Arkady Renko Confronts the Russian Bear
Martin Cruz Smith is on my short-list of authors who create novels that consistently engage me while I read them, expand my experience of the world and resonate in my thoughts long afterward.
Tatiana matches my experience of Wolves Eat Dogs (2004), yet trails Gorky Park (1981), Polar Star (1989) and Red Square (1992). Renko’s pain, numbness, despair, irrepressible need to see every challenge through, and his tortured grasp of any connection to another lost soul, ring authentic. So, too, does his disdain and distant regard for Moscow and Kaliningrad as places to which fate has bound him. He neither embraces nor rejects them. They simply are his lot. His dreams are not of place but of relief from disappointment in man’s utter corruptness. The only surprise to him in the new old Russia is the resilient inventiveness of its criminality at every level of society.
This chiaroscuro setting in which the range of light resists anything brighter than overcast gray permits us to glimpse the colors of humanity in Renko’s damaged being. Martin Cruz Smith’s brilliant skill creates this energetic and memorable experience of a world-smart survivor with a Steichen-like eye for clarity and light.