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Gorky Park (Arkady Renko #1)

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  33,799 ratings  ·  533 reviews
A triple murder in a Moscow amusement center: three corpses found frozen in the snow, faces and fingers missing. Chief homicide investigator Arkady Renko is brilliant, sensitive, honest, and cynical about everything except his profession. To identify the victims and uncover the truth, he must battle the KGB, FBI, and New York police as he performs the impossible--and tries...more
Paperback, 433 pages
Published February 12th 1982 by Ballantine Books (first published 1980)
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Between watching the ‘80s era Soviet spies in FX’s The Americans, and tensions running high over Russian activity in the Ukraine, it almost seems like Cold War never ended. In fact, because of a European consulting firm being brought into my workplace, I’m seeing Russians all over my building. Hopefully things don’t hit the point where I have to take to the hills and go all Red Dawn. Wolverines!!

With all this red scare stuff going on, it seemed like a great to time revisit this old favorite. It’...more
There's this concept in fantasy writing, world-building? Sci-fi too. It's pretty self-explanatory: because these books are not taking place in our universe, it's up to the author to give us all the details -- to paint the picture, provide shading in just the right places, ensure we can tell what we are supposed to be looking at. Economics, politics, interpersonal relations, language, gender roles, humor... This can be done well, emphasizing just here and embellishing just there, so the empty spa...more
If only there were Russian men like Arkady Renko! What a hero. Martin Cruz Smith, despite making up an implausibly wonderful Russian man in Arkady Renko, just totally nails some things about Soviet Russia. I get nostalgic even thinking about it.
Got a plane ride coming up? If you haven't read this - GO NOW! BUY IT! I promise you won't regret it.
I can't believe I resisted this for so long.

There used to be a German copy on our shelves, a book my husband actually read (smart guy but doesn't read much fiction), but I unloaded it a long time ago without a thought since its popularity turned me off. It turns out to be a worthwhile, luxurious read for a Russophile. I don't care that it's a thriller (though all thrillers should be this good--and of course they're not), the atmosphere is so vivid and visual. Moscow is my favorite character and...more

I've just looked this up after being reminded of it, this was one of my favourites at the time, when I was heavily into espionage novels.
I really enjoyed this book so much that I couldn't wait to see the movie when it came out, which I also liked a lot...starring William Hurt and Lee Martin.
That was back in 1983, when espionage was very different from today's versions.
David Jackmanson
One of my favourite noir novels ever, a story I keep coming back to. The first time I read this book I thought it was just typical USAian triumphalism over the Soviet Union, but I was wrong. The USA is shown as a place where it's a little easier to breathe, but it's dominated by the rich and powerful just as the Soviet Union is.

Arkady Renko is a prosecutor's investigator for homicide in Moscow in the late 1970s. He is called to a murder scene in Gorky Park, Moscow's favourite place to forget the...more
Three things: 1. In Russia, "Fuck your mother" is not so much an insult as it is a way of expressing exasperation and it is my new go-to phrase for anything that exasperates me; 2. The "Siberian Dilemma" is a fascinating Russian version of a catch-22 and worth reading this book to find out about; 3. Necrolith is my new word of the day.

This is a solid detective story set in the context of the Soviet Union. Smith artfully expresses how communism impacted the cultural/social mechanisms in the Sovi...more
In 1981, when Smith published Gorky Park, the Berlin Wall had yet to fall, and Glasnost wasn't yet a twinkle in Gorbachev's eye. Perhaps in that climate, nearly 40 years into the Cold War, a thriller set largely behind the Curtain, exploring how the Red half lived, was enough to titilate an audience. Because the effusive praise heaped on this one surely isn't due to the writing. Gorky Park is a messy narrative at best, a willy-nilly hodgepodge of Soviet cliches at worst. Most disappointing is t...more
Steven Kent
This book launched my decades-long obsession with the works of Martin Cruz Smith.

Three bodies are found in Gorky Park, a Moscow landmark. These murder victims will be hard to identify since their faces have been skinned away. Fingerprints are a no-go since their fingers have been cut off. No luck on dental records, either, their teeth are kicked in.

Pinpointing the date and time of death will be problematic as well. They were buried in the snow.

Arkady, a laconic Moscow cop, is assigned a case. H...more
So this is a spy novel.
So this is a love story.
Kinda, as long as you ignore the fact that the romance sub-plot feels a bit contrived and is totally more of a Hollywood type love plot. You know the kind they throw in because they think women like them, but the female lead really isn’t necessary at all.
It’s about the Cold War and Capitalism.
It’s a fun listen that’s for sure. Don’t let how long it took me to finish it influence you. Audio books always take me awhile (mostly because I le...more
Great book. I loved the lead character Arkady; a flawed and very believable character, an honest player in a corrupt system trying to get to the bottom of three murders. Great look at how an honest investigator would conduct an investigation in Soviet Russia, especially when the Party (who makes the rules) takes a central (and often inhibiting) role during his investigation.

