He has traveled from the States to investigate the murder of his younger brother, James. Through the mesh of numerous further twists, turns and nailbitingly intense scenes Arkady pieces together the story. American John Osborne has made a lot of money using his important contacts stretching back to the war to conduct various import-export deals to Russia. But his secret plan has been to get hold of and smuggle live sables out of Russia — the fur-exporting capital of the world — and set up his own breeding programme in the States. Given how quickly sables breed, and how much their pelts are worth, within five years he will have a sustainable multi-million dollar business.
Kostia and Valerya brought him the live sables stolen from a Siberian farm, but they wanted more. In exchange for supplying an icon chest big enough to smuggle the sables in, they also wanted to be smuggled to the west, to freedom. James Kirwell was a young born-again Christian Osborne came across in his travels and brought to Moscow to show Kostia and Valerya how easily he could move people in and out of the USSR. Thus assured they gave him the sables and the chest and set off with James for a happy afternoon skating, before a rendezvous when Osborne was to meet them with vodka, sausage and details of their escape route.
His boss, Chief Prosecutor Iamskoy, is fully supportive of him and invites Arkady out to his dacha in the country where, in a vivid scene, we watch him call eider ducks across the frozen lake and feed them while pledging Arkady his support. Unable to break free, Unmann tried to bite, and Arkady fell back, carrying the man down into the water with him. He looked up from the bottom of the pool. It broke into moons and the moons broke into petals.
Then a dark cloud of red obscured Unmann, his hands went slack and he slid out of view. With Unmann dead, Arkady, bleeding badly, surfaces from the pool only to find his superior, the man who has backed him without hesitation, Chief Prosecutor Iamskoy, pointing a gun at him. Goodbye Arkady, he says, you were always my best investigator: there is the bang of a gunshot but it is Iamskoy who collapses, the top of his head blown off.
It is Irina who has shot him. Run, says Arkady — and collapses…. The 70 pages of part two take the novel beyond ordinary intense, fast-paced thriller territory into a strange place, for Arkady takes a long time to recover from his severe belly wound and this section follows his recuperation in tremendous detail, the days and nights watching the ceiling of his hospital room as he drifts in and out of drugged sleep; then the increasingly aggressive visits of various KGB agents to question him.
And then he is moved out to a rest home in the country where, of all people, Major Pribluda is assigned to stay with him. Slowly the two men, while continuing to hate each other, form an edgy respect. When Arkady is well enough to walk he accompanies Pribluda, who is of true peasant stock, down to the garden of the house where the Major sets about creating a vegetable garden, taking off jacket and tie to labour long and hard for days on end to prepare the soil, hoe and turn it, before planting seeds of radish and lettuce, then creating an elaborate irrigation system and weeding his plot.
All the time the pair exchange memories of life in Soviet Russia, clash over the pair of dissidents Arkady knows Pribluda murdered, discuss the details of the Gorky Park case. You are going to be shot. I must admit, at this stage I stopped understanding what was going on. What deal? So they can be together because she loves him. But why is Osborne letting her have Arkady? So he can track down the sables and kill them? Free to come and go as long as he returns to the hotel, Arkady meets up again with Kirwill who squires him around the Big Apple.
It is a sable and Kirwill immediately realises Osborne must have set up his sable farm not far away. Here, at the sable farm on Staten Island, there is a bloody shootout. Osborne did it. A little later Arkady finds the crook who was trying to sell the sable, himself shot through the head. But as they approach Osborne over the snow, with no warning he shoots dead two of the CIA agents, one flees, Arkady throws Irina to the ground and runs off into the farm buildings. Thus begins a deadly cat and mouse game between Arkady and Osborne between the cages of the mewing, screaming sables.
Then — in a wild surprise — one of the more friendly KGB agents, Rurik, appears looming over Arkady with a gun. He, too, is shot dead by Osborne who is using a hunting rifle with a scope. Nobody who knows about the sables is going to be allowed to escape alive. How very OK Corral the whole scene has been. How very American. In the final pages Irina pleads with Arkady for him to stay in the Free World she has always dreamed about.
