United Nations on refugee relief and development in Africa. Thank you, Natalie, for your service and for sharing stories that need to be told. *quoted from an ARC