Stalin's Ghost is a real page turner. I could hardly put it down when my eyes grew heavy at 2 a.m. No one writes about Russia like Martin Cruz Smith, and in Stalin's Ghost you will see past, present, and future of that volatile country combined in a marvelously powerful way.
Arkady Renko is back in Moscow, but his life is at a low ebb. Renko's relationship with Eva (whom he met in Wolves Eat Dogs) is being destroyed as she's drawn into living with Detective Nikolai Isakov. Zhenya, Renko's surrogate son, has stopped coming home, and Renko can't find him. Prosecutor Zurin wants nothing to do with Renko: He has a terrible habit of investigating too much!
Matters take an unexpected turn, however, when Victor accidentally picks up a phone call at the police station from a woman who wants to hire a hit on her husband. Could it be that the police are committing crimes and then covering their tracks through a cursory investigation? Soon, Arkady and Victor are meeting with the prospective client and getting the job.
Out of nowhere, Zurin decides that Renko should take over the politically sensitive investigation of reported sightings of Josef Stalin in a subway station where he used to come during World War II air raids. On the way to the station, Renko stumbles on a building crew that finds a mass grave under Supreme Court. Where are all the bodies buried?
Renko is surprised to find that his sexual rival, Isakov, is also involved in investigating the Stalin sighting . . . but seems to be doing a poor job of it. Following up with Isakov, Renko also finds that other investigations are going peculiarly. What's the agenda here?Read more ›
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Martin Cruz Smith is to Russian psyche what James Clavell was to Far East ethos: a master author that is able to capture and masterfully convey the natives' perspective and an outsider's amazement at the same time.
From Soviet inefficiency and corruption, to the transitional plutocracy flaunting their stolen billions and political clout, and to present day totalitarian oligarchy struggling to consolidate its power, the Russian winter of discontent seems never to end. And in the middle of it all, good old Arkady.
The self-destructive and detached police investigator who knows not when to quit; who knows not how to play the political cards; who will take anything thrown at him; who never takes his eyes from the ball; and who will surprise every so often with his insight or luck, even he cannot be sure.
Soviet era ghosts stir up trouble in modern Russia. Stalin's apparitions seem to be visiting the Moscow Metro station that served as his underground bunker during WWII. Arkady will get stuck with the case of investigating the claims and its implications because of his father special relationship with the tovarich - and because he is expendable, not to mention a constant thorn in the side of his superiors. The way he drinks cheap vodka and brushes the wrong way with powerful underworld characters, he might believe so himself. But then again never underestimate the perceverence of the Russian desperation.
If new to the series, I would advise starting with GORKY PARK and work your way to this one: you will get a panorama of Russian society in the last 30 years. Nevertheless, STALIN's GHOST is a perfect standalone gem on itself.
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