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Gorky Park

(Arkady Renko #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  65,737 ratings  ·  1,351 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 the New York City police as he pursues a rich, ruthless, ...more
Paperback, 433 pages
Published February 12th 1982 by Ballantine Books (first published 1981)
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Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
There seemed a kind of a hush all over our fifth-floor coffee and smoking lounge as I cracked open this then-new release on my lunch break, back in the early eighties.

And as I entered the crime scene with our dishevelled and grumpy Arcady Renko, deep within the famed Moscow park - in a fairytale midwinter scene of icily glittering snow - I saw how expertly the scene had been set for “doom, deep and darker than any sea-dingle!”

For the doom of widespread corruption is apocalyptic in its scope.

It w
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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’
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
“‘There are not many road signs in Russia, you know.’ He laughed. ‘If you don’t know where the road goes, you shouldn’t be on it.'” — Arkady Renko

When Gorky Park was first published in 1981, it was immediately banned in the then Soviet Union because of its apt depiction of everyday Soviet life. Though I’ve never been to Russia (my only immersion into the culture was the year I spent trying unsuccessfully to learn the language), its image is intricately linked with the glamorous Moscow of the fil
Bill Kerwin

Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park (1981) is the first book in series set in the Soviet Union and featuring Arkady Renko, a homicide investigator for the Moscow city police. It is an unusual work, for it gives the reader a unique glimpse into the difficulties facing a detective who is forced to operate in a police state.

For example—and this makes for a noteworthy variation on the typical policier—Renko at first tries not to solve his case, but instead to find some piece of evidence—of foreign invol
Armada Volya
Jul 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
Well. Sigh. I'm deciding what to write. Ok. Truth.

I'm disappointed with 'Gorky Park', book one in the Soviet Union's Inspector Arkady Renko series. Oh, it's a fine inventive entertainment for a mystery, with a lot of twists and near death escapes, tons of corrupt cops and officials, and so many betrayals and hidden motives I am amazed the body count wasn't higher considering the undrained swamps that Renko wades through in not just Russia, but also in New York City. But.

In Russia, many different
Aug 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, audiobooks
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
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A mesmerizing police procedural / murder mystery that also explores Soviet Russia and the dichotomy between east and west.

Set in the late 70s (the book was first published in 1981) this is the SOVIET UNION, Leonid freaking Brezhnev, and still some old pre-revolution folks running around Moscow.

Chief Inspector Arkady Renko is tasked with solving the murders of three people found in Gorky Park, their bodies frozen and killed weeks earlier, hidden by the snow. Their faces have been mutilated and fi
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Martin Cruz Smith's novels featuring Chief Investigator Arkady Renko have long been favourites of mine. As there hasn't been a new Renko book since Tatiana in 2013 I thought I'd return (for the fourth time) to the beginning.
Yet again I'm still thrilled by the excellent plotting, the well drawn characters & the author's ability to create a fascinating portrait of Russia.
Gorky Park is not only one of my favourite novels it is also one of my all time favourite films. When I was young I had the fil
This novel was originally published in 1981. Almost 36 years ago. I believe that I attempted to read the book once before, perhaps shortly after it's publication, but did not finish. I wish I had read it then. Reading it today I find it is dated. The author demonstrated talent in describing scenes in the story whether it is in Moscow, a Russian dacha, or a dingy New York hotel room you could visualize it and feel as though you were right there. What I found difficult to believe was the level of ...more
Roman Clodia
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thing is, despite some flaws (the book goes on too long, there's a vast coincidence that Arkady's father holds one of the clues, we have yet another beat-up middle-aged loner with whom a young beauty falls in love...) this is still easily a 4-star book. MCS nails the atmosphere of snowy, repressive Moscow in the 1980s when history still looks back to Stalin, WW2 and the siege of Leningrad. In the present, corruption is rife, dissidents are persecuted and the Cold War may still be on, but gre ...more
Gary Inbinder
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First read more than thirty years ago, this novel held up well on a recent second reading. It's an excellent police procedural/thriller with a compelling narrative, strong characterizations and fine descriptive detail of crime, forensics and detection in Moscow toward the end of the Soviet Era. ...more
Tom Mathews
I've been wanting to read this book for a very long time so it was disappointing t0 find that it wasn't quite as enjoyable as I'd hoped. Some characters were well fleshed out and Smith was great at describing the locale, making it easy for readers to visualize their surroundings, be they a Russian General's dacha or a dingy New York hotel room. What did bother me was its pacing and it's labyrinthine conspiracy where it seems that almost everybody was colluding with everyone else. For a book with ...more
Alex Cantone
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Arkady) had a sense that something was happening, but he didn’t know what or where. In the halls his footsteps sounded ahead of him like another man’s. Most of the officers on night duty were out on the annual push to clear the central city of drunks before May Day; conversely, on May Day it would be patriotic to be drunk. Timing was everything...

