By Martin Cruz Smith
Read September 2014
I slammed Smith’s last Renko mystery for too little story, and his recent revelation that he’s suffering from Parkinson’s, which now requires him to dictate his novels to his wife, may provide some insight into the problems with that book. But those problems definitely are not in evidence in his most recent novel, Tatiana, which may be shorter than earlier works but still delivers a full and satisfying read. The novel opens with the murder of a translator in Khaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic Sea port that is separated from the motherland by hundreds of miles of former Soviet republics. That killing is soon followed by the falling death of Tatiana Petrovna, an investigative reporter who goes out a Moscow window the same week a Russian mob boss is gunned down. When Arkady Renko winds up with a cache of Tatiana’s tapes and a notebook filled with pages of word-pictures he can’t understand, he’s sucked into an investigation that nobody wants or authorizes of a death officially deemed an suicide. Unraveling the mystery carries him from Moscow to Khaliningrad and offers a fascinating look at contemporary Russia and some really scary bad guys.