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November 2 2019
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A scene from Gorky Park, the 1983 film featuring Soviet detective Arkady Renko.

The Siberian Dilemma by Martin Cruz Smith

This fall sees the return of two of the longest-running, most loved detectives in contemporary crime fiction—Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko. Though Bosch has been a steady presence, we’ve had to wait awhile for the Moscow investigator introduced in Gorky Park 38 years ago and who last appeared in 2013’s Tatiana. Smith was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1995, which created major obstacles—even the act of typing was a trial. With medical intervention, determination, and the help of his wife, he’s been able to produce novels, though at a slower pace than before.

But the excellent series hasn’t suffered; Smith’s characterization of Renko and his grasp of the constantly changing nature of the “new” Russia are as sharp as ever. Which may just be the old Soviet Union except with more oil, yachts, soccer teams, and bling, but Smith examines it through the wry, world-weary perspective of Renko, whose job as investigator of special cases for the prosecutor’s office always seems to be balanced on the razor’s edge.

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