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Book Review

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/goaa-thriving "magazine").

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Sixteen-year-old Christina, known as Tina to her family and Tiny Girl to the Goondas, her street gang, is a thief in the seaside town of Sangui City, Kenya. Tina and her mother, Anju, are refugees from Congo. Anju works as a maid for the family of a wealthy miner, Roland Greyhill. Anju and Tina live in a small cottage on the mansion’s grounds.

Soon after she starts working for the Greyhills, Anju begins an affair with Mr. Greyhill resulting in pregnancy and the birth of Tina’s sister, Kiki. One night, Tina sees Mr. Greyhill and Anju arguing in the garden. Mr. Greyhill threatens to kill Anju. Eight hours later, Anju is murdered in Greyhill’s office.

Tina is sure Mr. Greyhill killed her mother, and after the funeral, she takes Kiki and leaves the Greyhills’ home. Five years later, Kiki attends the local convent boarding school on scholarship, but Tina lives on the streets, plotting revenge against the man she believes is responsible for Anju’s death.

When she first joined the Goondas, Tina told the leader, Mr. Omoko, of her hatred for Mr. Greyhill. Mr. Omoko advises her that to get revenge, Tina should be patient and plan well. Tina, now a master thief with the Goondas, has devised an elaborate scheme to exact revenge. With the help of Goonda members Bug Eye, his brother Ketchup and hacker Boyboy, Tina plans to break into the Greyhill home and transmit the contents of Mr. Greyhill’s laptop to her partners. From the information found on the computer, Tina will expose Greyhill’s illegal dealings to the media and then hack Greyhill’s bank accounts and steal the money for the Goondas.

Tina successfully breaks into to Mr. Greyhill’s home, but Greyhill's teenage son, Michael, stops her and tries to convince her that his father did not kill Anju. Michael and Tina were childhood friends, and he asks her to give him time to prove his father’s innocence. He tells Tina that there is a secret camera in his father’s office that recorded Anju’s murder, but the footage was taken by the former head of security, Mwika, who now works for a security company in Congo. Tina desperately wants to see the footage, so she agrees.

Tina meets with a reporter, Donatien, Anju’s friend. Donatien tells Tina that Anju wanted to come forward with evidence that Mr. Greyhill’s company, Extracta, was buying gold from militias instead of digging for it. The militia trades gold that has been dug by slaves to mining companies for money and weapons.

Years ago, before Anju fled Congo with Tina, she arranged to meet Donatien and take him to a place in the jungle where the gold-for-guns deals were made. Instead, Donatien was beaten and stabbed in his hotel room. He didn’t hear from Anju for five years. She contacted him the day before she was murdered. Donatien won’t tell Tina how Anju knew about the deals or about the Kenyan man who made the deals. Donatien believes that Mr. Greyhill was the mastermind behind the deals.

Tina realizes she doesn’t know everything about Anju’s life prior to their coming to Sangui City. Despite Bug Eye warning her not to leave town, she decides to go back to Congo to find out more about her mother and try to find Mwika. The Goondas are a dangerous gang, and Tina knows she will be in trouble if she disobeys, but she goes anyway.

Tina reluctantly agrees to allow Boyboy and Michael to accompany her to Kasisi, her home village. They stay at a guesthouse attached to the mission hospital, the same hospital where Anju worked as a nurse. When Tina asks if anyone remembered her mother, the priests and the nuns who work there go silent. Later, one nun secretly meets Tina and tells her about her mother.

Anju and her cousin Catherine were nursing students at the mission hospital when the militia raided the facility and kidnapped them. For three months, Anju and Catherine were held prisoner, forced to work in the gold mines and repeatedly raped. When they escaped, Anju was pregnant and the villagers shunned Catherine. Not being able to get work or marry, Catherine turned to prostitution to support herself.

Years later, Anju met with reporter Donatien. When the militia found out, they came back for Anju and beat Donatien. Afterward, Anju took Tina and fled Congo.

Boyboy learns that Mwika was killed a few years before and hacks into the man’s old email and finds a copy of the video. It shows Anju in Mr. Greyhill’s office and a man entering through a secret tunnel. Anju argues with the man before he shoots her. While Tina can’t see the man’s face, he is African. The man leaves through the tunnel, and Mr. Greyhill comes in to find a dying Anju. He holds her in his arms until she dies. Tina is devastated and sickened to see the video, but now she knows that Mr. Greyhill, who is a white American, is not the killer.

