Tuesday, April 18, 2006

06.16 Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith


Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith

Cruz Smith has always been one of my more mainstream guilty pleasures. He made his bones back in the 70's writing Nick Carter and other action series. Then in 1981 he wrote his most famous book Gorky Park. This was his first novel to feature the Russian detective Arkady Renko and was made into a big movie.

Wolves Eat Dogs is the fifth Renko novel and the third that I've read. This Moscow detective is a fairly standard portrait in that he he's a kind of downtrodden, outside-the-system guy. That's the cool thing though, about how he structures his book - Renko often gets sent to out of the way places to deal with weird or unusual crimes.

In Wolves Eat Dogs, the Senior Investigator has been called in to investigate the apparent suicide of Pasha Ivanov, wealthy president of Moscow's NoviRus corporation. Ivanov and his partner Timofeyev are part of the "New Russia" - young men who are super rich, have sexy model girls and live in a world of their own. Renko's superiors declare the suicide a closed case even though he makes them aware of a bloody print on the balcony and 50 kilos of salt poured over the floor of the tycoon's closet.

When Timofeyev turns up dead in a graveyard in the Ukraine near the Chernobyl zone of exclusion the book really begins to get interesting. Renko's boss, thinking to quiet his awkward questions on the investigation, sends him off to the new death.

The Chernobyl region 20 years after the disaster is an awesome ready-mady setting for some really wild scenes. The various squatters, scientists and old folk who have returned to an area where the radiation levels are still fatal make up a difficult challenge for Renko's investigation. He bombs around on his Uralmoto motorcycle through abandoned towns and forests, in and around the black depths of the 12km long cooling pond and slowly closes in on the heart of the mystery.

This is a book I would recommend as a quick and easy read - what you might call a vacation book.



Olman Feelyus said...

Martin Cruz Smith is one of those authors that seemed really complex and adult when I first knew about him. I read Gorky Park after seeing the movie, neither of which I really "got" at the time. A few years ago, my mom sent me the Arcady novel that takes place in Cuba. I quite enjoyed it, but I realized at the end that "oh yeah, this is just a pretty standard detective story, except with a russian detective." They are competently done and I like the way Arcady makes his way, battered and beaten down but surviving through all the various transformations of the Russian state. Chernobyl is really on the cultural radar this week, isn't it?

caropops said...

I'm the mom.
Just found Wolves eat Dogs in a review copy at the book exchange at the local grocery store — is this a cool neighborhood or what?
I did take it on vacation. The first 2/3 were to me very funny and very painful. Now that we are in the 20th anniversary more of the story is emerging.

Bookwise, the last quarter or so became overly saturated with plot. but I did, of course, like the romance, and the connection with Arkady and the orphan child.

Buzby said...

Interesting review. I also did not quite understand Gorky Park when I saw it years ago. Now I plan to read the book to see if my old age has made me any wiser.