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Starred Review. Moscow-based Senior Investigator Arkady Renko, in his outstanding sixth outing (after Wolves Eat Dogs), investigates a murder-for-hire scheme that leads him to suspect two fellow police detectives, Nikolai Isakov and Marat Urman, both former members of Russia's elite Black Berets, who served in Chechnya. Isakov, a war hero, is now running for public office. Renko must also look into reports that the ghost of Stalin has begun appearing on subway platforms and why several bodies of Black Berets who served in Chechnya with Isakov have turned up in the morgue. Despite repeated threats to his life, Renko stubbornly perseveres, seeking justice in a land that has no official notion of that concept. Smith eschews vertiginous twists and surprises, concentrating instead on Renko as he slowly and patiently builds his case until the pieces fall together and he has again, if not exactly triumphed, at least survived. This masterful suspense novel casts a searing light on contemporary Russia. 250,000 first printing. (June)
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*Starred Review* At the end of Wolves Eat Dogs (2005), it looked like Arkady Renko, the browbeaten Russian cop perpetually caught in the backdraft of history, had emerged from grayed-out Chernobyl with an uncontaminated shred of hope--a new relationship, perhaps even a reason for living. By the time we pick up the story, however, Renko is back in Moscow, the relationship is splintering, the teenager he had unofficially adopted is living on the streets, and his career is once again on the scrap heap. So it's only natural that the odd man out would land the case nobody wants: investigating the purported sightings of Joseph Stalin's ghost at a Moscow subway station. It's clear that the Stalin scam is being used by reactionaries as a way of fanning the "good old days" movement, but raining on the parade of a bunch of aging WWII vets reliving old glory has lose-lose all over it. Then Renko catches the scent of a bigger story behind Stalin's ghost--war crimes committed by the reactionaries' golden-boy politician--and follows it to remote Tver, where Smith unveils another of his unforgettable set pieces: the search for and exhumation of Russian soldiers massacred on the eastern front. From Gorky Park (1981) onward, this series has always been about the perils of digging: whether it's bodies under the snow or radioactive facts that the powerful want to keep hidden, the treasures that Renko seeks always contain the seeds of his own destruction. But somehow digging his own grave is what keeps Renko alive--and keeps us reading. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
There are not many books that hold your attention from start to last word.
Looking forward to my next Arkady Renko novel