Tina finds Catherine, who is very angry and protects her home with an assault rifle and dogs. At first, Catherine won’t speak to Tina about Anju, but Tina returns another day and they talk. After she and Anju were kidnapped, Catherine was repeatedly gang raped by different members of the militia; only the leader, a man called Number Two, raped Anju.

When the militia had a fight with another group of rebels, the girls escaped and returned to their village, but they were scorned and treated poorly. Anju was pregnant and was not allowed to be a nun, like she had dreamed, but she continued to work as a nurse. Catherine couldn’t be around the broken women in the hospital, so she tried to sell vegetables. When no one would buy from her, she turned to prostitution.

The militia kept coming back to the village and eventually killed Anju’s mother. Afterward, Anju began spying on the militia, and she agreed to meet with an investigative reporter from Sangui, Donatien. The militia found out and came back for Anju and Catherine, kidnapping and raping them again.

Tina, who was a 5 years old at the time, hid in the jungle for four days, until Anju escaped the militia and found her. They fled Congo, leaving Catherine in the militia camp. Since the rebels were only interested in Anju, they beat Catherine and left her in the forest. She later found that she was pregnant with her daughter, Ruth.

Tina now knows why her mother fled. She leaves Catherine’s home to find Michael and Boyboy, but she is captured by Ketchup, who the Goondas sent to retrieve her. Omoko, the Goonda leader, holds her captive in Congo and says he also has Boyboy and Michael. He holds Michael for ransom. Omoko plans to get the ransom money wired into his account. Then once the helicopter with Mr. Greyhill and Michael leaves, he will launch a missile to blow it up.

Omoko tells Tina that he was Mr. Greyhill’s second in command, Number Two. He tortured and raped Anju, and he is Tina’s father. Omoko was stealing from Greyhill, and Anju found out. When she escaped the militia, she took evidence with her. When she fled Congo, she sought out Mr. Greyhill and gave him the evidence in exchange for protection. Greyhill froze Omoko’s accounts, and the rebel had to start over, rebuilding his criminal empire through the Goonda gang.

Omoko paid off Mwika, who let him into the secret tunnel to Greyhill’s office where he shot Anju. Omoko knew all along that Tina was his daughter, and after she ran away from the Greyhills, he sent Bug Eye to find her. That is why Tina was trained to be a thief instead of being forced into prostitution like the other girls in the gang.

Tina refuses to help Omoko kill Greyhill, so he leaves her tied up with Boyboy. In Sangui City, Omoko also has Bug Eye hold Kiki as a hostage to keep Tina in line. Tina tries to convince Ketchup to untie her so she can pee, but he tries to rape her instead. Tina fights Ketchup and overpowers him. She frees Boyboy and sends him to get help and call Mr. Greyhill.

She finds Michael, but he is injured and cannot escape with her. She hides as Greyhill arrives in a helicopter. He and Omoko meet in a clearing to negotiate the ransom. Tina wants to shoot Omoko with a handgun she found. Before she can pull the trigger, she hears machine gun fire back at the militia camp. With the attention pulled away from the clearing, Tina shoots the man holding Michael. Others shoot, and Mr. Greyhill is shot in the leg. Tina goes into the clearing and considers shooting Omoko; Catherine shoots him first.

Afterward, Mr. Greyhill negotiates Kiki’s release and arranges for her to attend Swiss boarding school with Michael. Greyhill tells Kiki that while Anju was a prisoner, she stole documents proving that Omoko was stealing gold from him. She exchanged the evidence for a job working in the Greyhill mansion, protected by his gates and guards. Anju asked him to stop working with the militia. When Greyhill didn't, she threatened to go to the newspapers. He was angry and threatened her, but would never have harmed her because he loved her.

Mr. Greyhill tells Tina that his company is trying to do better by digging the gold on their own and finding new sites not controlled by the militia. Tina tells Greyhill that she will release the information from his hard drive if he doesn’t cut ties with the militia. He will also make a large donation to the mission hospital in Kasisi and fund whatever they may need.

