Martin Cruz Smith's work continues to transcend the mystery genre into social commentary on the state of Russia and the Ukraine in this unusual and unexpected story about politics, nuclear science and the rise of the new Russian capitalists. As usual, our "neutral" observer is investigator Arkady Renko who continues on his lonely path seeking truth while others prefer lies.
As the book opens, a billionaire, Pasha Ivanov, is found dead at the base of his condo's building. Did he jump . . . or was he pushed? Those are the main choices for Arkady . . . until he's ordered off the case.
But Arkady's not satisfied that it's a suicide. Why was Ivanov's closet full of salt?
Winning a reprieve for his investigation from an unexpected source, Arkady finds himself in the middle of the "dead" zone near the site of the Chernobyl (spelled as Chornobyl by those in the Ukraine) disaster. You'll feel like your visiting a world imagined by Dante as you follow his slow "investigation."
The resolution of the story's plot will leave you shaking your head a bit . . . but you will find the trip to be an intriguing one that's well worth your time.
I was especially fascinated by the psychology described for those who lived through the aftermath of the nuclear disaster and continue to live in the vicinity. It's gritty material that will remind you of stories you've read about surviving in tough prisons and concentration camps. The story will unforgettably drive home the message that we'd better take care of the environment.