Thursday, November 21, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of Martin Cruz Smith's 'The Siberian Dilemma'

The Washington Times published my review of Martin Cruz Smith’s The Siberian Dilemma.

Investigator Arkady Renko is a popular series character enjoyed by crime aficionados ever since readers were first introduced to the Moscow detective in Martin Cruz Smith’s 1981 thriller “Gorky Park.” A fine film based on the novel and starring Lee Marvin and William Hurt as Arkady Renko came out in 1983.

Arkady Renko is an independent and somewhat insubordinate investigator with a dry wit and a strong sense of justice, as well as a strong sense of irony. Throughout the series he has faced dangers and difficulties not only from the criminals he investigates, but also from his superior officers and other apparatchiks in the service of the oppressive and corrupt Communist regime in the Soviet Union.

In “The Siberian Dilemma,” Renko is now an investigator serving under the oppressive and corrupt Vladimir Putin regime. He must contend with crooked politicians, bent cops, criminal gangs, criminal oligarchs — and bears.

At four in the morning, Renko and his partner, Victor, a good detective when he was sober, as Mr. Smith notes, were called to the zoo to help deal with two free and ferocious bears. The zoo director, Victor’s sister, had shot the two bears with tranquilizer darts, but they were still alert and still dangerous.

“Sasha’s eyes were set in a huge pan-shaped head and he studied Arkady as someone who might share his misery. The bear was a towering beast but his customary roar was weakened by alcohol. His mate, Masha, sat on her rump, a half-empty bottle of champagne pressed to her breast. A plaque on the zoo guardrail read ‘Sasha and Masha, American Brown Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis).’ That sounded about right, Arkady thought,” Martin Cruz Smith writes.

“The bears had been released by somebody who had left a poster that declared ‘We Are Animals Too.’ Arkady wasn’t going to dispute this.

“Arkady was an Investigator of Special Cases, and if a bear running loose in the heart of Moscow was not a special case, he didn’t know what was.”     

Renko later faces wild bears and other dangers in Siberia. Prosecutor Zurin, Renko’s boss, sent him to Siberia to deal with a Chechen terrorist held prisoner for attempting to murder the prosecutor in Moscow. Although he assumes that he is being shipped off to Siberia to be out of his boss’ hair, he’s thankful, as his part-time girlfriend, Tatiana Petrovna, a bold and fearless investigative journalist, is in Siberia working on a story for the news magazine Russia Now.

She’s working on a story about Mikhail Kuznetsov, known as the “hermit billionaire.” Russia Now’s editor tells Arkady Renko that Kuznetsov is an idealistic oligarch who spent five years in a Siberian prison for daring to criticize Mr. Putin and his cronies.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: 

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