I am a Russian. I am going home, says Arkady. Home to star in the five sequels Smith wrote to this classic, long, involving and thoroughly imagined masterpiece. American prose is quicker, American writers pack more information into their sentences and paragraphs. At its worst — as in a lot of contemporary US fiction — this means depth or resonance of language or psychology disappear from the texts which become, as a result, worthless.
In this respect Smith is a poet. He continually reminded me of the English poet WH Auden for the insouciance with which he throws off casually striking metaphors and imagery in snappy sentences, dense with charged similes and metaphors. Levin caught up at the elevator and slipped into the car with Arkady. He had been a chief surgeon in Moscow until Stalin shook Jewish doctors out of the trees. He held his emotions like gold in a fist. Almost all Russia is old, graded by glaciers that left a landscape of low hills, lakes and rivers that wander like the trails of worms in soft wood.
Trees and snow sucked him down to a stone wall… Truck lights sailed along the sweep of the quay road. He could see no one walking. No militiamen. Streetlamps were furry balls, like the bubbles of air he gagged down. Sometimes a wind catches a parade banner and the face painted on the banner, with no change in expression, shivers. In the communications room, two sergeants with loosened collars typed out radio messages that came in snatches, bits and ends, invisible litter from the outside world. Frederick Forsyth, say, remains journalistic to the end, reporting clinically, factually, accurately.
Arkady said nothing. View all 5 comments. I've been wanting to read this book for a very long time so it was disappointing t0 find that it wasn't quite as enjoyable as I'd hoped. Some characters were well fleshed out and Smith was great at describing the locale, making it easy for readers to visualize their surroundings, be they a Russian General's dacha or a dingy New York hotel room.
What did bother me was its pacing and it's labyrinthine conspiracy where it seems that almost everybody was colluding with everyone else. For a book with I've been wanting to read this book for a very long time so it was disappointing t0 find that it wasn't quite as enjoyable as I'd hoped. For a book with only pages it seemed to go on forever. I will probably read more Arcady Renko books but it may be a while.
Apr 24, Gary Inbinder rated it it was amazing Shelves: mystery , crime-fiction. First read more than thirty years ago, this novel held up well on a recent second reading. View all 7 comments. Most of the officers on night duty were out on the annual push to clear the central city of drunks before May Day; conversely, on May Day it would be patriotic to be drunk.
Timing was everything His father, a general in the Great Patriotic War , complains that his son only visits when he wants information. His marriage of 10 years to Zoya is on the rocks; she rails against his lack of ambition, that he is not an active member of the Party, giving them access to stores to buy consumer goods.
His friends and colleagues have troubles of their own, especially as one of his officers is a KGB informant. There were few more dangerous positions, Arkady had distilled from experience, than to be the best friend of or married to a drunk, and the entire country was drunk half the time. He is called to Gorky park, a popular spot, where an unusually mild April has brought on an early thaw in the snow, revealing of the bodies of two men and a woman, all shot through the chest at close range and the two men in the head.
Their faces had been erased and fingertips chopped off to hamper identification. Arkady is used to handling homicides resulting from drunkenness, and these murders have the hallmarks of a state-sanctioned assassination. The two men have crossed before. The female victim is wearing ice skates, reported missing in February by a former student dissident Irina Asanova, a girl from Siberia, working as a prop manager for Mosfilm. She is naturally suspicious of authority and uncooperative. Amongst his findings the pathologist Lyudin states that one of the men had a form of root canal treatment not available in the USSR, suggesting he was a foreigner, and that the case should be handed over to the KGB.
The suggestion is dismissed by Prosecutor Iamskey, who says all foreign subjects have been accounted for and insists that Arkady continue the investigation. Arkady says he will do so only if Major Pribluda of the KGB hands over all of the taped conversations of foreigners for January and February that year. The Major agrees and the team is given space in the Hotel Ukraina. Meanwhile, while checking the crime scene again at night Arkady disturbs a man with an American accent who attacks him. When listening to the tapes at the Ukraina of a party held by the Americans, Arkady recognises the angry voice of Irina Asanova discussing Chekhov.
