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Stalin's Ghost: An Arkady Renko Novel [Paperback]

Martin Cruz Smith
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 3 2008 Arkady Renko
Investigator Arkady Renko, the pariah of the Moscow prosecutor's office, has been assigned the thankless job of investigating a new phenomenon: late-night subway riders report seeing the ghost of Joseph Stalin on the platform of the Chistye Prudy Metro station. The illusion seems part political hocus-pocus and also part wishful thinking, for among many Russians Stalin is again popular; the bloody dictator can boast a two-to-one approval rating. Decidedly better than that of Renko, whose lover, Eva, has left him for Detective Nikolai Isakov, a charismatic veteran of the civil war in Chechnya, a hero of the far right and, Renko suspects, a killer for hire. The cases entwine, and Renko's quests become a personal inquiry fueled by jealousy.

The investigation leads to the fields of Tver outside of Moscow, where once a million soldiers fought. There, amidst the detritus, Renko must confront the ghost of his own father, a favorite general of Stalin's. In these barren fields, patriots and shady entrepreneurs -- the Red Diggers and Black Diggers -- collect the bones, weapons and personal effects of slain World War II soldiers, and find that even among the dead there are surprises.

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Stalin's Ghost: An Arkady Renko Novel + Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel + Wolves Eat Dogs
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From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
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?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SOVIET GHOSTS IN MODERN RUSSIA June 8 2008
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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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent reading March 24 2014
By xmitzi
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are not many books that hold your attention from start to last word.
Looking forward to my next Arkady Renko novel
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stalin' ghost Oct. 4 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A different detective novel set in Moscow, Russia; great decription of the Russian way of life in post the communism era; .a worthwhile read.
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