STALIN'S GHOST
Martin Cruz Smith

 


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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 character.

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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