But the main person of interest is a businessman who imports Russian furs into the USA. His room at the Rossiya was just off Red Square, most likely a real suite with cut flowers. The Ukraina was a railway station in comparison to the Rossiya. Reluctantly Arkady is drawn into a web of deceit and corruption at the highest level, with the intention that he fail. When a key witness and a colleague are gunned down Arkady tries to save Irina from the same fate, only to learn that he is being framed for a murder of a friend.
In one scene Arkady skilfully evades the police by hiding in plain view with criminals. Not knowing who to trust he finds an unlikely ally in Major Pribluda Martin Cruz Smith has produced an intense yet finely-balanced murder mystery, one that keeps a reader guessing and on his toes.
Though I found the shootout at the end a bit contrived this does not detract from the flavour of the novel. I particularly like the way he captures the psyche of the Russian people, drawing a picture of the food, transport limitations, restrictions on movement and association. The Russian murderer had great faith in the inevitability of his capture, all he wanted was his moment onstage. Russians won wars because they threw themselves before tanks, which was not the right mentality for a master criminal.
This is the third of the Arkady Renko novels I have read, and I look forward to tracking down the others in the series. View 2 comments. Apr 30, Martin Clark rated it it was amazing. Beautifully written and perfectly paced, Gorky Park deserves all the praise it's gotten over the years, and it holds up like a bona fide classic. Mar 16, April rated it it was amazing Shelves: russia. If only there were Russian men like Arkady Renko! What a hero. Martin Cruz Smith, despite making up an implausibly wonderful Russian man in Arkady Renko, just totally nails some things about Soviet Russia.
I get nostalgic even thinking about it. Got a plane ride coming up? BUY IT! I promise you won't regret it. View all 4 comments. Feb 17, Ioana rated it it was amazing Shelves: espionage , communism , eastern-block-lit , fiction , mystery. This is probably my most favorite "detective" novel read to date, because it is so much more than a mystery--it is really a masterfully written, poignant, cynical, realistic, and all-too-palpable portrayal of life behind the Iron Curtain. Having been born and raised in this part of the world before , I almost cannot believe how well an American author was able to capture the dreary, corrupt, existentially-dispiriting and hopeless atmosphere of the era, without moralizing and without futile a This is probably my most favorite "detective" novel read to date, because it is so much more than a mystery--it is really a masterfully written, poignant, cynical, realistic, and all-too-palpable portrayal of life behind the Iron Curtain.
Having been born and raised in this part of the world before , I almost cannot believe how well an American author was able to capture the dreary, corrupt, existentially-dispiriting and hopeless atmosphere of the era, without moralizing and without futile and inapt comparisons to a cheery, hopeful, democratic "west". In fact, Cruz Smith manages to draw parallels between the two as equally corrupt, and oppressive - in their own ways. The story, to me, was besides the point perhaps its main point, though, was illustrating the futility of seeking "justice" when immense power is at stake-on both sides of the Curtain.
There is no "happy ending" here, no neat story arc tied with a bow and concluded in a satisfactory way. My favorite part of this novel was Cruz Smith's ability to portray the Russian psyche, and there is nothing that does this better than humor and insinuations that may be lost on those who are not familiar with the Eastern Block machinery-and Cruz Smith, bless his soul, is not explicit-explicating to a "western" audience the intangibles of life beyond the Iron Curtain would only destroy the novel's realism.
Other reviewers have written that they gained a new appreciation for Cruz Smith only after traveling to this region of the world--this makes a lot of sense, as one can still sense the desperation and dreariness of the "eastern-block" soul of the era, even today, when traveling to former Communist countries. Martin Cruz Smith does this brilliantly. What more obvious relic than an ikon? Elements of Greek, French, Chinese, and Italian masterpieces had been thrown into the barbarian wagon and carted to Moscow and the Master Builder Himself Travel was so irritating.
