I'm really torn between three and four stars for this one. It continues the story of Arkady Renko and I can't say too much about it without spoiling the ending of Gorky Park (take note that Polar Star begins with a brief review of everything that happened in Gorky Park so you really should read it first if you care about such things).
My initial thought when it came to reviewing was that this is exactly the opposite of the cozy mystery genre. There's nothing cozy about a factory ship in the Bering Sea and the assorted mayhem and murder that surrounds Renko is described in intricately lurid detail. The mystery element is extremely well done. It put me in mind of the way that Agatha Christie writes, there are wee clues spread hither and yon and it keeps you guessing with assorted red herrings and sub-plots right up to the reveal. Even after who killed whom is determined, the thriller side of the plot keeps on kicking through to the bitter end!
Additionally, Mr Cruz has captured well the Russian style and mindset (as best I can tell from my reading of translated works anyway) and occasionally throws some beautifully worded similes out, I think my favourite was "Slava and his sax leaned into 'Dark Eyes', extracting amber from sap."
I'll definitely be following up on Mr Renko in Red Square.
This book was expertly narrated by Frank Muller, and had no issues whatsoever.
With the cold war 20+ years past, this novel is starting to show it's age. Who knows, perhaps with the rise of Putin, we'll see a return to this type of east/west relationships.
Old school soviet politics aside, this novel was still very entertaining. I haven't read Gorky Park nor seen the movie, but that didn't prevent this novel from being excellent on it's own accord. Frank Mullers deadpan inflection matched the somber "grey" Soviet era atmosphere created in the book, and greatly enhanced the listening experience.
Of course, as in most thrillers, there are some incredible leaps of logic on behalf of the hero in order to solve the mystery, but these were easily overlooked and is a minor criticism. Only one other complaint, and that is that this author, like so many before, felt the need to write in a "sex scene" for no apparent reason. I'm not a prude and I understand the need for these in some story lines, but in this story it seemed placed specifically for a certain demographic, but not to enhance the story.
So, if you like a solid thriller/mystery that is outside the standard US major city setting common to most of these stories, give this novel a try. It's worth the credit.
I really enjoyed this book a lot even though it was a little slow at times. I did read Gorky Park as well and actually liked Polar Star more.
Especially the setting of the book at the end of the Cold War and a good ole spy story at it's core. Good stuff.
I have not read the first book in the series "Gorky Park", but was able to thoroughly enjoy "Polar Star" anyhow. It was very, very good and I enjoyed the author's character development, particularly of the main character, Moscow investigator Renko.
Martin Cruz Smith is an excellent writer. When you put that together with the brilliant narrator, Frank Muller, you've got perfection. I look forward to reading all of the books in the series.
For those of you who suffer from insomnia...this is the novel for you. It will put you to sleep in no time. I suffered through the fisrt half of the story, where the author informed the listerner of all the gory details of catching, cleaning fish and deaing with, 'slime. Now and then, he inserted the actual storyline of the mysterious death of a female employee aboard the ship. Nevertheless, I stuck with the reading for as long as I could and just gave up. In my opinion, this was a waste of my time.
I bought this book years ago from Recorded books in CDs. I love this book and got it on the Bogo so I could have it on my mini. Martin Cruz Smith can write prose that can be read as a form of poetry. Frank Muller can move that effort to music. There is a clarity of reason and purpose in this book mixed with desperation. The characters seem self aware and vivid and the language gorgeous. It is my favorite audio book. I like Red Square as well and love Havana Bay. Without Frank Muller to move the language to music something is lost in the other books. While I still love the series and buy them, the ones Frank Muller recorded are the best. I recognize that the stories are in some ways dated, however, the performance in the language and narration are timeless.
The narration and story in this one is very good to excellent. However Renko's credibility is bit undermined by inconsistent behavior in his dealings with people and situations.. Primarily this involves his reactions in dealing with one particular character and is not as much a problem for the story a gripe about consistency. I believe the author sort of forced this onto the story so he could fashion the end as he wanted and not as the story would have played out on its own/. I don't want to give anything away so I will leave it at that. Still worth reading just not up to the standards of the other Renko novels I have read. For others I would have given the story 4 stars, because it is a great story, but based upon what I expect from Smith, - but Smith I rate according to what I expect and this is 3 star story for him.
Martin Cruz Smith at the top of his game and the incomparable Frank Muller: what could be better. ( Muller is, IMHO, the greatest narrator. If you can find it listen to his performances of anything by le Carre', especially the "Smiley" cycle. And get his performance of "Motherless Brooklyn"; he is perfection.) The story of Renko, disgraced Moscow investigator working on the "slime line" of a Russian fish trawler is wonderfully claustrophobic and yet expansive. I can't recommend this book enough.
This is an interesting story. you can read all the accolades others have wroet. I will say I did not find the book to be great as some have said. I found the authors style difficult to stay with, but patience did pay off... Not for everyone but worth a try!!!