In the summer of 1991, Arkady Renko has returned from exile and is back on the homicide squad in a newly democratic Moscow. When Arkady’s informant, Rudy Rosen, and his underworld bank-on-wheels are consumed in a ball of fire, Arkady finds himself in an investigation that points to the heart of Russia’s decaying infrastructure.
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Arkady Renko is one of the richest characters ever created in all of literature, and his creator is one of the best writers living, in any genre. Plus, Frank Muller was without doubt the best narrator who ever read a book. This is a formidable combination, and it does not disappoint. Smith has created a Russia which feels so thoroughly researched and true that you think he must have lived there for decades. He hasn't. The entire Renko series makes one wonder why anyone else bothers to write. Gorky Park, Red Square, Polar Star, Wolves Eat Dogs: you will be thrilled by any of these. Smith's sense of time and place are so vivid that you almost feel you are living there and then. Muller's voice is so supple and many-faceted that any regular listener will instantly warm to it, and have the awesome experience of hearing an actor with virtually limitless talent. Renko is so complex: so sad yet so determined to pursue his cases; so thoroughly Russian, so observant of his environment, so passionate yet vulnerable to depression. Do you know many people in real life who are so completely human? And yet, every word of every book is fiction, a creation of one of the most fertile minds in the writing world. If you have missed this combination, you are fortunate enough to anticipate many hours of enjoyment. I have read and re-read these books several times, because they are so full of nuance and detail that you forget much of it between readings. I cannot say this of many other writers: you read them once and you have no need to read them again. Not this author, and most assuredly not this narrator.
Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko ranks as one of my favorite characters: cynical, sardonic, and tragically honest. I love the Arkady Renko books and Frank Muller embodies Renko's tone and character perfectly. I was thrilled when this version of Polar Star was added to the Audible library, and now Red Square. In another format I have also listened to Frank Muller read Gorky Park and Havana Bay. Hopefully these recordings will make it to Audible as well; in fact I've been so spoiled that I can't listen to any other reader. To me Frank Muller's voice IS the voice of Arkady Renko.
Structurally, this book takes a bit to get into, relative to the preceding books in the series. But once Renko has a personal investment in solving the crimes, the plot flows easily and compellingly. Throughout, Cruz Smith's language is as poetic and profound as it is in all the Renko books. Highly recommended!
This book really seemed to lose something that was present in the two previous books of the series. I just came away from this one feeling like a lot of the magic in the characters, as well as the political intensity that provided the backdrop of the story was somehow diminished, or missing completely. A lot of the things that I fell in love with regarding this whole series was based on the difficulties of investigating crime in a country that purports that there can be no crime. Combined with the political impossibility of constantly trying to work while being watched by every political organization in the country — both legitimate and not — and you simply have a setting inherently intense as far as criminal investigation. So, I think going into this one was potentially a let down because of the fall of communism, and how it really relieved a lot of the suspense and intensity that are evident in the first three books. I just started feeling like this book was just one more static detective novel, degenerating to a carbon copy of so many of the other ones that are out there.
The beauty of Red Square is not necessarily in the story, but in the story telling and description of the soviet republic. Smith's prose is exceptionally enjoyable and the world view he presents through the mind of Arkady Renko is absolutely one of a kind. Cruz Smith's writing is truly about the journey, not necessarily the destination.
I think the atmosphere that the author creates is the best
Arkady finally caught up with Irina and it worked out for them
Yes. I really like his different voices and characterizations
Not any particular moment but the whole book just leaves you feeling and thinking long after you've finished it
This is the fourth Martin Smith book I have enjoyed in the past month or so. My only complaint is that he has not written enough books and I am already concerned about what will be my reaction when I have exhausted Smith's production. I have never enjoyed any books as much as these. I am very concerned that from now on all authors will be compared to this guy and fall short.
A fascinating story of a fascinating time and place (the old Eastern block as it crumbles and stumbles out of decades of Communism) with psychologically complex characters who experience real emotions, and it just happens to also be an engaging thriller.
I found Muller's narration to be difficult to follow for the first hour or two. He uses a very deep, quiet baritone to express the Arkady's ennui, which is appropriate. But I found the narration nearly inaudible in places near the beginning and thought every sentence was read in the same sad, declining cadence. A firey explosion is narrated in the same sad, slow tone of voice he uses to describe Arkady's jaded interactions with black marketeers. However, once he gets his rhythm, Muller's voice really finds a nice, easy to follow tone that adds a lot to the story. (Or maybe I just got used to it.)
Non Fiction Reader
Some authors get into a "grove" for their central character and so it is with Smith. Arkady is the "dumb as a fox" detective (investigator) taking on the entire Soviet system, hating his father and fighting his superiors. He somehow simultaneous loses by winning and wins by losing. The book is still a good read if you limit youself to only one every two years. For me, a shorter time span would make the characters and locations boring. You can always tell that he will solve the case. One other item: Smith's depictions of every day Soviet life are accurate, e.g. car owners do take in their windshield wipers at night and lines for basic essentials are long and tedious. I recommend it with the above caveat.
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