Back in Sangui City, Tina kisses Michael and makes him promise to take care of Kiki in Switzerland. Mr. Greyhill also bought Tina’s way out of the Goonda gang, so she is free. Michael begs her to go with them to boarding school, but she decides to stay in Sangui City and work with Boyboy to hack the bank accounts of corrupt men and redistribute their wealth. She says goodbye to Kiki as her sister gets on the plane bound for Switzerland.

Christian Beliefs

After a nun is raped and tortured, she loses her faith and leaves the mission hospital. Another nun tells Tina that the nuns and priests who choose to stay and work at the hospital are good people who feel compelled by God to do the work they do. She also tells Tina that she will pray for God to stay with her, but sometimes she worries that He gave up on the area.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Anju loves Tina and makes sacrifices to keep her safe. Mr. Omoko rapes and tortures Anju, ultimately killing her. When Tina finds out that she is the product of rape and that her father killed her mother, she feels sick. Omoko knows Tina is his daughter and has her trained to fight and steal instead of becoming a gang prostitute. He tells her that she owes him everything and that she is just like him.

When Tina stays in the Greyhill home while Michael is trying to find Mwika, Ms. Greyhill is cold to her, but Mr. Greyhill is warm and welcoming. Tina thinks Kiki got a scholarship to the local convent boarding school but later finds out that Mr. Greyhill has been paying for her to attend. He knows where Kiki is but doesn’t visit or acknowledge her as his daughter. After Kiki is released from her kidnappers, Mr. Greyhill arranges her visa and sends her to a Swiss boarding school with Michael. Michael hears his parents arguing about allowing Kiki to be a part of their family.

Michael looks up to his father, but when Mr. Greyhill admits to buying gold from the militia and being in love with Anju, Michael is angry and disappointed. Catherine feels that after being kidnapped and gang raped a second time, her daughter Ruth is the only one who keeps her tethered to reality.

Father Fidele of the mission hospital helps Mr. Omoko capture Tina, Michael and Boyboy in exchange for relief from militia raids.


God is used in vain with Oh my and forbid. Profanity includes s---, a--, h--- and d--n. Name-calling includes b--ch, whore and b--tard.

Tina breaks into Mr. Greyhill’s office to steal information from his computer but is stopped by Michael at gunpoint. Tina watches security camera footage of her mother being killed. Mr. Greyhill admits to Tina that he had Mwika killed for his role in Anju’s death. He tried to have Omoko killed as well, but was unsuccessful.

At the hospital, Tina sees women who are victims of militia torture and rape. These women have been physically and emotionally abused, and in some cases, they are mentally broken.

Catherine tells of the horror she and Anju endured at the hands of the militia. In the daytime, they were forced to mine for gold, and at night they were repeatedly raped. A kidnapped woman tried to run and was shot in the head. Another woman purposely drank poisoned water and died of a fever.

The Goondas force the girls who join the gang to work as prostitutes. While Tina’s hands are bound, Ketchup pulls down her jeans, leaving her naked from the waist down. He brutally attempts to rape her. She headbutts him and grabs a rock. With it, she knocks him unconscious.

There is a shootout during the ransom negotiations, and several people are shot, injured or killed. Tina has the chance to kill Omoko but decides against it. Catherine shoots him instead.


Girls work as prostitutes in the streets of Sangui City. Women recount being repeatedly gang raped by men and boys. Tina and Catherine’s daughter, Ruth, are products of rape. Catherine is forced to work as a prostitute as a source of income. When Tina gets into a lorry, the driver gets close enough to rub himself against Tina’s leg. Tina is kidnapped, attacked and almost raped by her captor.

Tina and Michael kiss. Mr. Greyhill admits that he fell in love with Anju while she was a maid living on his property, despite being married and having two children. Boyboy is teased for being gay and dressing in very flamboyant clothes.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Several characters drink alcohol.

Lying: Michael lies to his parents about Tina’s sudden reappearance in their home and where he is going when he travels with her to Congo.

Saints: Anju carries a prayer card of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a woman who wouldn’t have sex with a king. He punished her by putting her on a breaking wheel, a torture device, and had her beaten with sticks. Catherine was holy and when she touched the wheel, it broke, so the king beheaded her instead. Anju prays to Saint Catherine to help her break the wheel. Anju points out to Tina that even though Catherine died, she was never broken.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

15 and up


Natalie C. Anderson






Record Label



G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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