I was so happy to find the next book in which Arakady is featured ("Polar Star"). Can't wait to find out what happens to hi...more
Váhám, co k tomu říct. Prý je to docela slavná detektivka. Mně přišla překombinovaná, ne moc dobře napsaná a přehnaně ambiciózní. Americký autor se snažil postihnout reálie neznámého světa, jímž je Sovětský svaz (datum chybí, ale podle reálií to vypadá na konec sedmdesátých let). Vnějškově to má popsané docela dobře, zcela mu ale unikají skutečné motivace a postoje. (Dobře, asi ne „zcela“. Korupce je popsaná docela dobře, chlast taky.) Nikdo, ani zavilí komunisti (snad až na pár patologických vý...more
Joyce Lagow
Written in 1981, this book has had something of a cult status as one of the first popular entries in the international mystery/thriller genre. It is the first in the Arkady Renko series, the second being published much later, in 1988.[return][return]Arkady Renko is a chief investigator in the Moscow militia, the police section of the MVD. As opposed to the KGB, which investigates cases related to security, the militia are usually concerned with domestic violence, drunkenness and the occasional m...more
3 to 3.5 stars. Would've been 4 stars probably if I had not come across Child 44 first, which meant this was always gonna be compared to Tom Rob Smith's novel.

I think if John le Carre wrote crime novels instead of espionage ones, it would end up being something similar to 'Gorky Park'. What is admirable about this book is its scope - how it starts with a triple murder in the heart of Moscow, transcends through places like Leningrad & Shatura and finally culminates in a riveting finale in New...more
I picked up Gorky Park at the library because I had been wanting to read Polar Star, its sequel, again.

I listened to Polar Star on tape years ago on a road trip to Burning Man and it was grippingly real, gritty, rusty and bloody. Murder on a Russian fishing vessel out in the Arctic. I felt as if I had been on that ship for months after the book ended. I could see the characters in front of me, as real as my friends.

I knew I must start with Gorky Park. There were a few things in Polar Star that I...more
Armada Volya
A little bit of actual research would've been nice. I am very forgiving when it comes to getting things wrong about USSR; after all, not everyone lived there and not everyone knows the culture. I was able to forgive the misuse of names and the word comrade. I was able to forgive the fact the the author seems to think that Moscow is located at the north pole. Factories suing each other though.... come on. Who doesn't know that in communism all factories belong to the state? That would mean that t...more
Anyone not giving this the highest rating should perhaps read it again.

I read Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith back when it first came out and loved it. As part of my new fitness program I’m doing a lot of brisk walking as my doctor says this will balance out the crazy amount of cycling that I do. I hate walking and running but if I have to do it I want to kill two birds. On my walks I have been listening to recorded books. Unfortunately, I haven’t found much in French and Spanish to improve my l...more
Sue Smith
What a great thriller! Even now, 30+ years after it was written, it still packs a delightful punch. Such wonderful writing too, you can just 'get' the difference between how one country sees an ethical or moral or economic outlook versus another and how those differences still play into how things are done in our modern world. This book really gives you a great understanding of that post-war, cold war posturing and how, truly, it's the best chess player that wins the game.

Great story.
Dec 01, 2009 Mohammed rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: To Crime fans, its an important book for its type
Shelves: crime-mystery
The strength of this book and what makes its a very good book more like 3.5 rating than 3 stars is for me that the author captured the people,society of Soviet in those days so well. Makes it very realistic like Cold War era documentary.

Arkady Renko is a very compelling,intelligent hero of the book too. Not too heroic,too smart he felt more like a real investigator of those days.
An original book and an important for a crime book like this.
Mary Ellis
You’ll like this book if you like

