East of Paris Bookstore

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What We Are Reading Now

Last weekend's reading included the new Martin Cruz Smith novel Three Stations.  I suspect that I'll be reading any novel that Mr. Smith produces that has his quirky detective, Arkady Renko, solving crimes in Russia with few clues and fewer friends.  I got hooked on Smith's novels with his first Arkady Renko mystery Gorky Park.  He has an intriguing way of describing harsh settings and down-on-their-luck people that makes you want to know more about them.  When I had the chance to walk through Gorky Park and buy a drawing at its weekly art exhibit, I saw first hand how good Smith's descriptions and setting of mood can be.  All of which is to say that I was disappointed in Smith's most recent novel.

Three Stations is mercifully short and unfortunately devoid of Smith's usual doses of acid humor. The book has two story lines, both involving exploited young women:  murder victims and victims of abuse who are still alive. Detective Renko refuses to believe that one young woman took a fatal drug overdose; he believes she was murdered. There is also a second victim, a prostitute whose infant is stolen on a train.  At the end of the book, Renko solves the murder.  The young mother with no discernible future, is reunited (essentially through her own efforts) with her child at the train station known as Three Stations (a/k/a Komsomol'skaya Square). Meanwhile, you have to read through gratuitous descriptions of gruesome forensics and through pages about street urchins engaged in crime and basic survival.  No character that you could call remotely "normal" makes it into this book.  Moscow is full of normal people, and Smith's ability of mixing the eccentric into the normal is what makes his work so enjoyable. I hope Smith's next novel starring Renko will return to its usual high form.

Konsomol'skaya station was opened as a part of a line section between Kurskaya and Belorusskaya stations, which are on the circle line.  More information is available in English at the Moscow Metro website.


  1. One of the best books I ever read was a Martin Cruz Smith novel with Arkady Renko. I think it was his first. He was on a fishing trawler if I am not mistaken. It was a fantastic read. But...have you read the Millenium Trilogy? I am saving the third one until Thanksgiving weekend...I tore through the first two this summer.

  2. The book you are thinking of if Polar Star, which I thing was the second one in the series. It was great fun to read.


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