Renko Festival

I read Polar Star in 1992 on Jon Carroll’s recommendation and was just blown away by the combination of thrilling plot and fine writing.  No spoiler here, but when i read the last six words, i sat there marveling, feeling that the purpose of the whole damn book was to set up those six words.

So of course i immediately read Gorky Park with great enjoyment, fell in love with the Russian investigator Arkady Renko and then impatiently waited for the sequels, gobbling them up as soon as they were published.  All were entertaining thrillers tracking Arkady’s career and life, and all were studded with lines so fine that even now in my senility some of them pop to mind.  Like in Wolves Eat Dogs when Arkady has questioned the cook and housekeeper of man who’d been fatally poisoned with radioactive cesium and determined that they knew nothing of the plot, “and besides, their hair loss seemed sincere.”

My goodness, i loved these novels.  But then, Something Happened, and i stopped checking for new ones after i read Wolves Eat Dogs.

Well, a few days ago i thought of Arkady again, did a search, and discovered that Smith has been at it to the tune of three more sequels.

God bless the Sonoma County Library system, most particularly the Petaluma branch, for having all three of them.  They’re stacked up now on my table, and i’ve just finished them.  Stalin’s Ghost, Three Stations, and Tatiana.   All were enjoyable, the but main pleasure i got from them was in the development of Zhenya, the orphan boy Arkady took in at the end of Wolves Eat Dogs.  The standard has slipped, but they’re still good enough to be read with enjoyment by Arkady fans.  The real falling off doesn’t start until after Stalin’s Ghost.

My favorite is Polar Star, but i recommend starting at the beginning with Gorky Park because part of the joy of reading these novels is in Smith’s development of Arkady’s life and in his tracing the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Here they are:

  1. Gorky Park (1981)
  2. Polar Star (1989)
  3. Red Square (1992)
  4. Havana Bay (1999)
  5. Wolves Eat Dogs (2004)
  6. Stalin’s Ghost (2007)
  7. Three Stations (2010)
  8. Tatiana (2013)

Meanwhile, a sturdy bench in a shopping center on North McDowell.

North McDowell bench

 

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