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Archive for the tag “Martin Cruz Smith”

Rose, by Martin Cruz Smith (book review)

RoseRose by Martin Cruz Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read several books by Martin Cruz Smith, all whodunits featuring detective Arkady Renko, mostly set in Moscow in the late 20th or early 21st century. This one is different, as it is set in 19th-century England, in Lancashire, in the mining town of Wigan to be precise.

Some of the Renko books felt a bit surreal to me, but no more so than Bulgakov’s The master and Margarita, but this one felt a bit more jarring. I’ve been to Moscow, and I’ve never been to Wigan, but somehow the Wigan setting seemed less authentic than the Moscow ones, not so much the place itself, as the people in it. The story was interesting enough, and made me want to read on to see what happened, but it somehow felt inauthentic, as if it was set in some alternative universe, like Philip Pullman‘s His dark materials.

The descriptions of coal mining were authentic, but it was the events and conversations on the surface that seemed out of place. A coal miner in Lancashire in 1872 likening something to a volcano? How many of them would have seen a volcano, or even a picture of one?

A zealous Evangelical clergyman speaking of Low Mass, or any kind of “Mass” at all? Such a thing would have been anathema to any Church of England Evangelical in that period. It’s a bit like Pullman’s use of terms like “Magisterium”, which clearly means something different in an alternative universe.

One is left wondering whether the surrealism is intended or not. The protagonist too is a bit surreal, an Indiana Jones-like character, but some of the other things in the book give the impression that it is intended to be a historical novel, authentic in time and place. It feels like 20th-century characters transported into a 19th-centry setting.

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Book Review: Havana Bay

Havana Bay (Arkady Renko, #4)Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking for some light bedtime reading, and looked through our bookshelves and picked up some books that I wasn’t sure if I had read or not, and then checked on my computer and found that I had read them, but they had proved to be rather forgettable. Then I picked up this book, which has been lying around for ages, but I hadn’t read it.

It was quite an interesting read.

Russian investigator Arkady Renko goes to Cuba to find out what had happened to a dead Russian, a sugar attache at the Russian Embassy in Cuba, who was found dead after he had been missing for several days. Renko wants the Cuban authorities to investigate his death, but finds that they are reluctant to do so. Since the fall of the Bosheviks from power the Russians have downsized their embassy in Cuba and the remaining Russians are not very popular, and Russians investigating possible crimes on Cuban soil are even less so.

Renko soon finds that something big is going on, something bigger than he first suspected, and the more he discovers, the bigger it gets.

To say motre would reveal too much of the plot, but there is also lots of local colour, and some interesting sidelights on Afro-Caribbean religion, and the role that semi-religious secret societies like Abakua play in Cuban society.

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