Narrator: Henry Strozier
Series: Arkady Renko #1
Published by Recorded Books on December 20, 2006 (first published 1981)
Length: 14 hrs 53 mins
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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.
I read a lot of mysteries, and one detective whose name popped up several times in other folks lists was Arkady Renko. I had no idea who he was, but being a sucker for mysteries set in interesting places, I finally decided to pick up Gorky Park, the first in the series. I am definitely glad I did.
Renko is reminiscent of other detectives I’ve read. the story takes place in Russia in the early 80s. The system is corrupt and while Renko is not a good Communist Party, he’s also not forcibly against it. He kind of accepts it all, recognizes it exists and throws away the occasional murder file to keep the crime rate down. but the murders in Gorky Park pull him in. He needs to solve it, whether it be because of the crime itself or due to “the woman” who’s attached to the case. You know here, the girl our hero irrationally falls for too quickly and is bound to lead him headlong in to trouble. And she does so. Yet, he seems to keep his distance from everyone at the same time. But who can blame him, his wife is leaving him, his best friend may have betrayed him.
I love how Smith portrays Moscow, so that the city becomes as much a character as the people. The weather, the smells, the buildings all form a perfect backdrop for the tensions in the mystery.
The mystery itself – eh. We know early who the bad guy is, if not the full story. It drug a bit too. At one point I thought it had to be almost over but I was only halfway through. Maybe it’s because the scope is bigger than a lot of police procedurals. I feel like Smith is telling the story but also commenting on Communist Russia and the US, where power and money hold just as much sway.
I don’t remember much about the narration, in all honesty. It wasn’t jarring, but it wasn’t noteworthy.
As a first entry in a series, it was good, I enjoyed it, but I’m looking forward to reading more. This one rambled a bit; I think it could have been tighter and maybe the later ones are.