A woman known only as Maya traveling with an infant on a long train ride to Moscow mysteriously loses her child. Another young woman who looks similar is soon found dead lying in a corridor inside Three Stations, a massive maze of underground alleyways, subways, and train platforms that serve as the transportation hub for Russia’s capital. Everyone on Moscow’s police force ignores the frantic mother and dismisses the dead woman as just another prostitute who probably committed suicide everyone except Detective Arkady Renko.
Narrator Ron McLarty, who has also performed several other Renko books, takes on Martin Cruz Smith’s latest murder mystery. The Cold War may be decades old, but the air of intrigue lives on in Three Stations, where you’re never quite sure who’s on what side or who to trust. McLarty perfectly captures Smith’s sense of intrigue. He has a deep, determined voice, one that lends an air of seriousness and drama to Renko’s investigation. This tone works since the detective seems to be the only one taking everything seriously. Everyone else seems all too eager to dismiss the murder investigation and get back to enjoying life in post-Communist Moscow, a strange, other-worldly place populated by billionaires, schemers, prostitutes, thugs, and artists. But Renko refuses to jump to conclusions based on circumstantial evidence. And McLarty makes you believe he is wise to trust his investigative instincts.
Three Stations reveals a whole different side of Moscow that’s not included in tourism brochures. These once regal Stalinist train stations now seem to serve mainly as magnets for the city’s homeless and prostitutes. But rather than simply portraying these people as one-dimensional stereotypes, Smith breathes life into each character and presents them as unique people worthy of our attention. Renko takes the same approach, never assuming anything about anyone without facts to back up his theories, which makes him a great detective, and what ultimately makes Three Stations such a thrilling mystery. Ken Ross
A passenger train hurtling through the night. An unwed teenage mother headed to Moscow to seek a new life. A cruel-hearted soldier looking furtively, forcibly, for sex. An infant disappearing without a trace.
So begins Martin Cruz Smith’s masterful Three Stations, a suspenseful, intricately constructed novel featuring Investigator Arkady Renko.
For the last three decades, beginning with the trailblazing Gorky Park, Renko (and Smith) have captivated readers with detective tales set in Russia. Renko is the ironic, brilliantly observant cop who finds solutions to heinous crimes when other lawmen refuse to even acknowledge that crimes have occurred. He uses his biting humor and intuitive leaps to fight not only wrongdoers but the corrupt state apparatus as well.
In Three Stations, Renko’s skills are put to their most severe test. Though he has been technically suspended from the prosecutor’s office for once again turning up unpleasant truths, he strives to solve a last case: the death of an elegant young woman whose body is found in a construction trailer on the perimeter of Moscow’s main rail hub. It looks like a simple drug overdose to everyone—except to Renko, whose examination of the crime scene turns up some inexplicable clues, most notably an invitation to Russia’s premier charity ball, the billionaires’ Nijinksy Fair.
Thus a sordid death becomes interwoven with the lifestyles of Moscow’s rich and famous, many of whom are clinging to their cash in the face of Putin’s crackdown on the very oligarchs who placed him in power. Renko uncovers a web of death, money, madness. and a kidnapping that threatens the woman he is coming to love and the lives of children he is desperate to protect. In Three Stations, Smith produces a complex and haunting vision of an emergent Russia’s secret underclass of street urchins, greedy thugs, and a bureaucracy still paralyzed by power and fear.
Solve another case with Arkady Renko.
