Books in the series

Gorky Park (1981)

Polar Star (1989) Exiled to mind-numbing work on a fishing trawler in the frozen Bering sea, set in the late 1980's

Red Square (1992) Back from exile in the time of the attempted coup

What is the thing we crave most in life? The sense that someone somewhere remembers and loves us. Even better if we love them in turn. anything can be endured if that idea holds fast.

What can be worse than discovering how fatuous, how ignorant, that assumption can be? p. 179

How easily, without noticing, a man finds himself parallel to the life he meant to have, then arrives, years later, to find the band gone, flowers dead, love past. p. 227

Havana Bay (1999; sent to Cuba to solve a crime)
Won the 1999 Hammett Prize.

Wolves Eat Dogs (2004; sent to the wasteland of Chernobyl)

Stalin's Ghost (2007; in Moscow, circa. 2005)

Three Stations (2010)

Tatiana (2013)

The Siberian Dilemma (2019)


Official Martin Cruz Smith site

Why they are good

I am drawn to the character of Inspector Renko. He is a good man, trying to survive in a bad system. He has little ambition to cure the system or reform it, he just is driven to solve the cases in front of him.

But, as always happens, the system cannot let a good man alone, they must try to crush him.

Renko is regularly described by reviewers as cynical, distrusting, emotionally remote, and so on. But to define him that way is to make him unattractive and misses the context. He has those characteristics forced upon him by his experiences. In fact he has a totally innocent belief in justice. His emotional reticence is a survival mechanism, his cynicism is often a way of appearing to be agreeable without bluntly disagreeing with the lies others force on him.

In fact, he is a romantic, the last romantic in a world of soulless consumption. His pursuit of his Irina in Red Square is heartbreaking in his longing and loss. His faith in love after so many disappointments is equally heartbreaking.

A typical scene has Renko, poor, physically battered, without resources or connections, confronting a sleek member of the upper class who is attempting to lecture Renko on how things work.

Smith is a master of atmosphere. His depictions of Soviet decline and chaos - and western opulent corruption - will be read by historians who want a sense of place.

Last modified 2/6/22; posted 6/19/07; original content © 2022, 2007 John P. Nordin