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Havana Bay: A Novel [Paperback]

Martin Cruz Smith
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 20 2008 William Monk
When the corpse of a Russian is hauled from the oily waters of Havana Bay, Arkady Renko comes to Cuba to identify the body. Looking for the killer, he discovers a city of faded loneliness, unexpected danger, and bewildering contradictions. His investigation introduces him to a beautiful Cuban policewoman; to the rituals of Santeria; to an American fugitive and a group of ruthless mercenaries. In this place where all things Russian are despised, where Hemingway fished and the KGB flourished, where the hint of music is always in the air, Arkady finds a trail of deceit that reaches halfway around the world–and a reason to relish his own life again.


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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 the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Arkady Renko is back, too, but far from Gorky Park. He's investigating the death of a Russian embassy worker in Cuba.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Havana Bay July 24 2003
By H. Row
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The most recent (fourth) in the Inspector Arkady Renko series in Martin Cruz Smith's top notch series of "Russian" mysteries. We can only hope Smith will come up with more Renko mysteries. Since he is one of the most interesting protagonists in fiction today. Unfortunately Smith only writes a book on average of every FIVE years).
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!
John Row
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Format:Paperback
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. Waves of mafia which came and went...supposedly; Russians who came and went: again, supposedly; exiles, who have never really left Cuba; Cubans who never left the island, who desperately want to go into exile; and then the straightforward Cuban nationals and patriots...

In fact, to the perennial question of who Fidel Castro really is, this book, if considered carefully, can be read as depicting him as some other, more overtly analytical, writers have also done: as a straightforward nationalist.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gone Fishing... May 9 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Martin Cruz Smith is a former journalist and magazine editor. "Havana Bay" is his fourth novel - after "Gorky Park", "Polar Star" and "Red Square" - to feature Arkady Renko and was first published in 1999.

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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Arkady Renko Tale March 27 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. As usual, he gets knocked around a bit, unravels complicated conspiracies, bumps into interesting women, and utters some precious self-deprecating one liners. Readers will also learn more about the fate of his truest love, Irina. A great addition to the Renko series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Plot, even better descriptions of Havana Jan. 4 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Martin Cruz Smith writes his fourth installment of Arkaday Renko, the character introduced in his first novel, Gorky Park. While it is not necessary to have read any of Cruz Smith's former books, those who have will be familiar with Renko. While perhaps not as gripping and fresh as Gorky Park, Havana Bay is a captivating read, both in that the murder/plot unfolds with each new scene/chapter and also for the peeling back of further layers for the reader about information about Cuba, Havana and the history of each. Cruz Smith's descriptions of events and landmarks in Havana are enticingly vivid and his descriptions of Cuban people instill images of what these individuals would actually be like in your head. I had always been interested in Cuba, but even if you hadn't been in the past, you will be now. Havana Bay is a quick, exciting read with enough of an unfolding plot and rich, lush descriptive scenery that readers should finish it wanting more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Havana Bay weaves a spellbinding tale ... Aug. 22 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
... 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 from the open Bay and the sweaty air of the close quarters in Havana, in your soul the characters' pains from the circumstances in which they find themselves, and in your mind the belief that you too are under the ever-present, watchful eye of the Bearded One as you follow each character through the Cuban venues so vividly illustrated by the author's words.
This story starves you to read or re-read the author's other works that allow you to follow the steps of Arkady Renko.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring, so boring....
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 more
Published on Nov. 24 2011 by Pat the cat
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of a let down
Perhaps, Mister Smith has become too comfortable with Arkady Renko. I guess I was expecting Gorky Park in Havanna. It just never happened. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2003 by A Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Unity of action, setting, and mood in Havana
Russian detective Arkady Renko of Gorky Park fame returns in this novel to investigate the murder of a fellow countryman in Havana. Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2003 by Gringo Ric
4.0 out of 5 stars Great characters & setting, weak plot
The fourth Arkady Renko book (following Gorky Park, Polar Star, and Red Square), takes the dour Russian police detective to a struggling and tattered Havana. Read more
Published on July 15 2002 by A. Ross
4.0 out of 5 stars Still a Good Book
I really think this series is this authors best story line and set of characters. When I read some of this other books, I just do not get into the story as much as I do with... Read more
Published on April 10 2002 by John G. Hilliard
5.0 out of 5 stars best Renko novel since Gorky Park
Havana Bay is an excellent novel. Arkady is called down to Cuba to identify the corpse of KGB colonel Pribulda, his would-be executioner turned friend. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2002 by "kellyke"
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, but I'd come back for more
Like many, I was captivated by Gorky Park, which I read on it's first edition all those years ago. I waited for anxiously, and enjoyed, Polar Star. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2002 by Eric E. Weinraub
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