The Siberian Dilemma by Martin Cruz Smith [7/10]

A defining pleasure of the past four decades has been Arkady Renko, who, ever since Martin Cruz Smith swept the world with ”Gorky Park“ in 1981, has beguiled us as a Moscow investigator. Renko is ethical, cynical, and brilliant, a perfect vehicle for exploring first the Soviet Union and now Russia. I have such vivid memories of each Renko novel that I was surprised to discover that “The Siberian Dilemma” is only his eighth outing. This time, in the corrupt world of Putin and the oligarchs, Renko heads out east into the Siberian tundra and snow, to attempt to rescue the new love of his life, journalist Tatiana. Martin Cruz Smith is an exquisite stylist, using a pared down palette of evocative dialogue, spot-on descriptions, and Renko’s febrile thoughts. The action escalates towards an amazing series of scenes in far eastern Russian taiga and beyond, and then the reader is treated to Renko’s Poirot-esque unravelling of the strands of mystery. It’s an intoxicating brew, marred only by brevity that I’m sure wasn’t present in the first few Renko instalments, and is best devoured in a single setting.

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