Sunday, July 1, 2007

The best book I've read this year ...

... is Martin Cruz Smith's "Stalin's Ghost." The morose and laconic Arkady Renko returns for the sixth time since his debut in the brilliant "Gorky Park" of 1982.

This time he's back in Moscow, which has changed a great deal in 25 years. It's a city where the excesses of capitalism and corruption have engendered an odd nostalgia for the days of Stalinist Russia -- even as mass graves yield reminders of what those days were really like.

The plot is labrynthine, involving bureacratic treachery and atrocities committed during both World War II and the Chechen war, but the real strength of "Stalin's Ghost" is in the finely drawn characters, starting with Renko himself. The detective's stoic sense of irony and humor in the face of brutality keeps you turning the pages to see how he's going to survive. Along the way, you'll learn quite a bit about the soul of contemporary Russian. For my money, this is the best of the series.


Peter said...

The selection is good at this warehouse, and the prices can't be beat. I was a non-Sopranos watcher, out of perversity as much as anything else, but that previous post of yours was a fine piece of prose.

But it's this post that fits well with a recent little essay I posed about two novels in which either author or protagonist returns home after two decades. I'll add your comment to the examples I wrote about at:

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Maxine said...

Interesting. I loved Gorky Park, which I must have read when it first came out, and quite liked the sequel. I didn't like the third and haven't read any since --- should I now return, I wonder? Do you need to have read the previous installments to ejoy this one?
Hello, by the way, I found my way here via Peter's post at DBB. Nice blog you have here! Do you know you have your blog settings such that you can only comment if you have a google account? I have one, but my blog is on typepad ( it is simple to switch your settings so that people without google accounts can comment, and does not run any more risk of spam.
best wishes

Dave Knadler said...

Thanks, Maxine. I was not aware of the Google-only restriction. I'll see if I can remedy that now.

Regarding Smith, all of the Renko books stand well by themselves. While this most recent one references events in "Wolves Eat Dogs," you can easily get the picture without having read that. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did -- although, reading other reviews I suppose it's not for everybody.

Maxine said...

Thanks. I am just testing out your comment window for you and yes, any old person can comment now. Thanks a lot for doing that. I am seriously tempted by the Cruz Smith book now (I'm with you on the Wilson!), but I have got such a vast pile to read....
all best