The International Writers Magazine: Reviews
The Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith
Macmillan Jan 2011
Maya seems to be a simple schoolgirl nursing a baby on the Moscow bound train. She is attacked in the train toilet by a soldier and saved by a friendly woman who admonishes the soldier. Hours later Maya wakes up to find the baby gone and realises she has been conned. Panic struck she begins a fruitless search for her beautiful baby.
So begins The Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith – the seventh Arkardy Renko thriller. I admit I am a long serving fan of Renko, a cop who has been through the mill from murders in Gorky Park to the brilliant Wolves Eat Dogs at Chernobyl and now back in Moscow, in constant threat of dismissal, his brilliant record of solving crimes worthless in a country were corruption is the norm and no one actually wants crimes solved.
For this writer Wolves Eats Dogs was the pinnacle of achievement for Martin Cruz Smith and The Three Stations feels more like a contractual piece of writing than something inspired from the heart. It is always interesting, but nevertheless there is the whiff of weariness about this and since most of the detection work is actually carried out by Zhenya, the boy that Renko has informally adopted and cannot control… it is perhaps that Smith’s attention wasn’t fully occupied by this project.
There is a dead prostitute in found in a trailer at the Three Stations but Renko isn’t convinced she is all she seems as there isn’t a mark on her. He finds there is a link to super-models and the super rich of a lawless Moscow elite and of course he oversteps his boundaries immediately.
Meanwhile Zhenya, his ward, has hooked up with the troubled Maya looking for her baby at Yaroslav station and the people who abducted her. He introduces her to the secret hideaway he lives in and is clearly falling for her. He discovers that Maya isn’t at all the innocent she appears to be. People are looking for her with one purpose and that is to kill her and what she knows.
Renko has his work cut out for him and his superiors do all they can to obstruct him. It is always a pleasure to read another Moscow thriller by Martin Cruz Smith, but I’m hoping the next Renko outing will be darker and faster and with even more desperate insights into the lawless world Putin has created around him.
© Sam Hawksmoor Feb 1st 2011
Sam Hawksmoor’s ‘The Repossession’ coming from Hodder this October