Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stalin's Ghost - Book Review

Holy crow! Nearly two months to get through one measly book? Well, not quite. I've spent a good deal of that time working my way through a couple of golfing books a and I don't count them for book review purposes. Maybe I should.

Regardless, it has taken me some time to get through Stalin's Ghost but that says more about me and my reading habits than it does about this fine mystery. It was good to get back to Smith's Russia and his investigator Arkady Renko after laying off for several years. Like a lot of readers, I thought Gorky Park was very well done and though I enjoyed both Polar Star and Havana Bay, I found other books and writers to interest me and so I never returned.

That's too bad. If Stalin's Ghost is an example of what I've been missing, I've been missing out on a lot. Renko is the same - an honest man, or a man trying to be honest, in a society that's entirely corrupt, haunted by the past and by the present. A bit of a mope, really, but not unpleasantly so. They mystery to be solved is the reason for the sightings of Stalin's ghost - no, it's not real, but there's a political motive and Renko, like any good investigator in these kinds of series, steps on a lot of toes trying to get to the bottom of it. I've missed out on the introduction of several characters from prior books but I didn't find it too big of a distraction. I struggled with the Russian names, of course, but that's probably more a function of my lousy handling of names in general than anything. Smith delivers a world that's strange to our Western eyes and immerses us to completely that it becomes familiar and that's quite an accomplishment.

I'm glad to re-discover a forgotten favorite writer and to see the old magic is still there. I'm looking forward to filling in the pieces I've missed - hey, I may even revisit some of the old stuff! Or even some of Smith's non-Arkady novels.

No comments:

Post a Comment