Havana Bay: A Novel Paperback – May 20 2008
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In this fourth book in Martin Cruz Smith's splendid series, an amiable Irish American gangster explains to Arkady Renko what he and the other 84 wanted Americans hiding out in Cuba do with themselves. "We try to stay alive. Useful. Tell me, Arkady, what are you doing here?" "The same," says Renko--and it's true. His life as a Russian cop has become so bleak and lonely that he takes any opportunity to shake things up, even spending his own savings to fly to Havana when an old colleague is found dead--floating inside an inner tube after night-fishing in Havana Bay. Renko sets out to make himself useful in this shabby, fascinating, haunted country whose inhabitants look on Russians with the cold disdain of survivors of a nasty divorce.
As he did so well in Gorky Park, Smith again makes Renko very much a classic Russian hero in temperament and tradition, but also the eternal outsider. He is at times close to the edge of despair--but his trip to Havana restores his natural curiosity and life force.
In this hot Havana, ripe with the fruity smell of sex, Renko keeps his Moscow overcoat on--until an equally idealistic and out-of-place young female cop gets him to loosen up. There's an unusually complex plot, even for the sly strand-spinner Smith. He raises baffling questions: Why would a group of military plotters order illegal lobsters in a fancy restaurant and then not eat them? And his descriptions of Cuban life are dead-on, reminding us on every page what a superb stylist he is. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Arkady Renko, perhaps Russia's last honest policeman, has arrived in Cuba to look into the death of a colleague. Opening on a corpse scene so gruesome that Virginia's Kay Scarpetta might get the willies, the plot quickly submerges into a surreal cauldron of dark beliefs, Cuban patriotism, and American wheeling and dealing. Where in Polar Star (Random, 1989) Smith explored the coldest regions, here he glories in the Caribbean riot of sensual heat and light. There are cameo characters who capture Fidel's Cuba while Arkady struggles with the elemental challenges of survival and discovery. This novel illuminates the dark corners of a sunny Havana and deftly portrays a society trapped in a Soviet legacy of deprivation and control. Smith writes incomparably well while willing the reader to reach for understanding of the human passions he describes. Every library will soon have a long waiting list for this spectacular new book. [A BOMC main selection; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/99.]ABarbara Conaty, Library of Congres.
-ABarbara Conaty, Library of Congress
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Many writers today find a successful formula and stick to it... over and over. The only thing the same from Martin Cruz Smith's works are their high level of excitement, interesting characters and plot development. Havana Bay lives up to Smith's past work. What he does best is gives the reader an insiders' view of a society totally different than what the audience is used to. Whether it be Cuba in this novel, Japan in December 4th: A Novel, or the Soviet Union in Gorky Park, with his characters on the verge of an exciting adventure for the reader to be a part of.
Another fun read from Smith. I enjoy Smith's books!
Renko, the hero, works as an Investigator with Moscow's militia - more or less the standard police force - and has something of a chequered career. Never a truly 'practising' member of the Party, Renko hasn't always been thought highly of by those in authority. He has always wanted to catch the people responsible for the crimes he's investigating, regardless of the 'political' consequences - as a result of this, he was once dismissed from the Party for a lack of 'political reliability' and sentenced to a life in Siberia. He has been rehabilitated for several years now, though he always remained something of a disappointment to his father - a very famous ex-General. His father has been dead for some time, though Arkady has recently lost his wife, Irina.
While Renko has been abroad before, "Havana Bay" sees him operating entirely outside the Russian sphere of influence. Having received a mysterious unsigned fax, he's in Havana - apparently to identify a body the Cuban authorities believe to be an old friend of his : ex-KGB Colonel, Sergei Pribluda. Pribluda had been in the Cuban capital for eleven months working as an attache to the Russian Embassy. He had been missing for around a week, until - it would appear - the discovery of a body found floating in Havana Bay. While certain characteristics match up - dental records, for example - Renko isn't entirely convinced : the body has decompsoed to such a point that it's lacking a face and fingerprints.Read more ›
Grim Renko is the ultimate fish out of water in a Cuba where Russians are despised as back-stabbing former allies and betrayers of the revolution. One the book's most enjoyable aspects is watching Renko poke around with virtually no resources at his disposal. With no authority, no Spanish, and only the most tenuous of allies, he starts looking into his friend's death, galvanized by an unprovoked attempt on his own life. As he negotiates a city struggling to exist under the US embargo without Russian aid, he discovers a civil society, government bureaucracy, and economy constantly on the brink of failure. Eventually he is helped by a female police officer who, in a society where everyone must run some kind of illegal scam to bring in enough money to live on, has idealistic and unshakable ideas about justice. Of course, their pairing up is as cheezy as it is inevitable, but that's a minor flaw compared to the confusing plot the characters are run through.
As the book wears on, Renko starts stumbling into a rather massive and ridiculous conspiracy.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is a complicated book, and you have to pay attention or you can get lost, or at least I did more than once, and had to go back chapters. Read morePublished 29 days ago by John Cowan
I could do without the over the top descriptions of violent deaths but everything else is what I like and expect from Cruz Smith.Published 15 months ago by Marta
It's the first Martin Cruz Smith book that I read and it will be my last.... I've been trying to get through this books for weeks now and I just can't do it. It's so boring. Read morePublished on Nov. 24 2011 by Pat the cat
The novel is set in Havana, ostensibly's Castro's Havana...but the author skilfully weaves various layers of cultural and historical influences into the background of the book. Read morePublished on May 17 2010 by M. J. Fenn
The fourth in Smith's intelligent series about Moscow detective Arkady Renko is set in Cuba. Renko's ennui brings him to Havana to look into the death of an old friend. Read morePublished on March 27 2004 by Richard R
Martin Cruz Smith writes his fourth installment of Arkaday Renko, the character introduced in his first novel, Gorky Park. Read morePublished on Jan. 4 2004 by Peter R. Fischer
... that challenges your willpower to put the book down at the end of the day.
A solid read written in such a manner that you can feel on your skin the soft breezes coming... Read more
Perhaps, Mister Smith has become too comfortable with Arkady Renko. I guess I was expecting Gorky Park in Havanna. It just never happened. Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2003 by A Customer