Martin Cruz Smith


"Cruz Smith weaves such wonderful words and brings to the fore Arkady’s fascination with a woman he never met but whom he comes to admire through her tape recordings."


It all starts with a funeral. Not anybody Arkady mourns – in fact, he is pleased to see the back of the person lying in the coffin. His name was Grisha Grigorenko and he was a bad man. He was revered, feared and ultimately assassinated. And now his son, Alexi is muscling in on his father's business with an unseemly rapidity.

After the funeral, Arkady becomes embroiled in an organised protest. An investigative journalist has been thrown off her apartment balcony. Now her body is missing from the morgue and Arkady Renko becomes determined that her body and the manner of her death must not be brushed under the carpet. The verdict was suicide but Arkady believes there is more to Tatiana's death that needs to be explained. Soon, a notepad full of symbols drops in to Arkady's hands, notes on a very important meeting that need to be translated. But the translator who wrote them has been found dead on a beach in Kaliningrad, shot.

Arkady decides that answers lie in Kaliningrad where Tatiana's only surviving family member: her sister, lives. It is during his time in Kaliningrad that everything starts to unravel.

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I loved 'Gorky Park' and was looking forward to meeting Arkady Renko after too long. It is wonderful to read such sublime writing from a master of his craft. With short, sharp sentences Cruz Smith paints a stark portrait of a Russia which is constantly standing against those who feel they have the right to take away the rights of others. The murder of the investigative journalist, Tatiana has echoes of Anna Politkovskaya who was murdered in the lift of her apartment block. Cruz Smith weaves such wonderful words and brings to the fore Arkady's fascination with a woman he never met but whom he comes to admire through her tape recordings. Smith perfectly shows Arkady's admiration for this woman and his stirring love for her as she reaches deep in to Arkady's soul through these recordings has to be one of the most moving pieces of writing I have read in a very long time. I was loving this novel and enjoying the leisurely pace until the investigation moves to Kaliningrad and then everything appeared to fall to pieces. As the novel progresses the writing seems to simplify as if the author had used all his creative juices to deliver the first hundred pages. After that the novel descends in to 'thriller' mode. Arkady is shot at so many times and comes back for more that you wonder if he is superhuman. I got the sense that despite such a sublime beginning that the author did not know which direction to take. Unfortunately, the path taken wasn't the best and even the ending and the deciphering of the notepad lead to a bit of an anti-climax. It is a shame that a book that stirred so much emotion in me could falter and fall so rapidly. For any wanting to experience this authors work, I would suggest starting with 'Gorky Park'.

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