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Book review: 'City of Saints & Thieves' is a dynamite novel melding refugees and murder

Posted March 14

"CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES," by Natalie C. Anderson, Putnam, $18.99, 411 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

When Tina, her sister Kiki and their mother fled the dangerous country of Congo for the safer Kenya, they thought they had left their troubles behind in “City of Saints & Thieves.” But then Tina’s mother is murdered and, despite assurances from the Kenyan police of the impossibility of locating the perpetrator, Tina is certain she knows who the true killer is.

Bent on revenge, Tina joins the dangerous Goonda gang and becomes adept in the art of thievery. With a group she can count on, Tina and her gang undergo a plot to take down the man who shredded her family. But the plan she thought was foolproof goes awry when Tina is caught.

Now, faced with memories she thought had been long ago forgotten, Tina is forced to team up with a boy from her past. As they begin to unravel the mystery of the killing of Tina’s mother, they become faced with a deeper and more sinister plot. The more she learns, the more Tina begins to wonder if the man she’s always held responsible is the actual killer or if someone else, with a deadlier motive, could have taken the life of one she held so dear.

Breakout author Natalie C. Anderson has written an astounding novel about family ties, true friends and the deeply haunting realities behind the lives of refugees. Her vivid descriptions of Kenya and Congo bloom with life, and her mastery of human nature make the characters and plot of “City of Saints & Thieves” one that will not long be forgotten.

“City of Saints & Thieves” has a few Swahili crudities and profanities. Because this story deals with violence endured by women and gangs, there are some violent scenes, but these instances are dealt with cleanly and without a lot of gruesome detail. Romance is limited to a brief kiss.

Anderson has spent 10 years working with refugees via nongovernmental organizations and the U.N. She has a master's degree from the University of Oxford and lives with her husband in Switzerland, North Carolina and Kenya. “City of Saints & Thieves” is her debut novel.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. A wife and mother, she loves learning people's love stories and blogs about her own at agoodreid.blogspot.com.

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