After all, the KGB was maintained out of fear. Without enemies, real or imagined, outside or within, the whole KGB apparatus was pointless. The roles of the prosecutor's office, on the other hand, were to demonstrate that all was well A man takes the life of a total stranger for no reason but ennui? It's purely Western excess. Middle-class comfort leads inevitably to ennui and unmotivated murder. It takes a genius to know what's against the law" My personal favorite.
Still no one could find the right forms. Someone suggested there were no such forms, and that set off a panic It doesn't matter how obvious the truth is if the truth is you'll never escape. I LOVE this book!
Nov 19, Jennifer rated it it was ok Shelves: mystery , reads. Perhaps in that climate, nearly 40 years into the Cold War, a thriller set largely behind the Curtain, exploring how the Red half lived, was enough to titilate an audience. Because the effusive praise heaped on this one surely isn't due to the writing. Gorky Park is a messy narrative at best, a willy-nilly hodgepodge of Soviet cliches at worst.
Most disappointing is t In , when Smith published Gorky Park, the Berlin Wall had yet to fall, and Glasnost wasn't yet a twinkle in Gorbachev's eye. Most disappointing is the lack of mystery in this thriller, as the bad guy who, incidentally, wears a black hat gets identitified early on, and thereafter simply pops up with all the convenience of a jack-in-the-box bogeyman. Wildly overrated. Dec 20, Gary rated it liked it. After an intriguing start the novel drifted and became very drawn out.
Gorky Park (novel) - Wikipedia
At one point I found that I didn't really care what was happening and very nearly gave up. It did get better and I appreciate that my point of view is different to many others but the end of the book was very welcome. Aug 22, Brad rated it liked it Shelves: read-in , detective , police-procedural , in-the-shower , soviet , mystery. I always held back from reading Gorky Park -- despite its decades long service as a dust collector on my shelf -- for fear that an American author during the Cold War could only deliver the shabbiest form of propaganda if writing about a Moscow cop circa the early 80s.
It turns out I needn't have worried. I can't say how accurate Martin Cruz Smith 's portrayal of Moscow and I always held back from reading Gorky Park -- despite its decades long service as a dust collector on my shelf -- for fear that an American author during the Cold War could only deliver the shabbiest form of propaganda if writing about a Moscow cop circa the early 80s.
I can't say how accurate Martin Cruz Smith 's portrayal of Moscow and the greater Soviet Union was, but I was impressed by his balancing of Soviet bureaucratic corruption with the West's -- and in particular the U. And once that balance became clear, I was able to sit back and pretend that Renko's Moscow was the actual Moscow of the early 80s and to thoroughly enjoy the maybe Moscow Cruz Smith evoked.
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Though not as evocative of city as some of his crime writing brethren Rankin 's Edinburgh comes to mind nor as compelling in characterization as others Sjowall and Wahloo , Martin Cruz Smith does enough to make us care about Arkady Renko and to want more of his imagined Soviet Union. Sadly, his books are hard to come by these days.
Once summer comes and the snow parts so that I can make an easy ride to all the used book stores, I will make it my mission to find Polar Star. I hope I won't be forced to wait as long as I foolishly waited before. Sep 20, Perry rated it really liked it. Back in the U. When investigating the murder of three American college students found frozen in the snow of Gorky Park, faces and Stealthy Police Procedural set in Moscow prior to Perestroika and Dissolution of U.
Renko is intelligent, moody, cynical and at times defiant in his dogged pursuit of the killer's identity, which puts him at odds with a brash, wealthy American fur trader. The detective's weakness is his love, of course, for a beautiful Soviet dissident who'll do nearly anything to get out of the USSR. What sets this suspenseful novel apart is Martin Cruz Smith's meticulous portrayal, in vivid and stunning detail, of day-to-day life in the Soviet Union prior to perestroika and the Soviet Union's dissolution. Nov 21, Eric rated it liked it Shelves: detective-mystery , audiobooks.
