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Stalin's Ghost

(Arkady Renko #6)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  5,023 ratings  ·  426 reviews
Investigator Arkady Renko, the pariah of the Moscow prosecutor’s office, has been assigned the thankless job of investigating a new phenomenon: late-night subway riders report seeing the ghost of Joseph Stalin on the platform of the Chistye Prudy Metro station.

The illusion seems part political hocus-pocus and also part wishful thinking, for among many Russians Stalin is ag
Hardcover, 333 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published June 17th 2007)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  5,023 ratings  ·  426 reviews

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Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an erudite and heartbreaking read, it captures the state of Russia in recent times. The horror, poverty and corruption experienced by the Russians has led many to feel nostalgia and longing for a past which they view with rose tinted glasses. To be more specific, there is idolisation of the terrible dictator Stalin, or more precisely a world people feel more familiar with and which they feel did not rip them off on a colossal scale. In the novel, Renko is pushed to investigate the sighti ...more
Lewis Weinstein
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Abe March said "good, but not great." I agree. It took a long time for the separate threads to make any sense at all, and when they did, there was never a real engaging drama. The characters were not developed enough to make me care about them.

The plot, however, was good enough to pull me along and the description of the chess match was superb.
Alex Cantone
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
‘They took the dragon.’

The slurred words of a drunken woman, handcuffed to the bed, her dead husband in the cluttered kitchen, the wife the apparent perpetrator…

The violent incident occurs only blocks from Moscow’s Chistye Prudy Metro station, where witnesses claim to have seen the ghost of Stalin on the platform from the late night train. Inspector Arkady Renko is called to the station by Prosecutor Zurin who hands him the witness statements, which range from drunken soldiers who saw nothing, t
Jack Heath
3 Stars. It's a Renko kind of case. He's an investigator with the Moscow prosecutor's office, but nothing seems to go well for him. He exasperates his boss, indeed the ways Arkady Renko successfully concludes his various cases can drive Prosecutor Zurin to apoplexy! His next one? Joseph Stalin has been sighted in the subway, some sixty-odd years after the dictator's death. With reluctance, Arkady is off to Chistye Prudy station on the after-midnight train where he finds that there's something un ...more
Berengaria di Rossi
Fantastic Arkady Renko, the seemingly only non-corrupt cop in Moscow, is back for his 6th adventure. This one involves him in the "New Russia" where politics and commercial interests intermingle, but also confronts him with the fall-out from the Chechen wars, the abiding strength of Soviet propaganda and the abusive legacy of his own father, a Soviet general in WW2.

Themes: politics, the jungle that is New Russia, police and army corruption, heroes, propaganda past and present, "my country, righ
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
When I was looking at the books Smith has written, I was surprised to see that I've actually read all of the Renko novels. I've liked all of the books, but have not been wild about them (well, except for Gorky Park, which I would rate 5 stars). For some reason, I just don't like the way Smith closes his novels, it always seems rushed, and Stalin's Ghost is no different. And yet, I think Renko is one of the remarkable characters I've run across in all of fiction. What a dilemma! 5 stars for the c ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-gangsters
Here are just a few moments at the beginning of the novel that made me laugh or smile in admiration at the skill of the author.

A woman is trying to contract the killing of her husband and offers a warning to the would-be assassins:
“He’s very strong,” she said.
“No, he’ll just be heavy,” Victor assured her.

A mass grave has been discovered beneath the courthouse in Moscow:
“Gleb asked, “What if the grave runs under the entire court?”
“That’s always the problem, isn’t it? Once you start digging, when
Dec 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Holy Bouncing Betties Batman, the resolution pops up. One would think that with all the close calls Arkady encounters that he would carry his pistol but like some capeless crusader he soldiers on with reminiscing about his abusive upbringing. In addition there are weak storyline devices (fillers in absence of plot development) of dreams while he is unconscious that are not revealed to be dreams until after the sequence.

The first two thirds of the book rated two stars as it plodded along, with li
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Arkady Renko series from Martin Cruz Smith has to be the most chronologically dispersed series I have ever seen. It began with Gorky Park in 1981 and has continued up to 2010 with Three Stations, and in those 30 intervening years there have been only seven novels total. But true to the old adage, “good things come to those that wait,” fans of Martin Cruz Smith and Arkady Renko have been well rewarded over the years. These things are good. To be more precise, the one installment I’ve read is ...more
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Renko, Gorky Park, detective fiction, Russia, Soviet history
Shelves: fiction
"Renko can't do anything," Urman reassured Pacheco. "He's hiding from the prosecutor here and disowned by the prosecutor in Moscow. Besides, he's a dead man." (p. 267)

