Book Review: Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

gorky_parkWhat’s it about?2012 WBN Logo

A triple murder in a Moscow amusement center: three corpses found frozen in the snow, faces and fingers missing.

Chief homicide investigator Arkady Renko is brilliant, sensitive, honest, and cynical about everything except his profession.

To identify the victims and uncover the truth, he must battle the KGB, FBI, and the New York City police as he pursues a rich, ruthless, and well-connected American fur dealer.

Meanwhile, Renko is falling in love with a beautiful, headstrong dissident for whom he may risk everything.

My thoughts

Gorky Park was the next book up in my World Book Night reading challenge – yes! I’ve now finished book 19 out of 20.

This is the first of eight novels in the Detective Arkady Renko series of novels and it’s set during the Cold War in the Soviet Union.

In a nutshell the story is in 3 parts; set in Moscow, Shatura and New York. Part 1 is in Moscow and concentrates on the discovery of the bodies in Gorky Park and the ensuing investigation.  Part 2 moves to Shatura and focuses on Arkady’s recouperation and isolation and what I thought was a developing friendship between him and the Major but I’m not really sure and so this part didn’t really do much for me. In part 3 Arkady is moved to New York and here we see the true power of the FBI and KGB smuggling people in and out of countries and doing dodgy dealings but to be fair it does all culminate in an edge of the seat ending which actually was probably the best part of the book, when some real action was taking place!

Considering the victims were initially unidentifiable this was worked out quite quickly, as was the main suspect and so I got bored with it all quite quickly.  There’s an awful lot of Russian history/culture in this book, I appreciate it’s set in Russia so you would expect some detail of the era in which its set but a lot of it I felt was superfluous and repetitive which I thought made the book over long and quite slow.

The book is packed full of Russion cliches: the militia, corruption, defection, communism, cold and harsh winter, vodka (so much vodka I’m amazed these people could stand, let alone investigate murder) and the KGB, everything you can think of that’s synonymous with Russia, it’s in here. And, I think because of this over descriptive detail I lost interest which was a shame really because when the story relates to the actual investigation it’s quite good.

The book jacket bills it as “magnificently sustained, rich and mature” and “…a genuinely frightening, genuinely original vision“.  I don’t know what kind of reception this book had when originally released, there’s been movie adaptations so I assume it was well received but honestly it was too drawn out.

I won’t read any more of the series, I think they’re probably dated now and for me there’s a lot better stuff out there now, however I do appreciate this book was probably made a huge impact when it was first released.

I would recommend to readers that enjoy thrillers and novels set during this era but otherwise don’t bother.

Get the book and give it a go Paperback | Kindle

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