Pan Macmillan. this edition published July, 2007
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill
Fiction – Crime
Moscow Detective Arkady Renko has never been popular with his superiors.
He’s too outspoken and independent for that. So if a case comes up with
the potential to discredit Renko and get him out of Prosecutor Zurin’s
hair, he’s going to make sure Renko is assigned.
Zurin should know better. Renko can never just follow orders. It’s not
easy for him when there are glimpses of something else going on. What
begins as an investigation into an appearance of Stalin’s ghost in the
Moscow underground leads Renko to an ultra-nationalist political
candidate, the murder of some veterans of Chechnya and the uncovering of a
piece of Russian history most would prefer to be left buried.
It has been some time since I read a book written by Martin Cruz Smith and
I was intrigued to find out how Arkady Renko has fared in the new
“democratic” Russia. There is something wonderfully indomitable about
Renko. No matter what slings and arrows are thrown at him, he keeps
bouncing back. In STALIN’S GHOST we also learn a little about Renko’s
childhood and his relationship with his father who was for a time a
favourite of Stalin. It goes some considerable way to explaining Renko’s
Martin Cruz Smith’s novels seem to capture something of the essence of
Russia. The bleakness of winter and the hard slog of day-to-day living,
that would have most of us tearing our hair out in frustration, just wash
off Renko. The book is populated by characters you feel belong to Russia:
the grand chess master who runs a chess club, “Red Digger”, Rudi, a member
of a group of amateur archaeologists who earns his living secretly selling
World War II memorabilia he has unearthed, and his father “big Rudi” who
lives in the past of Stalin’s Soviet Union. All this combines to create a
story as interesting and complicated as the country of Russia itself.
July 2007 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem
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