Investigator Arkady Renko, the pariah of the Moscow prosecutor's office, has been assigned the thankless job of investigating a new phenomenon: late-night subway riders report seeing the ghost of Joseph Stalin on the platform of the Chistye Prudy Metro station.
The illusion seems part political hocus-pocus and also part wishful thinking, for among many Russians, Stalin is again popular; the bloody dictator can boast a two-to-one approval rating. Decidedly better than that of Renko, whose lover, Eva, has left him for Detective Nikolai Isakov, a charismatic veteran of the civil war in Chechnya, a hero of the far right and, Renko suspects, a killer for hire. The cases entwine, and Renko's quests become a personal inquiry fueled by jealousy.
The investigation leads to the fields of Tver, outside of Moscow, where once a million soldiers fought. There, amidst the detritus, Renko must confront the ghost of his own father, a favorite general of Stalin's. In these barren fields, patriots and shady entrepreneurs - the Red Diggers and Black Diggers - collect the bones, weapons, and personal effects of slain World War II soldiers, and find that even among the dead there are surprises.
©2007 Martin Cruz Smith (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
The story line takes place in Moscow and Tver, a Russsian city where the battle of Moscow took place. There a series of seemingly unrelated events that occur, and in the end Cruz Smith, like a Russian egg, fits them all together magically and seamlessly.
First there are sightings of Stalin at an old Subway station. Renko is asked to investigate.
Then a black beret-Kuznitsky is found with a meat cleaver in his neck by his wife who is inebriated. The investigators are Itzakoff and Oordman former Black Berets, in Chechnia.
Then there is Eva, a doctor shared as a lover by Renko and Oordman. Then there is the killing of a pizza delivery man by a Black Beret with the story of a terrorist battle in Chechnia brought out at the trial. There is a thread about Jenia an abandoned boy of 11, who is a chess genius and to whom Renko becomes a guardian. There is an old chess master who remains a staunch communist. There is a Russian and American film crew in Moscow and Tver. who manage Itzakoff's campaign for the Senate on the rogue National Patriots Party ticket(the party of Stalin's ghost).. There is Ginsburg a hunchback investigative reporter who takes pictures of the battle in Chechnia. A good part of this book is spent with the battlefield diggers of Tver. and it is here that everything gets resolved.
Along the way Renko gets garroted by a beautiful Russian harpist, shot in the head point blank by Jenia's father, hit in the head with a shovel and knifed. That he survives these catastrophic events and keeps on coming is the weakness (? strength) of this book. To give more information- and there is much more- would spoil it for virgin listeners.
The strength s of this book is the sparse but effective language, the irony, and most of all the humor. At times things are so absurd that I burst out laughing. The reader, Henry Stozier is excellent. This book is also a lesson in recent and World War II Russian history.
In the end it all hangs together
As a longtime Arcady Renko fan, I was expecting to like this book, but just how great it was took me by surprise. All the books have been great, starting way back with Gorky Park, but this was perhaps the richest, most intricate, most haunting and most soul-satisfying of all of them.
Renko's economy of words and understatement of even his thoughts brings us readers into the irony of his world and the perversity of the situations in which he seems to find himself.
The reader is wonderful, creating the characters, especially the old men, of the novel. But he is at his best expressing Arkady's thoughts and his spare, restrained manner of conversation. This book has a perfect match of narrator and character.
In all the Renko novels there is a wealth of detail, coupled with the bringing together of these details to complete the picture as the story comes to a conclusion. Stalin's Ghost is no exception. Even the details of dreams and hallucinations are woven into the plot. The end of the book was like seeing the seemingly disparate pieces of an abstract puzzle satisfyingly assemble into a clear picture.
The story is haunting, gritty, ugly, beautiful, and utterly engrossing! It is not just a good story, but good writing at its best. The best thing I have put into my ears for quite a while.....
I was really looking forward to this as Gorky Park was one of my favorite movies while in college. The story has an interesting premise but it seems like it could be so much more. Perhaps I have been spoiled by much longer and developed books like those by Nelson DeMille, for example. I think Cruz Smith is a good writer, but this story is just not fully developed. (The narration was very good).
I've always enjoyed Martin Cruz Smith's novels, and this one has not disappointed me. Good, listenable dialog and many interesting facts about the Russian culture and the aftermath of the USSR's involvement in Afganistan and WWII wrapped up in a solid engrossing plot line. Read very well, too.
I recommend this book not only for its riveting story but also because it gives some insight into life in contemporary Russia. You are given an idea of what social elements give the most meaning to the people that live there, as well as a view of the conflict of feelings between old ideals and the new social order.
I'm not sure I can compare this to any other book that I have read though if you have seen and enjoyed the British series "Archangel", you will probably enjoy this book.
All the characters are well written and performed, but like other detective novels, the main detective Arcady is the main focus. His young homeless friend Genya is also an interesting and well portrayed character.
Such a good listen. Smith writes crisp prose, full of intelligence.
What happens to Renko is dynamic and life altering.
Strozier's narration captures the weariness of the characters and Renkos dogged determination
Look forward to Three Stations.o
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