©2010 Titanic Productions. All rights reserved. (P)2010 Simon & Schuster
“[Smith] takes what in essence is a police procedural and elevates it to the level of absorbing fiction.” ( Los Angeles Times)
"A continuing adventure that in terms of popular fiction is surely a work of art.” (Washington Post)
"The sustained success of Smith’s Renko books is based on much more than Renko. This author’s gift for tart, succinct description creates a poisonous political backdrop, one that makes his characters’ survival skills as important as any of their other attributes. . . [This is] one top-flight series, still sharply honed, none the worse for wear.” (New York Times)
I am a long-time Arkady Renko fan and have always found the adventures easy escapism. You never have to think too hard with these novels, which is nice, but there's always enough intrigue and context to keep you engaged. And here, with Three Stations, there's...well...nothing to write home about. The characters and motivations - even Arkady's - are superficial to non-existent. The plot lines, really three intertwined minor plots thrown together, are uninteresting and unconvincing. Overall just dull. I kept waiting for something to happen. Then when "something" did happen it was just as uninteresting as when nothing was happening. It was like the adventures of Al Gore and Dan Qualye boozing it up in Russia, or a bad episode of Columbo. The narrator is fine, but he had little content to work with. I normally don't spend credits on short 7 hour listens, but figured it was worth it here to re-visit an old friend. Old friend never showed. Rest well Arkady. It was nice knowing you.
I am a big fan of this author. His book Rose is incredible. This novel however seems to wander a bit and just doesn't carry that ability the author has to immerse us in the character that he has demonstrated so well in the past. Wish it had been better because I really am a fan and wait for any new novels by this author
If you want to get to know "Russia" and Arkady Renko, don't start here - go directly to Gorky Park and then especially through Wolves Eat Dogs (one of the most captivating novels I've listened to in awhile - the section on the how and why of Chernobyl? Compelling and frightening...) and then there's this. Just a blip in the 3/5 category, I hope, until the next one. It's still good only because it is Renko: the life and times of the top five best detective series out there (inc. Dave Robicheaux, etc). Too much sideline, not enough Arakady, though, and what makes Moscow really tick. I am hoping for more and remain optimistic of better from Martin Cruz Smith.....a great reader is provided in this series, but not a great manuscript.
pros and cons
i am a huge fan of Smith's Renko novels. Gorkey Park is one of my favorite thrillers of all time. This was a disappointment though. it really felt like the book was being phoned in. weak on character development, weak on plot, low on surprises. Renko isn't even as cynical as we have come to expect. i'm still looking forward to the next one thought....
The most boring for me from the series about russian detective.Seems like the author had a hard time making up a story.
This novel is not in the same league as earlier work. The plots are thrown together and although all is made well in the end, you feel that the author just wanted to finish it all in a hurry. The characters are also astonishingly poorly drawn, with no depth at all. Spend your money elsewhere,,,
While not quite as good as some of the previous Renko books, I was caught up with this one and I enjoyed some of the fresh elements. Zhenya was a pleasant surprise- based on his personality in a previous book I thought he would be an annoying character to follow, but he was sympathetic without changing his fundamental nature. The author also doesn't rely heavily on a love triangle the way he did in many of the books.
Cruz Smith switches expertly between multiple POVs, some of them unexpected, always advancing the plot and never wasting time catching one character up with what the reader already knows. Everything seemed ready to come to a head nicely. Unfortunately the last quarter of the book falters. People return from disgrace with no explanation, key characters are not mentioned for several chapters running. There are also a lot of coincidences and reuse of characters, making Moscow seem a lot smaller than it should.
I still rate it as a good listen, and if you are prepared accept some coincidences and a resolution that felt rushed, there are plenty of good moments and memorable characters. The reader does a good job with it. I'm looking forward to the next one.
The story was shorter, thinner, and not as engrossing as Cruz Smith's early powerful books (Gorky Park, Polar Star, and Red Square). I love the narration of the previous books by Henry Strozier, so listening to Ron McLarty's was a bit disappointing. He doesn't capture the weary cynicism nearly so well and all the voices sound precisely the same, so you're never quite sure who's talking
Martin Cruz Smith's stories are always a great read.
The narrator for this book as not nearly as good as the one for the prior books. His voice and voices do not fit with the story and characters in this book.
Initial story draws you in, but last half deteriorates. solution was superficial and lacked context. One of very few books I would return if I had not listened to it too late.
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