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Book Review: Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith

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on Mon, 02/15/2016 - 19:19

Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tatiana is the 8th installment of the Arkady Renko series by Martin Cruz Smith. The series started with 1981's Gorky Park.

I've always greatly enjoyed these books, because of the character of Renko. He is a police detective in Moscow, whose father was a ruthless World War II General. His mother committed suicide in the lake by the family dacha and did so using rocks collected by Renko then a young boy. Renko, like everyone, has issues.

In college my history courses were split between Soviet/Russian and the Middle East. I attempted to learn Russian, but dropped it (I've found languages are not my thing). And to this day I enjoy reading the works of Russian authors. Over the past several years I've been focused on Dostoevsky.

For me, the draw of the series over other detective/suspense series is the authenticity of Renko. What I thought was missing from this book was some more pealing back of the onion that is Renko. The reader didn't really learn more about him in this book. Nor did he seem particularly "challenged" or "conflicted" as he has in so many of the earlier books. There didn't seem to be any inner-wrangling in this one and as a result it felt a bit flat.

I also thought the story was ok, but not great. I felt like somethings were found out too easily or weren't relayed well to the reader and could have been better described rather than simply told.

The same could be said for the setting, which to me has been another distinguishing factor in earlier books. The fishing vessel, Cuba, Chernobyl, these were fascinating settings in which Renko worked. Kaliningrad could have been more intriguing, if maybe Renko had to get to the shipping yard where cold war and current submarines and ships were built, repaired, and harbored, but it never happened.

Finally, I liked the insertion of the character Zhenya into the series. I wasn't convinced that his character would want to join the army. It seemed to me that this was added for the purpose of having a conflict of wills to help the story move forward, but it wasn't plausible within my take on the world that had been created by Cruz. Zhenya was anti-authority, but he wants to now join the army? It wasn't believable within the story for me. The other college kids calling him out as a chess hustler, I didn't feel was as developed as it could have been as well. Using Zhenya and his new friend Lotte to try to solve the puzzle of the notebook was a good call.

I probably sound like I'm being really hard on this book, and I probably am, because I have high expectations for the books in this series. All-in-all, it is a good read with good characters, but for me Martin Cruz Smith has set the bar high when it comes to Arkady Renko.

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