While I didn't always love the experience of reading this novel, I am glad to have read it, if only for the fictional glimpse of Soviet Russia during the Cold War. I didn't enjoy how drawn out the book became after such an intriguing start. But then, I was only expecting a police procedural set in Russia. This novel was much, much more -- a cat and mouse game, a story of fugitives and bandits, a view of Soviet "justice," a story of torture, a social commentary on America by a Russian narrator, a While I didn't always love the experience of reading this novel, I am glad to have read it, if only for the fictional glimpse of Soviet Russia during the Cold War.
This novel was much, much more -- a cat and mouse game, a story of fugitives and bandits, a view of Soviet "justice," a story of torture, a social commentary on America by a Russian narrator, a political thriller, and a love story.
So while certain parts of it dragged, I can't really fault it for all its ambition. Also, this book taught me a colloquial Russian phrase that seems to be appropriate in almost any situation, "fuck your mother. Mar 19, DeAnna Knippling rated it it was amazing Shelves: topcrime-novels-cwa , topmystery-novels-mwa. A Russian investigator is directed to solve a crime. He'd rather dump it on the KGB; it smells political. But no, they're leaving him holding the bag The mystery is too complicated.
The plot takes too many irrelevant turns. The romance makes no sense. And yet Not a typical mystery plot at all; much more like a shamamic journey than anything else. I loved the ending.
Review: Gorky Park
Jan 30, Steve rated it it was amazing. Great as always. I've read this book several times over the years and it is always better than the last time. I great beginning to the character and the series. Nov 08, David Jackmanson rated it it was amazing. One of my favourite noir novels ever, a story I keep coming back to.
The USA is shown as a place where it's a little easier to breathe, but it's dominated by the rich and powerful just as the Soviet Union is. Arkady Renko is a prosecutor's investigator for homicide in Moscow in the late s. He is called to a murder scene in Gorky Park, Moscow's favourite place to forget the One of my favourite noir novels ever, a story I keep coming back to. He is called to a murder scene in Gorky Park, Moscow's favourite place to forget the world for a little, where three bodies with their faces cut off and their fingertips sheared have lain for several months.
He desperately tries to get out of the case, supposing that the victims were killed by the KGB, whose Major Pribluda is an enemy of Renko. But the case sticks to him like a friend who needs a loan, and Renko is forced into intrigue and lies so he can either do his job, or avoid it. Suspicion falls on a visiting USAian businessman, a fur dealer, whose aura of money and power make the drabness of Moscow even duller than it really is. But while this seems the perfect excuse to shunt the case over to the KGB, Renko still is stuck with it.
Gorky Park is a book about power, about what people who have it are like and what they get to do to people who don't. The details of everyday life in Moscow are fascinating, and the murder is gruesome enough to excite people who like that sort of thing but these are ultimately side issues. Martin Cruz Smith's book is about what it's like to live in a world where the rich and powerful can get away with almost anything - and he's not just talking about the Soviet Union. It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it.
It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization. All this still is not quite enough. In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.
The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.
Oct 28, Shatrujeet Nath rated it liked it. This one had been on my wishlist for the longest of time because the idea of a police procedural set in Soviet Russia drew me instantly. Yet, it's only now that I finally got around to reading it. I must confess that it has left me with mixed feelings. There are things about this book that I really liked, and things that just didn't make sense.
Of the things I liked, one was the starting premise of the investigation that Arkady Renko initiates after finding the dead bodies in Gorky Park -- as chi This one had been on my wishlist for the longest of time because the idea of a police procedural set in Soviet Russia drew me instantly. Of the things I liked, one was the starting premise of the investigation that Arkady Renko initiates after finding the dead bodies in Gorky Park -- as chief investigator of the Moscow militia, Renko only wants to lead the investigation to a point where he can happily hand over the case to the KGB.
