Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Three Stations: Martin Cruz Smith

This is the 7th book in the Arkady Renko series by Martin Cruz Smith. I have read all of the earlier books in the series, but it has been 13 years since I read the previous book, Stalin's Ghost. So I don't remember exactly where we left Arkady in that book. 

In the first book in the series, Gorky Park, published in 1981, Arkady was a homicide investigator in Moscow. In the second book, Polar Star, not published until 1989, he is working on a huge fishing-factory ship in the Bering Sea. [I remember that as my favorite book in the series.] In Red Square (1992), he is back in Moscow and again working on the homicide squad in post-Soviet Russia. Havana Bay takes him to Cuba to investigate a crime that no one else wants investigated. In the fifth book, Wolves Eat Dogs, he ends up in Chernobyl and the Zone of Exclusion, an area closed to the world since the nuclear disaster in 1986. So Arkady has had quite an interesting life.

In Three Stations, Arkady is a prosecutor's investigator in Moscow but does not have any current cases because he always causes problems, no matter what he investigates. He decides to help his friend and former partner, Victor Orlov, with his current case, the death of a prostitute by drug overdose. Of course, Arkady sees more in the death than a simple overdose and wants to pursue it. Victor is an alcoholic and Arkady is rescuing him from the drunk tank when we first meet him. 

Arkady befriended a young orphan in a previous book. Zhenya was 11 when Arkady first found him at a children's shelter and he is now 15. They have no legal relationship, but Zhenya is welcome to stay with Arkady whenever he wants. Most of the time he chooses to live in the deserted Peter the Great Casino in Three Stations. He is gifted at chess and makes money taking bets on chess games. 

"What tourist maps called Komsomol Square, the people of Moscow called Three Stations for the railway terminals gathered there. Plus the converging forces of two Metro lines and ten lanes of traffic. Passengers pushed their way like badly organized armies through street vendors selling flowers, embroidered shirts, shirts with Putin, shirts with Che, CDs, DVDs, fur hats, posters, nesting dolls, war medals and Soviet kitsch."

Maya is a 15-year-old who arrives on a train at Three Stations only to find her three-week-old baby is missing. She has escaped her captors who were going to give away the baby, but she has no clue how to find her and there are two men searching for Maya. Zhenya is trying to help her but she doesn't know who to trust. 


My thoughts...

For the most part, the author keeps the story moving, but there are places where it is more slowly paced. Smith's stories seem to be less about the mystery or crime and more about the state of Russia and the state of Arkady Renko's life. Smith's writing is beautiful.

Life in Russia is not depicted as very appealing; there are depressing moments and a good bit of violence. This book was fairly short, at 241 pages, and I liked that length.

Between the two story lines, one about the investigation of the death of a young woman, the other following Maya and Zhenya and the search for the baby, I was more invested in the secondary one, which was given less time. The ending was very good, satisfying and moving. 


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Publisher:   Simon & Schuster, 2010
Length:       241 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Arkady Renko, #7
Setting:       Moscow, Russia
Genre:        Police procedural
Source:       I purchased this book when it was published.


21 comments:

Bill Selnes said...

Thanks for the review. I always find it interesting to see how another blogger reacts to a book I have read. With regard to the two stories there was more investigating with regard to the murdered young woman but the search for the baby was more compelling. I found the ending the least satisfying part of the book. I do agree it was a good book.

TracyK said...

Bill, it is interesting to compare different takes on the same book. I often check out Goodreads after I read a book and marvel at all the various thoughts on a book. I also think I have a different opinion of a book based on when in my life I read it and my mood and other factors. I will be reading the next book in the series for sure because I already have it. And hope to read it before I forget this one. And will continue on to the latest book because "why not?" when I have read all the previous books.

FictionFan said...

I've had Gorky Park sitting on my Kindle for years waiting for me to get to it. His books always sound as if they have such interesting settings. I'm glad you think it's a good series - I must try to finally start it...

Mystica said...

The book is new to me. Thank you for the review, I also enjoyed the comments from other bloggers.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, I remember liking Gorky Park a lot when I read it, but it was many years ago. I also enjoyed the film based on the book, but I don't think it was liked that well when it came out. I think it is worth a try.

TracyK said...

Mystica, I enjoy the series, especially for the picture of life in Russia, over the years before the breakup of the Soviet Union and after that.

Rick Robinson said...

I read GORKY PARK when it was published, and liked it a lot. I read the next two in paperback and thought they were good, but I didn't ever read another. I enjoyed the setting/characters Smith created, but it was enough to read three, if you get that. Nice review.

TracyK said...

Rick, I can understand stopping at three books in the series. Overall this book is not depressing, but parts of it are, and I can't say it was a fun read. The Inspector Rostnikov series by Stuart Kaminsky shows a Russia that is just as bleak, but the stories are more uplifting.

Margot Kinberg said...

That's the thing about Smith's writing, I think. His writing flows so very well that it's not bothersome that the story moves a little slower in places. And I agree with you, Tracy, about the depiction of life in Russia. I learn as much about that as I do about the mystery at hand.

Neeru said...

I have heard Gorky Park praised a lot and I do want to read it at some point but there are just too many books...

TracyK said...

Margot, to me Gorky Park and Polar Star were the most memorable books in the series, and good mysteries, but I enjoy all the books in the series for the reasons you mention.

TracyK said...

Neeru, I know exactly what you mean. That is why it took me so many years to read this book. I figure you will get to Gorky Park at the right time for you.

Sam Sattler said...

The Arkady Renko series is one of the very first ones I got myself hooked on. It's been a while, though, since I've visited that world, and this makes me want to go there again...bleak though it is. I love Smith's style and storytelling ability, and I find his books all to be very readable.

TracyK said...

Sam, I agree with your assessment. I have one non-series by Smith, December 6, that I would like to read soon. That one has also been on my TBR shelves for a long time.

Rick Robinson said...

I’ve read a few of the Inspector Rostnikov series, and liked them, especially the one set in (?) Siberia.

TracyK said...

Rick, the 14th book in the series is Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express, and the next one up for me to read. After that one, I will only have two left to read in the series. They vary like books in most series, but I have enjoyed the majority of them.

CLM said...

I've never read this series but when you think about the changes in Russia since Gorky Park, it must be a real challenge to have adapted. I did enjoy the Red Sparrow series several years ago and was sorry to see that author died recently.

col2910 said...

I read the first two in the series Tracy and kept hold of them. I added more to the collection as subsequent books were released. Not sure If I picked this one up or not, but I'd like to work my way through the series from start to finish. Maybe a project for 2022....

TracyK said...

Col, this is a good series to read in order, and especially to read close enough together that you can remember what's happening. Some of them I have saved for rereading some day.

Rick Robinson said...

FYI - it’s 104 here right now. Gasp.

TracyK said...

Oh, no, Rick. That is horrible and I hope the AC is helping. And that the temperatures go down soon.

I have lived places (Merced, CA) where it got up to 110 but it did not feel hotter than 100 in Birmingham, AL. But that is probably due to humidity differences.