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Martin Cruz Smith s Arkady Renko books are a series of mysteries set at various points in late 2oth century Russian history, starting with the last death throes of Communism This is the second book in the series I ve read Stalin s Ghost 6 and watched the film version of Gorky Park 1 Here, Renko, a former criminal investigator, has fled Moscow after the events of Gorky Park and is on the run from the KGB After a series of awful jobs, he ends up gutting fish on a trawler in the Bering Sea A fellow crew member is murdered and because of Renko s unique skill set, he s asked to help with the investigation.What sets these books apart for me, beyond the glimpses into current Russian society, is Smith s exemplary character building of Renko Renko has a quick mind and a dark, mordant wit He clearly sees the cracks in the Soviet Russian system and he s not afraid, to his continual regret, to speak his mind and buck authority William Hurt did a credible job in Gorky Park, but I picture a young Alan Rickman with the line readings in the book Take a line like Good luck This is how it s written by Smith He doesn t embellish it with, he said sardonically or he said cryptically or he said with withering sarcasm Renko s character has been so firmly established that the reader can add his own inflections as he reads the books.This book offers up plenty of interesting characters Russian and American , plot twists and political intrigue The crimes in these books always start off with seemingly grand motivations but usually end up being about something petty and tawdry This is not a bad thing.If you re looking for a nice blend of police procedural, mystery and an exotic locale, I d recommend this and the other Renko books. I m picking Polar Star as my favorite in the Arkady Renko series The first is Gorky Park and I recommend starting with it Each is a self contained mystery but the background of the protagonist adds considerably to the story.In Plar Star, Arkady Renko is working on a fish processing ship in the Bering Sea This is his reward for solving a politically sensitive murder investigation in the previous Gorky Park Renko was a Moscow police investigator during the Soviet regime His dealings with bureaucracy of the government causes him to constantly tease the third rail of government officialdom.Subsequent books, starting with Red Square pick up Renko s story after the fall of the Communist government There are seven in the series and each one is a great read I d pick Wolves Eat Dogs as the next best but all are terrific. 3.5 stars I remember reading Gorky Park many years ago In fact I reread it several times I enjoyed the politics of The Soviet Union and the corruption of the state This is the next book in the series, which I believe was not written until many years after the original.This is set on a factory ship in the seas off Alaska This provides tension and claustrophobia to the is very atmospheric I really enjoyed the comparison between the Soviet ship and the American one There were spies and baddies and smuggling and quotas Arcady Renko is aboard as he has been exiled for his part in the Gorky Park investigation This was pretty exciting in places and Renko is a great character Looking forward to the next one where hopefully Renko will be back on dry land and possibly reinstated as an Investigator Time will tell Well worth a read I m not sure why I delayed getting to this title since I enjoyed Gorky Park so much, to which this book is a sequel of sorts Of sorts, because it follows directly on the heels of Gorky, but the author in a few brief paragraphs lays out precisely why Arkady, formerly head investigator for the prosecutor s office in Moscow is now working as a slimer on a factory ship in the Bering Sea.It s good Those who don t like what they view as excessive detail in Moby Dick probably won t like this book either, but as you know, I wallow in all manner of detail and the descriptive scenes of working on the factory ship were quite interesting, particularly when they discover a slime eel hagfish in the body of a Russian woman who was dragged up by one of the accompanying American trawlers it s a joint Russian American business Totally gross Because of his previous investigative experience, the captain pulls Arkady from the factory line and has him investigate, wanting to have everything kosher for the American observers on board Arkardy is forced to walk a very fine line between those in power who see no reason for an investigation, nor do they want one, and his innate sense of justice that refuses to accept the official verdict of suicide when all the evidence points in a different direction Everyone lies and everyone has nefarious reasons for doing so It s a world populated by paranoiacs and schemers.Lots of reflections on Russian society comments like In irony we lead the world, which in context is not only amusing but perspicacious And, my goodness, Smith has a dim view of people in general if his books are any testament. Polar Star , 2 in the Inspector Arkady Renko series, is a terrific story I think it waysuperior to the first book in the series, Gorky Park It can be a standalone read, but Renko s backstory, which is referred to occasionally in this novel, is described in its entirety in the first novel Missing from this narrative is exactly why Renko, an educated man who was an excellent Moscow police detective, is now on the run and hiding from the close attention of various Soviet political authorities and no longer a police inspector Arkady s skills are being wasted in his current job cutting up fish on the slime line of the fish processor ship, Polar Star From Wikipedia Some factory ships can also function as mother ships The basic idea of a mother ship is that it can carry small fishing boats that return to the mother ship with their catch But the idea extends to include factory trawlers supporting a fleet of smaller catching vessels that are not carried on board They serve as the main ship in a fleet operating in waters a great distance from their home ports Polar Star carries 300 people as crew, 50 of them women Most of them are processing the fish is in survival mode, quietly earning a living in jobs which hopefully are under the radar of people he pissed off in Moscow He is considered politically unreliable by important Communist Party members, a death sentence in the Soviet Union Renko insisted on solving cases which involve prostitution, smuggling, murder and political corruption all of which are considered impossible under a Communist government It is two years after the events in Gorky Park , and after many hard labor jobs in Siberia which have served to muscle up the Inspector s body, he is now cutting fish up on a boat on its way to Dutch Harbor, occasionally stopping to swing aboard the fish caught by smaller American