Wednesday, February 09, 2011
The mystery is a little muddier – what, exactly, is Renko investigating? The reported appearance of the ghost of Joseph Stalin at a Moscow subway station? Potential corruption in the OMON (the Russian Special Police)? The origins and victims of a World War II-era mass grave in the Russian city of Tver? Pretty much all of it, it seems; Renko is not one to shy away from a challenge. Smith also presents us with an extremely unflattering portrait of modern Russia, complete with its enormous income gap, and peopled by gamblers, alcoholics, motorcycle gangs, runaways and knife-wielding thugs. It’s endlessly fascinating, though occasionally a little over the top for me.
I have been following Arkady Renko’s career since his earliest days as a homicide investigator in Soviet-era Moscow, in Smith’s first book Gorky Park. He’s one of my all time favorite detectives. He’s getting older now, and smokes too many cigarettes and drinks too much vodka, which seems to be the fate of everyone else in Russia, too, if you believe Smith’s portrayal.
(Book 4, 2011)