Rossrn Nunamaker's Reviews > Polar Star

Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith
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Apr 05, 08

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, detective-crime
Read in June, 2007

Polar Star was written in 1989 and featured detective Arkady Renko who first appeared in Smith's Gorky Park (published in 1981).

The book is set during the time of the Soviet Union, but near the end when there was some cooperation, though utter distrust, between the US and Soviets. While Gorky Park was primarily set in the city of Moscow, Polar Star is the name of a massive factory ship (fish processing) in the Bearing Strait.

The floating city is full of people with pasts who have fled the government or prison and found themselves on a ship that would take anyone willing to endure it for months at a time. Adding intrigue was an arrangement with US fishing vessels that provided the catch to be processed on the ship. These vessels each had a unique crew and both soviet and US spies were aboard both ships.

The story begins when a Georgian worker from the factory ship is found in the net of one of the catches. The worker, a woman, is well known on all boats and the captain wants to learn how her death occurred. He calls on Arkady Renko who has found asylum on the ship after fleeing Moscow following the episode in Gorky Park that resulted in his boss being killed and his lover defecting to the US.

Renko uses his skills as a detective to learn how this woman died following a party held with workers and fisherman. The story ends when Renko solves the mystery and learns as he investigates that there is much more than fishing taking place in the Strait.

I really enjoyed the book and especially the character. Renko was a Russian through and through and the essence of the character could have been a character in any Russian novel.
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