In Tatiana, Martin Cruz Smith, “the master of the international thriller” (The New York Times) creates the most compelling heroine of his career and the most realistic, damning portrait of modern Russia in contemporary literature.
One of the iconic investigators of contemporary fiction, Arkady Renko - cynical, analytical, and quietly subversive - has survived the cultural journey from the Soviet Union to the New Russia, only to find the nation as obsessed with secrecy and brutality as was the old Communist dictatorship. In Tatiana, Martin Cruz Smith’s most ambitious novel since Gorky Park, the melancholy hero finds himself on the trail of a mystery as complex and dangerous as modern Russia herself.
The fearless investigative reporter Tatiana Petrovna falls to her death from a sixth-floor window in Moscow the same week that a mob billionaire, Grisha Grigorenko, is shot and buried with the trappings due a lord. No one makes the connection, but Arkady is transfixed by the tapes he discovers of Tatiana’s voice, even as she describes horrific crimes hidden by official versions.
The trail leads to Kaliningrad, a Cold War "secret city" and home of the Baltic Fleet, separated by hundreds of miles from the rest of Russia. Arkady delves into Tatiana’s past and a surreal world of wandering dunes and amber mines. His only link is a notebook written in the personal code of a translator whose body is found in the dunes. Arkady’s only hope of decoding the symbols lies in Zhenya, a teenage chess hustler.
More than a mystery, Tatiana is a story rich in character, black humor, and romance, with an insight that is the hallmark of Martin Cruz Smith.
©2013 Martin Cruz Smith (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
Martin Cruz Smith has been one of my favorite authors for a long time now. I have felt that Arkady Renko was the most brilliantly nuanced, perfectly created, utterly realistic characters in all of fiction, not just the detective/thriller novels. However, IMHO, Mr. Smith has finally run out of gas. I have tried several times to pick up this book after some weeks of leaving it alone, and it has just not held my attention. Renko now seems old and tired. The plot, which is based on the actual killing of a Russian journalist, is nonetheless scattered and rambling. Minor subplots lead us nowhere. The theme of a notebook full of coded messages which are decoded by Zhenya and his girlfriend (aha!) just does not grab me. We all know that Russian oligarchs have raped their country's natural resources in the way of brutal gangsters everywhere. Tatiana does nothing to further develop our understanding of these monsters. One of them now owns a team in the National Basketball Association! Washing your ill-gotten gains through the NBA! Brilliance in real life, but there is none of this in Tatiana. Smith's "Wolves Eat Dogs" was a true masterpiece which showed us these guys in a remarkably informative light. The sheer audacity of setting a novel in the area around Chernobyl: this kind of thing is what has endeared Mr. Smith to millions of loyal readers. Tatiana does nothing to further our love of the author and of his most important creation. The first three or four books in the Renko series (Gorky Park, Red Square, the absolutely incomparable Polar Star, Havana Bay and Wolves Eat Dogs: I guess that's five) form a tower of literary accomplishment which few authors can aspire to. There were a couple of misses (Three Stations, and now Tatiana), but I suppose that this shows us that everybody's human) which nonetheless do not detract from the whole. I have probably listened to Polar Star five or six times by now, and it is still 100% compelling and full of rich humanity. Even knowing the whole book, it still thrills me. I know I will read it again. And again.
Henry Strozier does a yeoman's work. Sadly for him, Frank Muller read three of the first books, and that is a comparison which very few authors can even think about satisfying. Actually, Edoardo Ballerini has now, again in my opinion, reached and surpassed Muller's genius at narration. Any of you who do not know Mr. Ballerini yet are in for an amazing surprise and revelation. Mr. Ballerini is responsible for my doing an absolute 180 on Robert McCammon's Matthew Corbett series. At first I was unimpressed; now I am utterly delighted by the richness and all-around virtuosity of both the writing and the narration by both of these remarkable men.
Apparently I have strayed from Tatiana. No surprise. I looked forward to this book for several years. (I actually asked his son, who works at a bookstore near us) how long it would take for this book to appear, and that was about two years ago. You might like this book more than I do. I hope so.
A completely different narrator would be crucial.
I never finished the novel.
Henry Strozier narrates like a tired old man with a maddeningly slow pace and excessive emphasis on certain syllables.
I've enjoyed Martin Cruz Smith's novels in the past, but I'm afraid this experience has turned me off to him
This is an excellent book but the audio version is horrendous. I bought via Amazon and did not hear the book until after I had purchased it. The narrator sounds faintly like Foster Brooks, but with more liquor in him. I literally listened to a minute or too and then decided I had had enough.
If I listened to the full narration it would ruin all ensuing Renko novels for me.
Martin Cruz Smith is an extremely good story teller with great imagery and prose.
The only redeeming quality was that I had a hard copy of the book and did not have to listen to the narrator.
I have long been a fan of the Arkady Renko series though this is the first I have experienced as an audio book. Martin Cruz Smith brings well drawn characters and exquisite turns of phrase to the genre. The world weary Renko seems endlessly adaptable to the ever evolving Russian landscape. Some of the coincidences and plot twists require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief but it's such a pleasure to inhabit Smith's world that I'm easily won over. The only complaint I have is, though the reader had an appealing delivery, he read at a somnambulent pace which got pretty frustrating after a while. He also didn't bother much with differentiating the voices. Still and all a worthy addition to the series.
This isn't up there with Gorky Park, but it is a very well written suspense tale that keeps you listening for more. Very well performed. Some nice twists and turns. I bought the written version for my wife and she enjoyed it as well.
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