Prowling the mean streets of Moscow in search of justice

Historical, classical and biblical references litter the novel but ‘Tatiana’ is a contemporary tale that lifts the lid on the power struggles of modern Moscow

William Hurt (left) as Arkady Renko in ‘Gorky Park’, Michael Apted’s film adaptation from 1983; the Moscow policeman returns in Martin Cruz Smith’s new novel, ‘Tatiana’

William Hurt (left) as Arkady Renko in ‘Gorky Park’, Michael Apted’s film adaptation from 1983; the Moscow policeman returns in Martin Cruz Smith’s new novel, ‘Tatiana’

Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 01:00

‘God knows the truth, but waits,” says one of the characters, quoting Tolstoy, in Martin Cruz Smith’s Tatiana (Simon & Schuster, €11.45). The implicit message is that judgment, and perhaps even justice, are inevitable, although Arkady Renko, the Moscow policeman who made his debut in Gorky Park (1981), isn’t entirely sure.

The death of Tatiana Petrovna, a crusading journalist, appears to have been suicide, but as Renko prowls the mean streets of Moscow, and later the Baltic coast around the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, he discovers that many powerful figures have benefited from the silencing of Tatiana.

Haunted by the voice that whispers from Tatiana’s stash of recordings, the aging and ailing Renko is equally haunted by the shades of the sailors who died on the ill-fated Kursk submarine in August 2000.

Despite the historical, classical and biblical references that litter the novel, however, Tatiana is a contemporary tale in which Renko’s investigation lifts the lid on the power struggles of modern Moscow, as gangsters, terrorists and former KGB agents jostle for position as they scramble for their piece of the pie. The comitragic Renko’s own powers may well be on the wane in this, his eighth outing, but Tatiana confirms that Martin Cruz Smith remains a force to be reckoned with.

Karen Perry is a new writing partnership composed of Karen Gillece and Paul Perry, and their debut, The Boy That Never Was (Penguin/Michael Joseph, €14.99), suggests that it will be the first of many. A prologue set in Tangier in 2005 tells the reader that Harry is guilty of negligence in the death, during an earthquake, of his young son Dillon.

The story then moves on to Dublin in 2010, when Harry believes he sees his missing son on O’Connell Street during an anti-government demonstration. Unable to persuade gardaí that Dillon is alive and well, Harry confesses all to his wife, Robin, which is when we start to realise that Harry has a history of obsession and instability, and that Robin also has secrets she needs to conceal.

The unreliable narrator is a staple of crime and mystery writing, but The Boy That Never Was folds another dimension into the convention by offering a pair of devious narrators. It is a neat trick, especially as each succeeding account casts doubt on the truth of the previous offering’s events and the mental state of its narrator, with the result that this assured debut is equal parts thriller, mystery and fascinating psychological study.

Chris Pavone’s debut, The Expats (2012), won a slew of crime-fiction awards, including the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first novel. His follow-up, The Accident (Faber, €14.99), centres on the imminent publication of a book that could destroy the reputation and political career of a media mogul, Charlie Wolfe.

Opening with a literary agent, Isabel Reed, turning the final page on the potentially explosive manuscript, the story takes off at a ferocious pace as vested interests – including an off-the-books black-ops wing of the CIA – race to prevent the book being published.

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