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
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?
This book provides many glimpses of ordinary life in the former Soviet Union, the bad food, shoddy merchandise, and resigned yet desperate mentality that pervades everything. The descriptions are gritty, and the prose is as cold and sharp as I imagine a Moscow night would be. Arkady Renko is a wonderful creation, a man who is at heart a political animal whether he wishes to be or not. He is enmeshed in, and in large measure dependent on, the vast political machine that controls Russia. He sees its flaws clearly, expresses his views with barely concealed cynicism, and goes on doing his job as best he can. All this makes it easy to understand why Gorky Park garnered so much praise.
I could have done with far fewer details about the intrigue and espionage, although then the story wouldn't have been a good fit for the Renko character. But it's a well-told story, and an interesting perspective on what was a very different world. I'm looking forward to reading more books in the series.
John H. reviewed Gorky Park (Arkady Renko, Bk 1) on
Set during the height of the Cold War, Gorky Park weaves a compelling mystery story with scenes of life inside the old Soviet Union. Moscow chief investigator Arkady Renko must solve an unusual triple murder while outmaneuvering the many enemies who want to see him fail. The novel has enough plot differences from the movie adaptation to keep you interested. Definitely a worthwhile read.
"Brilliant . . . enough enigmas within enigmas within enigmas to reel the mind."
The New Yorker
A triple murder in a Moscow amusement center: three corpses found frozen in the snow, faces and fingers missing. Chief homicide investigator Arkady Renko is brilliant, sensitive, honest, and cynical about everything except his profession. To identify the victims and uncover the truth, he must battle the KGB, FBI, and the New York City police as he pursues a rich, ruthless, and well-connected American fur dealer. Meanwhile, Renko is falling in love with a beautiful, headstrong dissident for whom he may risk everything.
"Once one gets going, one doesn't want to stop. . . . The action is gritty, the plot complicated, [and] the overriding quality is intelligence."
The Washington Post
"Reminds you just how satisfying a smoothly turned thriller can be." The New York Times Book Review
"An unbelievable achievement . . . vivid, witty . . . completely fascinating."
Boston Herald American
"Gripping, romantic, and dazzlingly original."
This was a very difficult book to read. It started off very slow with long descriptive passages and not too much dialogue. Not until halfway through did I start to get interested in the story because of the bogged down writing of Martin Cruz Smith. I will give the author another chance because I feel like his books can only get better and I know people who have enjoyed his books. The ending was actually the best part of the story and tied things up pretty good. I do want to read more of Smith's books about Arkady Renko as I find him a rather unique investigator. I would recommend this book to those who would like to learn more about living in Russia during this period of the book.
Anonymous reviewed Gorky Park (Arkady Renko, Bk 1) on
A marvelous crime thriller set in late Soviet Union Moscow rich in characters, suspense & intrigue. The cities chief homicide detective, Arkady Renko, is called in on a high profile triple murder that the powers that be don't want to see probed to thoroughly. But Renko's investigation leads him to a rich, well connected, and apparently ruthless, American fur dealer as his prime suspect, and despite interference from the KGB, FBI and American & Russian police officials, he relentlessly pursues the case to its impolitic conclusion.
It was unfortunate I saw the Hollywood version of \"Gorky Park\" before reading the novel. The film does not do justice to the main character or the storyline. It cannot compare to the book! After reading \"Polar Star\" and Red Square\", the second and third installments of the series, I picked up the original and loved it. More recently, \"Havana Bay\" was published, and later this year a long-awaited fifth novel, \"Wolves Eat Dogs\", will be released.
My favorite book~A triple murder in a Moscow amusement center: three corpses found frozen in the snow, faces and fingers missing. Chief homicide investigator Arkady Renko is brilliant, sensitive, honest, and cynical about everything except his profession. To identify the victims and uncover the truth, he must battle the KGB, FBI, and New York police as he performs the impossible--and tries to stay alive doing it.