International Writers Magazine: Review
Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith
Publisher: Macmillan, Great Britain (2007)
ISBN: 978-1-4050-9049-0 (HB)
am a firm believer of trying out new things and when this novel
was put before me it was exciting opportunity to experience something
different. For those who want something perhaps slightly unusual
or something with depth, then this book is highly recommended. The
novel is the sixth installment of Martin Cruz Smiths Arkady
Renko series. By itself or included with the whole collection,
it is definitely a compelling read.
Set in Cruz Smiths bleak and chilling Moscow, blanketed in heavy
falling snow and ice, a sense of hopelessness does float between pages
in a powerful manner. This is reflected by when Arkady and Eva (his girlfriend
found in Wolves Eat Dogs) describe Moscow to be like Atlantis,
the city buried in snow, almost like a forgotten dream. The setting is
harsh and brisk and at the same time is sensuous that the mood of the
story is enveloped within the wintered scenery of Mother Russia.
Arkady, the Ukrainian senior investigator who is stationed in Moscow is
an enthralling protagonist, suspicious and cynical and delightfully twisted
with a hint of bitterness in which is caused from his deranged past and
the stimulating characters that he comes across. Living with his girlfriend
Eva, a Ukrainian physician, and his adopted son Zhenya, who is a persistent
runaway and chess playing genius, it is clear to see that Arkadys
life is far from simple. Instead of playing a dashing careless heroic
character, Arkady has not only his dark investigation to pull through,
but has the same hard problems as most middle-aged men. He also shows
a mental struggle of his childhood with his harsh General father who resented
him for his mothers suicide. Even so Arkady is likeable, someone
who the reader may relish for his logical abilities and contemptuous personality.
Arkady is appointed to investigate the sighting of the ghost of Stalin
at the Chistye Prudy metro station. Whether or not this ghost actually
exists, Arkady sees the gullibility of the public being manipulated by
Arkadys enemy, Nikolai Isakov a supposed war hero and a member of
a secret police organisation named the Black Berets. Arkadys dislike
for Isakov stems from Isakovs dicey detective work and his rivalling
love interest for Eva. Isakovs manipulation of the public is aided
by a broadcasting producer named Zelensky who uses the sighting of Stalin
as help towards Isakovs campaign in the Russian Patriots party.
Arkady suspicions are strong throughout mostly because of jealously and
his intuitive nature. However even with Arkadys experience and talents,
he is nowhere close to being prepared for what danger his investigation
In conclusion, starting the novel was a tad slow, maybe I was expecting
too much at first, but once settling into the story and developing relationships
with the characters, especially with Arkady and Eva, then the story became
so rich and involved. Martin Cruz Smith shows great talent in seducing
the reader into this tale; the multi strand narrative is far from simple.
I can only really say that this book is deliciously dark. Although the
cold stiffness of Moscow seems so slow, the storyline is constantly surprising
with unexpected violent bursts, shootings, murders, risky encounters.
This novel was also extremely intriguing how the public in the book reacted
to Stalins ghost, as if destalinization had never taken place. The
Russian people are trapped in time, loving and worshipping the dictator.
It seems almost like a dark fairytale that Russia has stayed frozen in
time whilst the rest of the world has melted and moved on.
© Louise Webster November 2007
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