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Havana Bay: A Novel Paperback – May 20 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 99 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (May 20 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345502981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345502988
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 99 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #19,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Arkady Renko, perhaps Russia's last honest policeman, has arrived in Cuba to look into the death of a colleague. Opening on a corpse scene so gruesome that Virginia's Kay Scarpetta might get the willies, the plot quickly submerges into a surreal cauldron of dark beliefs, Cuban patriotism, and American wheeling and dealing. Where in Polar Star (Random, 1989) Smith explored the coldest regions, here he glories in the Caribbean riot of sensual heat and light. There are cameo characters who capture Fidel's Cuba while Arkady struggles with the elemental challenges of survival and discovery. This novel illuminates the dark corners of a sunny Havana and deftly portrays a society trapped in a Soviet legacy of deprivation and control. Smith writes incomparably well while willing the reader to reach for understanding of the human passions he describes. Every library will soon have a long waiting list for this spectacular new book. [A BOMC main selection; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/99.]ABarbara Conaty, Library of Congres.
-ABarbara Conaty, Library of Congress
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

Top Customer Reviews

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: 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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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. On the heels of his lover's accidental death, he receives a telegram warning him that an old friend posted to the Russian embassy in Havana is in danger. After paying for his own ticket and flying halfway around the world, he arrives in time to watch his friend's decomposing body being pulled from the bay. The story that ensues is an extremely convoluted thriller, more enjoyable for its portrait of modern Cuba than for its weak plot.
Grim Renko is the ultimate fish out of water in a Cuba where Russians are despised as back-stabbing former allies and betrayers of the revolution. One the book's most enjoyable aspects is watching Renko poke around with virtually no resources at his disposal. With no authority, no Spanish, and only the most tenuous of allies, he starts looking into his friend's death, galvanized by an unprovoked attempt on his own life. As he negotiates a city struggling to exist under the US embargo without Russian aid, he discovers a civil society, government bureaucracy, and economy constantly on the brink of failure. Eventually he is helped by a female police officer who, in a society where everyone must run some kind of illegal scam to bring in enough money to live on, has idealistic and unshakable ideas about justice. Of course, their pairing up is as cheezy as it is inevitable, but that's a minor flaw compared to the confusing plot the characters are run through.
As the book wears on, Renko starts stumbling into a rather massive and ridiculous conspiracy.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 Arkady. He again creates this dark, brooding lead character that you believe in, even though it seems to be the central casting type for these type of parts. I was concerned that this book took this character, that I know so well, out of Russia - would the author be able to create that overall sense of foreboding that he does so well in Russia? I think so, at least he made the parts of Cuba that may resemble Russia stand out. Overall the story is a good one, with the normal relationship sub plots for Arkady. The mystery holds up to the end and the book has a decent pace. I do think it is not as good as the other three, he is trying to move the story along and that is the difficult part - - we all love aspects of the original Gorky Park and the further the author gets away from that book, the more he has to change to keep the stories somewhat fresh. I think this 4th book was the biggest step, the first three were very close to each other, almost additional chapters to the original work. It is a difficult balance and I think we will really not be able to tell if it is working until the 5th one of the series.
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