There are a few things you should know about Gorky Park before you read this review for said review to make any sense.
One, Gorky Park was actually written in Russian and translated into English – not something you realize when you read the blurb or buy the book.
Two, the cover may look all new and contemporary, but it’s an old book – originally published in 1981. It’s set in the 1980s in Russia, which was a very, very different time wrought with political nitty-gritties that most people aren’t completely aware of.
Three, in spite of being translated, it is actually very accurate in slang and style, something I realized when I watched Chernobyl right after reading this book and found the characters’ idiosyncrasies making more sense than they otherwise would’ve.
Four, those idiosyncracies make no sense for the first third of the book, until you get into it.
Now that we’ve got those out of the way… let’s get to this review!
Mystery, Crime, Fiction
When Chief Inspector Arkady Renko discovers three mutilated in Gorky Park, he wants to do everything he can to prove that the case is more suitable for KGB than the militia. What begins as a minimal investigation turns into the biggest case of his life. As Renko is forced to question everything he’s believed in and trusted, he discovers more about himself than he thought possible, or even wanted. But will this realization help him find answers, or will it kill him?
6 out of 10
6 out of 10
7 out of 10
6 out of 10 for the mystery
8 out of 10 for its abstract yet endearing style
Part of a Series:
Apparently, yes. This is the first of the Arkady Renko series.
The way Martin Cruz Smith manages to beautify the saddest and weakest vulnerabilities of human beings while showing that that is what makes us strong in the first place.
What I Liked:
The conflict that Arkady Renko has with himself as a good person dealt a bad hand, wanting to do the right thing even as he’s incredibly tempted to not, so as to protect himself.
What I Didn’t Like:
It was a little too local. There was so much reliance on the political and inter-country relationships at the crux of the story that I think it would leave anyone who wasn’t living in 1981 Russia feeling a little lost. Some perspective might have helped (especially for people like me whose knowledge of geography and history is downright-laughable).
Who Should Read It:
Anyone who enjoys the abstract narrative that is seen quite often in slightly older novels. Anyone who loves Russia-based literature. And anyone who wants to try a mystery with a twist (a very, very large twist… and some small ones).
Who Should Avoid:
Anyone who likes clear-cut plots – this one is super-twisty and can get a bit difficult to follow.
Read It For:
The authentic manner in which it captures a culture, and a look into the relationship-intricacies of two superpowers pitted against each other. Oh and also for this weird oxymoron that the book seems to be – it’s actually engaging and frustrating, simultaneously. You literally feel like putting it aside and not picking it up for a while, but still feel like turning page after page at the same time!
Gorky Park isn’t the easiest read, but it’s definitely an interesting one – to the extent that, in spite of feeling a little lost at many points, I wouldn’t mind reading more from Martin Cruz Smith, and am definitely going to follow the story of Arkady Renko. Before I come around to picking that one up though, there are many books to read and many reviews to share. Next up – The Sleepwalker by Joshua Knox.
Got something to add? Just drop a comment below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!