Gorky Park introduces Arkady Renko, Chief Investigator with the Moscow militia, set during the former Soviet Union under Secretary Brezhnev. His fathe
Corey Woodcock
Mar 28, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book with above-average writing that actually kind of caught me off guard! Not always an easy read, this book always shows rather than tells, and requires some extra effort by the reader sometimes (in a good way); seems like a good warm-up for the John le Carre buddy read I’m doing in a few days. Took turns and went directions that I never saw coming, and I definitely understand Stephen King’s reference to this book in The Institute now. Will definitely be checking out Polar Star. 4 ...more
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have meant to read this novel forever and I am astonished that I only just got around to it now, but I am glad that I did – even if it was not quite what I had expected.

It begins with three bodies in the park and Arkady Renko, our main character, and senior homicide investigator, sent to the crime scene. However, KGB Major Pribluda is there before and damages the crime scene. Now we have our main characters and the scene – the Soviet Union of the Cold War, with all of the secrecy, informers an
Laura Tenfingers
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very absorbing and entertaining Russian/American crime/spy thriller. I read this as a teenager and have a distinct memory of loving it, but couldn't remember a single solitary thing about the plot. So basically a from-scratch reread. Had I known there were more books in the series I'm sure my teenage self would have inhaled them. But I didn't so I guess I'll have to do it now.

It's pretty obviously written by an American. This made the descriptions of Russia like images filtered through an Amer
Martin Clark
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My second Goodreads recommendation, this one from KATHRYN IN FL, and I'm in her debt for putting this book back on my radar. Beautifully written and perfectly paced, Gorky Park deserves all the praise it's gotten over the years, and it holds up like a bona fide classic. ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller, classic, 2022
A triple murder and Arkady Renko son of a Soviet Hero is put on the case and he really tries to put the case into the hands of his KGB colleagues but they seem not to interested. He has to solve this case even if one of the victims is an American which normally is enough ground for the KGB to interfere. So Renko has to solve a case, save his marriage, save his own life from the Soviet State wrath.

This is an old thriller from the dark days of the Iron Curtain and the great Soviet Union, our hero
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia
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.
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is probably my most favorite "detective" novel read to date, because it is so much more than a mystery--it is really a masterfully written, poignant, cynical, realistic, and all-too-palpable portrayal of life behind the Iron Curtain. Having been born and raised in this part of the world before 1989, I almost cannot believe how well an American author was able to capture the dreary, corrupt, existentially-dispiriting and hopeless atmosphere of the era, without moralizing and without futile a ...more
Paul Haspel
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorky Park – officially, the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure (Центральный парк культуры и отдыха имени Горького)– plays a role in Moscow life similar to that of Central Park in New York City. In both cases, the park offers green space for rest and renewal in the middle of a major city, along with recreational opportunities. Yet while Gorky Park was named for the Soviet writer Maxim Gorky, it is today best known for its associations with an American writer – Martin Cruz Smith, who made ...more
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Stealthy Police Procedural set in Moscow prior to Perestroika and Dissolution of U.S.S.R.

Back in the U.S.S.R.:
Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the West behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on my mind
Lennon-McCartney, 1968

Arkady Renko is chief homicide investigator for Moscow's Soviet militsiya (the city's civilian police force). When investigating the murder of three American college students found frozen in the snow of Gorky Park, faces and
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008-reads, mystery
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
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
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. ...more
I always held back from reading Gorky Park -- despite its decades long service as a dust collector on my shelf -- for fear that an American author during the Cold War could only deliver the shabbiest form of propaganda if writing about a Moscow cop circa the early 80s. And all this even though I remember William Hurt's turn as Arkady Renko (Gorky Park's relentless protagonist) with fondness.

It turns out I needn't have worried. I can't say how accurate Martin Cruz Smith's portrayal of Moscow and
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great as always. I've read this book several times over the years and it is always better than the last time. I great beginning to the character and the series. ...more
May 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
From other reviews that I have read I know that I'm clearly in the minority but I just didn't find anything about this book or the characters to like. Ardaky Renko has possibilities but it may take some very creative writing on Martin Cruz Smith's part to bring out his "inner man" and turn him into a detective that readers will cheer for. As for this book...the murders in the park were a good beginning to the book but it soon became so wrapped up in Russian politics, mixed with corrupt Americans ...more
3.75 Stars - Gorky Park is action packed, reads smooth & takes the reader in plenty of twists and turns, the fact it’s written whilst the Cold War was still raging adds an element of urgency to the fold.

This book also is written in a style that is unique to the author, which aids the sense of mystery & the protagonist whilst built up well, never really feels entirely flushed out I always felt a sense of something foreboding hiding in the closet - A strong bit of fiction that can easily be devou
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian-history, war
Was really looking forward to this book as loved Child 44 and thought that Gorky Park would be a great read. I was very disappointed with this novel I felt the plot and the characters were very flat and story just seems to plod along.
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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

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Arkady Renko (10 books)
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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.” 9 likes
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