I thought this was lovely because it makes Renko a reluctant hero and stands that "dogged investigator" stereotype on its head. Of course, as the case progresses, Renko is pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery, and eventually he does evolve into the dogged investigator I also loved the way the author used linguistic flourishes to describe scenes, characters and emotions. Smith is a very good writer, and many descriptions almost had a touch of poetry in them.
The scene I remember best is the one where Renko is sitting on a Ferris wheel in the park and ruminating about his childhood -- I thought the writing captured the moment as well as all of Renko's life and ambitions and hopes. On the flip side, the mystery itself was not something that I liked a whole lot. The bad guys are identified and tagged even before the halfway mark, and even the twist in the tale lies uncovered at the two-thirds stage.
So the denouement really takes a long time, and by the end of it I was just looking a finishing the book so I could move on to a new one. Not a nice thing to say about a book. The only reason I really persevered till the end was the quality of the writing, I guess.
What also put me off at times was the infuriatingly convoluted plot and a roundabout style of storytelling. Characters like the NYPD cop Kirwill had backstories that didn't seem to matter to me, the character himself didn't seem necessary to the story and a lot of time is spent on stuff that really doesn't take the story forward. Towards the final stages, we get entire chapters about Renko bonding with Major Pribluda of the KGB over potato gardening and mushroom farming, or Renko sitting in a hotel room and thinking about his life with lady love Irina.
Extremely boring bits. I sometimes got the feeling that Smith really didn't intend this book to be a thriller, but more of a commentary on the surface-level differences between Soviet Russia and America -- and the deeper similarities between the two when it came to the extent of rot within. All in all, I am not sure if I will read another Arkady Renko book again. If I do, it will probably be for Smith's control over language, scene and setting. May 29, Blair rated it liked it. I'm planning on writing a crime story set in the late s in Moscow based on fact , so I decided to revisit Gorky Park to get a feel of the era.
I have to admit to being a little disappointed on a few fronts. The book seemed better the first time I read it all those years ago. Having lived in Moscow for over a year towards the end of the Soviet Union's existence and visited on many occasions, I was impressed by the degree of realism Cruz Smith conveyed. For the most part, his depiction of the I'm planning on writing a crime story set in the late s in Moscow based on fact , so I decided to revisit Gorky Park to get a feel of the era. For the most part, his depiction of the time and place was accurate.
I won't quibble over small details. The second thing I like about this work is the beauty of the writing. The author is lyrical at times, and punchy at others. There is a real quality about the prose. What doesn't hold up for me, among other things, are the implausible long-winded speeches delivered by many of the characters. Everyone has their opinion about the politics of the day, and of course you can't write a story set in the USSR divorced of the historical realities.
But for me, Cruz Smith lays it on a little bit too thick. Some of the rambling speeches would do Shakespeare proud. Also, for me, the plot is too convoluted and hard to follow in places, but thankfully it all stitches together nicely at the end. In all, I reckon the novel is about pages too long and the story could have been told in a much more succinct fashion.
Finally, although I did say the writing is beautiful at times, at others it's downright clunky. For some reason, the following bizarre sentence from the book jumped out at me and now won't leave me alone: "They ate fried sausages, bread and coffee". Three stars but could have been five if not for the padding. A murder mystery story mostly set in Moscow. Three bodies have been found frozen and faceless under the snow in Gorky Park. Arkady Renko of the Moscow militia sets out to investigate.
It turns out this case is far more complicated than usual and Renko soon finds himself entangled in a complex web of conspiracy, corruption, espionage, murder and the smuggling of s— [spoiler removed].
I know the film base on the novel quite well. Therefore I knew who dunnit and why prior to reading the book. Reading was enjoyable anyway because I could concentrate more on the characters and their motivations than on the actual story. There are also quite some differences minor and major and a whole new part that is missing from the movie that made the reading worthwhile. Will I read the other books in the Arkady Renko series? Yes, probably.
He's an intriguing character as far as Moscow police officers go.
Related Gorky Park (Arkady Renko, No. 1)
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