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*Starred Review* The more Russia changes, the more it supports Arkady Renko's unremittingly bleak worldview: I'm a cynic. I believe in car wrecks, airline disasters, missing children, self-immolation, suffocation with pillows. And, yet, he soldiers on, a cop perpetually on the outs with his superiors, trying to solve cases that no one wants solved. I have no authority anywhere, Arkady explains, but I like to understand things. But things, in the New Russia, are getting harder and harder to understand. Arkady knows corruption, of course, but the new corruption, from officialdom through the Mob now as powerful as the party ever was leaves even a lifetime cynic shaking his head in wonder and dismay. The apparent suicide of investigative reporter Tatiana Petrovna Was she really murdered? Is she even dead? sends Arkady on another of his ill-advised searches for answers, this time taking him to Kaliningrad, an isolated, Mob-dominated city with the highest crime rate in Russia. What Arkady finds there is a grayed-out surreal landscape, postapocalyptic but without an apocalypse, in which the answers he seeks are as elusive as they are lethal. That Smith has kept this series going for more than 30 years, finding through decades of change more and more reasons for Arkady to justify his cynicism, says much about the modern world and much about Arkady's bedrock humanity in the face of snowballing absurdity. If a man believes in self-immolation, Tatiana asks Arkady, what doesn't he believe in? I don't believe in saints, Arkady replies. They get people killed. --Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist
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One of the most affecting memes emerging from Russia today is that of a crusading woman journalist whose quest illuminates the darkest reaches of post-Soviet iniquity. Arkady Renko, also a crusader for truth and justice, finds the official explanation of journalist Tatiana Petrovna's death (inspired by the real-life murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya) fishy and follows his nose to the murky enclave of Kaliningrad. There he grapples with a horrific plot among Chinese shipbuilders, the Russian mafia, and defense agency profiteers to make a rotten deal that will lead to a bonanza for the bad guys. Renko may be reaching the last of his fabled nine lives in this eighth chapter (after Three Stations) of the Russian police inspector's epic life. VERDICT Burnished to a fine sheen, this tale has it all: a high-velocity plot complete with diabolically clever codes, endearing chess-playing teenagers, patricide, and death-defying Renko, still indomitable despite a scarred and weary hide. Pair Renko with Stuart Kaminsky's Inspector Rostnikov, and throw in Brett Ghelfi's gun-for-hire Alexei Volkovoy to achieve an unbeatable season of well-written and crackling reading enjoyment. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/13.]-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In Smith's riveting seventh Arkady Renko novel (after 2010's Three Stations), Renko, now a "Senior Investigator for Very Important Cases," looks into the apparent suicide of crusading investigative journalist Tatiana Petrovna, who fell from a window to her death in Moscow. Renko's bosses have no problem accepting the suicide theory, but Renko and his loyal partner and friend, Det. Sgt. Victor Orlov, continue to search for answers. Smith spins a complex plot involving the Russian mafia, a teenage genius struggling to crack the code of Petrovna's notebook, and an excursion to Kaliningrad, the isolated Russian enclave on the Baltic. While Petrovna may be a candidate for sainthood (she's evidently modeled on real-life reporter Anna Politkovskaya), the most intriguing "character" after Renko is contemporary Russia-freer than it was at the height of the cold war, but at least as corrupt and vastly more unequal-into which Smith offers many insights. Agent: Andrew Nurnberg, Andrew Nurnberg Associates (U.K.). (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.