flawed heroes with a thirst for justice
lots of memorable characters
a crime where the motive, not the perpetrator, is the real mystery
just enough historical and cultural context to make you feel you’ve learned something
a nicely nuanced and timed trail of clues
a smidgeon of police procedural work
moderate body counts with a soupcon of gore
a sexy romance which is actually important to the plot
rib-tickling wit targeting the clumsy apparatus of Russian govern...more
After an intriguing start the novel drifted and became very drawn out. At one point I found that I didn't really care what was happening and very nearly gave up. It did get better and I appreciate that my point of view is different to many others but the end of the book was very welcome.
Christian Bauman
Reading again. Yes, what of it. I was blogging recently about MCS and it got me to thinking about why I love Renko so much, and these books. It's been easily 20 years since I re-read the first one, so I did…and then jumped right to Polar Star (the second, just finished), and about to read Red Square (the third, and return of Irina). The re-reading so far has done nothing but reinforce my love for this series, for the character, and my view of MCS as a writer, so perfect he is, moments of quiet a...more
Manu Prasad
Gorky Park is the first of the Arkady Renko series - 2 others in the Soviet era, and three after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The book is as much a story about people and places as it is a crime thriller. The book starts with 3 bodies found in Gorky Park, in Moscow, with their faces and fingertips cut off. The investigation is led by Arkady Renko, who, after initial attempts to pass the case on to the KGB, sets out in dogged pursuit of the killer.
Renko, the son of a famous general, battles his...more
Elizabeth K.
Would you believe I have owned a copy of this book for more than 20 years, and never read it until now? I grabbed it from my parents' house when I was in college, I think to read on the train back to school, and apparently didn't get around to it until a few weeks ago. I think this was probably more fascinating to read now than it was when it came out, in some ways at least. It's very much a standard police thriller novel -- there's a crime and a police investigator has to solve it, but the nove...more
Linda Hart
This is a time-tested popular classic crime fiction, obviously much appreciated according to its high ratings, but this is not a fun read. I admit that Smith is a word smith (no pun intended), but this is not my favorite genre --international intrigue, labyrinthine crime thriller with lots of bloody violence, gore, and more f-words and macho sex than I care for.

Although the mostly corrupt characters are well drawn, except for bumbling Pasho, I didn't care for any of them. Irina is self absorbed...more
Jan 24, 2010 Rauf rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of mystery/detective fiction and animal rights activists
Recommended to Rauf by: Sandybanks
Three people were killed at Gorky Park.
Not a good place to die.
Two gents and a dame. Two Siberians, one American.
All three were shot to death. The killer's weapon of choice: an Argentinian gun, a Manlicher.
he killer also peeled away their faces and hacked off their fingertips.
Not a pretty a way to die.
That was how the story began.
Chief Investigator Arkady Renko didn't want the case. He tried his damnedest to pawn it off to KGB. But it all changed when his partner got killed.
An NYPD detective, Wi...more
Colin Guy
I found this book a little disapointing as it seemed very slow plot wise, and the central characters were not as grounded and believable as in others novels of this genre. It is well written with an intricate plot, however, and it is clear that Cruz-Smith knows his stuff when it comes to all things Russian. It does not help that several of the better characters are killed off quite early in the book (I particulary liked Pasha, Renko's partner) and most of the remaining ones are little more than...more
Sarah O.
I thought this was a very well written book, as it should've been, as it took the author a number of years to complete it. It is a slower read, because the atmosphere and setting of the book are so rich. The crimes committed in the book are complicated enough, but then when you add the highly charged political history of the time, this combination is like a lit powder keg. Something just has to happen - and it happens big. While not full of explosions, the tensions between the U. S. & Russia...more
i think gorky park is a great example of research building into a real and relevant world: author cruz smith is not russian yet he provides enough context and types that i buy his soviet union, and believe in the characters that people it, especially his chief inspector, arkady renko, but he doesn't overdo it either: he doesn't layer in a lot of factoids that he learned along the way. it's a well-plotted book, and i was really engaged right until late into the last part, where kirwill and arkady...more
Nancy Ellis
This is definitely an excellent book, wonderfully written, and it just draws you right in, even though it's extremely dark and pretty depressing! Obviously it takes place in Moscow long before the collapse of the Soviet Union, so you wouldn't expect a sunny, cheerful story. Nobody is happy or has a sense of humor. :/ Our "hero" is the investigator of a crime involving three gruesome murders in Gorky Park (what a coincidence....). Naturally there's all the intrigue, vodka, black market activity,...more
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AKA Simon Quinn, Nick Carter.

Martin Cruz Smith (born Martin William Smith), American novelist, received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He worked as a journalist from 1965 to 1969 before turning his hand to fiction. His first mystery (Gypsy in Amber – 1971) features NY gypsy art dealer Roman Grey and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Nightwing was his breakt...more
More about Martin Cruz Smith...
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“Stalin gothic was not so much an architectural style as a form of worship. Elements of Greek, French, Chinese and Italian masterpieces had been thrown into the barbarian wagon and carted to Moscow and the Master Builder Himself, who had piled them one on the other into the cement towers and blazing torches of His rule, monstrous skyscrapers of ominous windows, mysterious crenellations and dizzying towers that led to the clouds, and yet still more rising spires surmounted by ruby stars that at night glowed like His eyes. After His death, His creations were more embarrassment than menace, too big for burial with Him, so they stood, one to each part of town, great brooding, semi-Oriental temples, not exorcised but used.” 2 likes
“The chief investigator for Special Cases was a composite of the most ordinary features, a stencil of a man.” 0 likes
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