I often return to "Gorky Park." I almost didn't go there at all. The film was not very good, although I liked Joanna Pakula. One day I read "Polar Star" (literally in one day, since I could not put it down) and I was hooked: I had to read "Gorky Park." Almost ten years later, I think I've read it ten times. I can always spare a day or two for one of my favorite books.
Welcome to the world of Investigator Arkady Renko, whose superiors use him, whose wife doesn't love him, whose country is like an insane asylum where the pacients have the run of the place and sane people like Renko do the best they can. This is a great mystery novel, but the level of Smith's writing puts him far above the level of what we expect from "genre" novels. His characters became real people for whose fate I really cared. His plot is complicated but not overwhelmingly so. He does not trick the reader. And his detective, the militia investigator Arkady Renko, is one of the most memorable detectives in fiction: smart without being pedantic, intelligent, patriotic (yes, our Arkady truly loves his country), loyal to his friends and the woman he falls in love with. This is not the picture of a perfect man, but that of a basically good man. Renko is believable in his feelings and attitudes, and that is due to Smith's talent. Also thanks to the author we get an almost Dickensian description of Moscow and the inner workings of criminal investigations in the old Soviet Union. I felt I was in Moscow, and I finished reading the book truly caring for the characters in it, particularly Renko. Smith's novel is powerful, well-written, engaging, insightful, and a lesson in how talented writing can be applied to genre fiction for the benefit of everyone involved. "Gorky Park" and the other Renko novels are so far above genre, they make the rest look really bad, and they provide hope for genre novels in general: talent should not be divorced from entertainment. Excellent read.
AMAZON.COM READER'S REVIEW
Three murders in Moscow have put the homicide investigator(Renko)onto a twisty road of power, corruption, mystery and intrigue. A well written book.
A gripping crime thriller set in the late Soviet Union rich in characters, suspense & intrigue. A high profile triple murder forces the powers that be to call in Arkady Renko, the chief homicide investigator, despite their obvious wish the case not be probed too deeply. However, Renko takes his profession seriously, and when his inquiries lead him to a rich, well-connected and apparently ruthless American fur dealer as his prime suspect, he is compelled to pursue it to its impolitic conclusion, despite relentless interference from the KGB, FBI and American & Russian police.
Brilliant Suspense Fiction!, October 7, 2005
Reviewer: Ellie Reasoner (Mason, Ohio, USA)
Gorky Park, the opening book in a (to date) quartet of novels concerning a brilliant, socially disaffected detective from Moscow, is as much a tale of late Soviet life as it is a mystery and thriller. This novel begins after three bodies--two men and a woman, all of them young--are discovered in a melting snowbank outside one of Moscow's most popular theme parks. The bodies have been strategically mutilated so as to prevent identification and, despite any indications of a struggle, all three victims were shot at point blank range with a high powered handgun. From there, not only is identification made in a rather more swift fashion than the calculating killer imagined possible, but a complex plot involving government corruption, political dissidents, and the smuggling of one of the Soviet Union's most valued resources, is exposed. An edge of your seat drama, a sociological case study in dreary Soviet life, and a fine delving into the universal themes of human psychology, all set against the deadly, gripping cold of a Moscow winter. A really great book that starts off a really great series!
A darkly intelligent page-turning thriller, with a fascinating view of life in Russia. Two underlying questions I have as I read this series, of which this book is the first, are (1) what is the source of Arkady Renko's intregrity; and (2) how can he love this dire country?