fishing boats to prepare the fish for later sale and distribution in America.https wiki Unala Gentle reader, my mother, an Aleut, went to school near Dutch Harbor, as she was born on Kodiak Island Fate steps in to change Renko s preferred state of intentional anonymity Polar Star crewmember Zina Patiashvili s body unexpectedly falls out of an American fishing boat s net being emptied into the Russian ship s hold for processing How did the Russian crew member s body get in another ship s fishing net Was she murdered If so, by who and why Renko is reluctant to take the job of investigating the death because he knows solving it will not be welcomed by anyone, but Captain Victor Marchuk gives him no choice Marchuk has no choice American monitors are on board the Polar Star per international agreements No one else on board has the required skill set to find out what happened As Renko expected, he soon is experiencing near death accidents Gulp It is a good thing he is in such good shape, but even so, he is not safe from fish knives, which everyone has, and bullets, not to mention the freezing cold of the Arctic waters just outside of the suddenly too small ship of which he is literally trapped Solving the murder is worse than being elbow deep in fish slime More than a decade ago, I attempted to read a mystery called Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith I couldn t stomach it Though it had received rave reviews, it seemed to plod and creak toward very little I tossed it in a box and, after several cross country moves, I have no clue where it is But before I gave up on Gorky Park, a selection from the Mystery Book Club arrived in my mailbox I didn t get home in time to return it and ended up with Polar Star, the sequel to Gorky Park, in hardbound I was too cheap to get rid of it, so I ve been schlepping it around seemingly forever On two other occasions, I started to read it, but it just didn t resonate with me.Of course, that was before I visited Belarus Somehow, experiencing the world behind the former Iron Curtain gave me a perspective that completely changed my ideas about the book Now, I realize that the normally sparse and plodding style and the awkward phrasing was a deliberate trope to emulate Russian grammar and the Russian pace of speaking Once I found myself reading the book as though I were in Belarus although the events in the story itself take place on a Russian factory ship in the Bering Strait , I was able to enjoy the book Fortunately, the entire book is not sparse in its language There are two vivid images that I am unlikely to forget The first was a reference to painted lead soldiers toy soldiers in the book, but they reminded me of some of my experience with painted miniatures in my actual life that had been thrown together in a box until their paint schemes were uneven and patchy, with little flecks of metal showing through Investigator Arkady, the protagonist, suggested that the men who were veterans on the factory ship looked a lot like those neglected soldiers with all their missing paint The second image was a simile of a difficult task being like trying to distill amber from sap Quite memorable in my opinion Ostensibly, the plot is about a female crewmember of the factory ship found dead in the large fish nets transferred from trawler to the mother ship That event is indeed the Ur strand of a complex web of deceit and counter intrigue Realistically, it makes good sense because not everything that seems to be related is related Some are minor plots to beat the system Some are major plots that could have inspired the murder Nothing is really certain until the end It is a very tight mystery.Yes, I ll give Gorky Park another chance if I ever find it and yes, I m glad I finally read this one Guess it just goes to show you, irrational bias or lack of taste can make you miss something good Maybe this review will cause someone else to reconsider a book they ve previously blocked out. to start off i thought it was marvellous one hardly comes across crime novels of such good quality i bought it because i remembered i had read Gorky Park some years ago and i really liked it.the book follows arkady renko, who, after some investigation not quite satisfactory to the state, works on a soviet factory ship that works together with american boats on a joint venture one day a corpse comes up in the net of one of the factory ship s girls as the only person on board experienced with investigations the captain asks arkady off the slime line to find out as much as he can from there a plot develops that i would not have thought possible on the confines of basically three ships in the middle of the ocean with a limited cast of characters.the good thing about it it did keep me guessing until the very end, which does not happen often it is written very well and its plot is intricate with lots of little bit of information about fishing, russia, espionage, technology and without being preachy or obvious about it great insight into a different way of life in a different time, and a sympathetic one for that.five straightforward stars. &EPUB ↴ Polar Star ↠ In The Long Awaited Sequel To Gorky Park, Arkady Renko Returns To Russia To Work On The Polar Star, A Huge Fishing Factory Ship When A Young Girl Is Murdered, Renko Is Asked To Investigate And Enters A Case As Chilling And Gripping As His Previous Adventure Wow, a huge improvement on Gorky Park, which I really liked It all takes place on a fish processing boat in the Bering Sea, several years after Renko loses his job and Party membership for the events in Gorky Park Renko is now reduced to cleaning fish in subzero temperatures, until a murder occurs on board, and he is very reluctantly pulled into the investigation Unlike Gorky Park, where the reader knows the identity of the murderer practically from the start, this is a stone cold whodunit Even better, Smith really creates a sense of place and mood with his depiction of this lonely fishing boat, stuck in the frozen middle of nowhere One of the most effective mysteries I ve read. After Arkady Renko s last case Gorky Park ended in a Phyrric victory, he was interned in a Soviet hospital and diagnosed with sluggish schizophrenia The theory behind this diagnosis was that anyone who acted against the state was clearly insane Martin Cruz Smith s novel Polar Star begins a few years after Renko s ignoble dismissal from the Moscow militia When we finally catch up to him, Renko is working on the slime line on a factory ship He s run as far east as he can to get away from the KGB and the men who want to put him back in the hospital or a prison Renko keeps his head down and cuts up fish His plan might have worked if a female crewmember hadn t been murdered and the ship s captain hadn t found out about Renko s experience as an investigator Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type.