Martin Cruz Smith - Wolves Eat Dogs

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Martin Cruz Smith's Wolves Eat Dogs: watch out for those summer colds

Mar 15, 2005 (Updated Sep 16, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Tight story, belivable characters, and not your typical Russian thriller. Thank goodness.

Cons:Some of the details will make you stay awake at night. Not for the timid.

The Bottom Line: Great thriller for a cold night, and fans of Cruz's hero Arkady Renko will be very pleased.

Just when I think I've read every variable of the thriller out there, I find something new and become pleasantly surprised. Author Martin Cruz Smith brings back hardened, jaded Muscovite police inspector Arkady Renko in Wolves Eat Dogs, a well handled thriller about politics, money and arrogance in the New Russia.

Life has changed a lot for our inspector. He's still working for the Moscow police, but the Russia that he once knew has changed dramatically. Now the elite are the New Russians, men who are selling off Russia for a capitalist dream, or are simply thugs who are bullying their way to money and power. But for Renko, life is still the same -- not enough money, and too much work, and it seems that he has taken on a young boy to mentor. And as usual for Renko, it's anything but easy.

The head of a company called NoviRus, Pasha Ivanov, has thrown himself from the windows of his grand Moscow condominum. To everyone but Renko, it seems, it's an open-and-shut case -- Ivanov commited suicide. Two of the dead man's associates are in the apartment when Renko arrives -- a beautiful girl by the name of Rina, who was Pasha's main squeeze and interior decorator, and Hoffman, who was the American partner for NoviRus. But Renko suspects that there was much more to Ivanov's death then a depressed man with a salt obsession leaping out of ten story window.

And there seems to be a rash of summer colds among Ivanov's associates. For Renko, he's stirring up trouble tracking things down, especially when his bosses and the new money want him to shut up and go away. So what happens now to troublemakers in the New Russia?

Not Siberia, it seems. Now it's the dreaded Zone of Exclusion in the Ukraine, a no man's land that surrounds the notorious spot known as Chernobyl. Once there, he finds the dead body of Ivanov's partner, Timofeyev, and more mystery to muddle things. There's the beautiful but icy Eva, who attracts Arkady, and a gang of scientists and thugs, who view their surroundings with macabre humor and plenty of alcohol.

I don't want to give away any more of the book, as this is one of the best plotted thrillers I've read recently. I thought this was going to be another run of the mill mystery, and discovered to my delight that there was plenty of new things to discover. Such as what is a dosimeter, the ghosts of Ukrainian Jewish Orthodoxy, the uncertain politics of power, and a hero who is just as human as the rest of us. Rather telling is Renko's relationship to young Zhenya, a boy who is in an orphanage and spends his time in hosility and silence; the encounters there show the reader exactly what Renko is as a human being and made the story just that much more believable.

For those of you who have grown jaded on thrillers that send chills down your spine, this should enliven your nights, and gives a view into a world that most of us would rather not know about -- but can't help but look anyway.

The Arkady Renko Series:
Gorky Park
Polar Star
Red Square
Havana Bay
Wolves Eat Dogs -- you are here
Stalin's Ghost
Three Stations

Wolves Eat Dogs
Martin Cruz Smith
2004; Simon and Schuster
ISBN 0-684-87254-4

Recommend this product? Yes

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