This pretty much sums up the entirety of what *I* would call the sixth and best book of the Renko series (Gorky Park) to date, and in my estimation, that's saying something. The theme of Stalin's Ghost is the unwelcome surprise our exhumation of the past can entail, a theme borne out casually throughout a book in which the game of
Oct 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Having read the Arkady Renko series, I have to say, that Stalin's Ghost was not my favorite. It wasn't bad, but for me not the best. Arkady is again back in Moscow, delving into a case that isn't his own, against the advice of his partner, love interest and boss. What happens is a trail that continually leads back to two detectives Isakov and Urman. Is Arkady interested because he wants justice or because his girlfriend is cheating on him with Isakov? This story cleverly interweaves WWII Russian ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-crime
Moscow Inspector Arkady Renko, who made his first appearance more than twenty years ago in Gorky Park, has lived through all the political since the fall of communism. Sadly, Renko's current Russia is every bit as bleak as his old one. Understandably, Renko is not a happy man. In Stalin's Ghost, the sixth Renko novel, riders on Moscow's Metro are convinced that the ghost of Stalin, still a hero and savior in the eyes of many, has been making appearances in the station he once visited while alive ...more
Seth Kaplan
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Once again, Smith drops us in the middle of a very imperfect modern day Russia to follow the exploits of a very imperfect investigator, Arkady Renko. Whether it’s about stories concocted to help a political campaign, detailed descriptions of expert chess matches, or the gory details of historical mass killings, this is a page turner that keeps the reader engaged and constantly trying to figure out how all of the moving parts come together.
Marcia Chocinsky
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
another great installment about the Russian detective. Loved it!
Reread it and enjoyed it again I wasn’t sure if I’d read it but it wasn’t very long when I knew I’d read it but didn’t remember the details so I kept on reading
C.E. Daly
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impressed, as always, by how Martin Cruz Smith draws you into the world of Arkady Renko. The mystery in this novel worked well for me. The book also gives the reader an understanding of forces driving Russian politics, taking Arkady outside of Moscow.
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detectives, kindle
I continue to love these brutal looks at Russia, though I'm beginning to wonder how Renko manages to attract quite so many women given the state of him. ...more
Perry Whitford
Policemen carrying out paid hits, a chess grandmaster receiving threatening phone calls and a report of sightings of Stalin's ghost in the Moscow underground: within 50 pages Cruz Smith, writing his sixth outing for the Moscow detective, establishes a classic triangle of mysteries for Renko to solve, which you just know will put him in danger from all sides.

You also know that the plot will some how manage to involve his current lover (Eva) and that all the events will turn out to be connected to
Gerald Sinstadt
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime
In Arkady Renko, Martin Cruz Smith has created a character with genuine depth and an adorable sense of deadpan humour. Thereafter, the author's researches enable him to place Renko in a very plausibly realistic environment, peopled by other vividly drawn characters - the chess prodigy Zhenya, the alcoholic detective Victor Orlov and, in this book, a wonderfully bumbling chess grand master.

Stalin's Ghost portrays a Russia hankering for the return of some features of the bad old days. There is pol
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not know where this book was going, from Stalin’s ghost in a subway to a heroic battle in Chechnya to murderous cops for hire to a speed chess competition to mass graves of WWW II, but I enjoyed being guided through it by Mr. Smith and he does wrap up all the loose ends for a satisfying end. Not a fast paced action packed read (although Mr. Smith does make a chess tournament exciting - very well done), but steady and satisfying. His portrait of a corrupt Russia is apt for our Trump era.
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Renko abides - stalwart, honest and dogged. Stalin also lingers, in the new Russia many look back to the certainties of his rule and his victories in war. okay, so a few innocents died, bad things were done on both sides. But why is Stalin making appearances in a Moscow subway? What's it got to do with two new war veteran detectives and their political ambitions, and the heroic battle they fought at a bridge in Chechnya? Oh, yeah, Arkady's lover, Eva, left him for one of them. Is he driven by je ...more
Buddy Draper
Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: murder-mystery
I like the Arkady Renko character. The story was all over the place. The thing I liked least was that I really like Renko and think of him as a good guy, but he lives and operates in a completely corrupt system. Since he doesn’t fit, he’s hated by those around him, which makes life more complicated.
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: who-done-it
Having never read any of the Renko books before and familiar with the character only from the movie Gorky Park, I have to say I’m impressed. Stalin’s Ghost is a terrific read (some plot contrivances aside), full of wry, dark humor as it offers a grim portrait of Russia.
Horace Derwent
It is much to be regretted that we could not meet earlier, Mr Cruz Smith
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, fiction, mystery, russia
Very fond of this series. Primarily because of the protagonist the melancholic and tenacious Arkady Renko. Henry Strozier does a very fine job with the audio.
Apr 10, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I am giving up at the end of Chapter 8. I can't endure another page. ...more
J.S. Dunn
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Tight plotting, crisp dialogue, and a tense 'blitz' chess competition enliven this entry in the Renko series and first one read by this reviewer. Good detail in the setting also with wry humor as to what Cruz Smith mentions of the New Russia.

One wonders if this is how an American sees the new state, or does the perspective come from the source?
Lexie Conyngham
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
My first Arkady Renko book. Quite enjoyed it - certainly Smith puts his hero through the physical wringer, and it wasn't a cheerful book by any means, but there was a certain dry humour to it and the plot made some sense. With a very few tweaks I felt it could easily have been set somewhere in America instead of Russia. ...more
The ghost of Stalin appears in the subway and Renko is assigned the case. The plot revolved around the past but also dealt with the war in Chechnya and politics so it did get a bit complicated. Renko is one of my favorite characters and this entry was just was good as the previous books in the series. Listened to the audio version which was narrated by Henry Strozier.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, though I got somewhat bogged down in the detail of the plot. But Martin Cruz Smith is a master at pulling everything together and making you care about the outcome.
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
It's hard to tell when the author is just imagining things and when it's real history. I sometimes google names or things from the book because they sound too real. Amazing story! ...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

Other books in the series

Arkady Renko (9 books)
  • Gorky Park (Arkady Renko, #1)
  • Polar Star (Arkady Renko, #2)
  • Red Square (Arkady Renko, #3)
  • Havana Bay (Arkady Renko, #4)
  • Wolves Eat Dogs (Arkady Renko, #5)
  • Three Stations (Arkady Renko, #7)
  • Tatiana (Arkady Renko, #8)
  • The Siberian Dilemma (Arkady Renko #9)

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