Stalin's Ghost: An Arkady Renko Novel
Martin Cruz Smith
Simon & Schuster, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
eaders have enthusiastically followed cynical investigator Arkady Renko's trials, tribulations and stubborn determination from
Wolves Eat Dogs
continues from the latter in a modern Moscow dominated by the Russian Mafia and rife with police corruption - the latter personified in Senior Investigator Renko's boss, Prosecutor Zurin.
Wolves Eat Dogs
, Arkady grew close to prickly physician Eva Kazka in the radioactive environs of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. He also unofficially adopted young Zhenya, a lost, traumatized boy - and a chess genius - searching for his father. Now both Eva and Zhenya share Arkady's rooms in Moscow, but Zhenya keeps running away and getting into trouble with a street gang, while Eva seems to be having an affair with one of Renko's colleagues, Nikolai Isakov. The latter is a Chechnya war hero, who's now running for office with the
, with the support of his tough partner Marat Urman. Both were members of Russia's elite Black Berets.
o complete Renko's misery, Zurin has assigned him to investigate sightings of Stalin's ghost on Moscow's underground system. At the same time, he and his alcoholic partner Victor are investigating a killing for hire linked to the police, and Renko finds anomalies in a murder/suicide case assigned to the Black Beret duo. As always, the author treats his protagonist brutally - both physically and emotionally. After more killings (including a reporter with key information) and a near miss for Arkady, he picks remote Tver (Isakov's homeland) supposedly for recuperation. There, the trail leads him to a fascinating group called the
, who exhume the dead from old battlefields - and to answers.
, Martin Cruz Smith delivers another thrilling read, and continues to torment his abused protagonist (if anyone deserves a
happily ever after
ending, it's Arkady Renko!) who persistently pushes for justice, fighting officialdom and almost impossible odds. In this episode in the ongoing saga, I especially appreciated the window into Arkady's childhood and relationship to his father, the retrospective on Russian history and Stalin's mass murders, and the supreme irony of Investigator Renko - faced with a camera crew - asking himself '
What would Stalin do?
' and then following through.
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