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Wolves Eat Dogs (2006)

Wolves Eat Dogs (2006)

Book Info

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Series
Rating
3.93 of 5 Votes: 5
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ISBN
0671775952 (ISBN13: 9780671775957)
Language
English
Publisher
gallery books

About book Wolves Eat Dogs (2006)

Over the years, I made two trips to the Soviet Union. The first time was in 1965, in the course of a four-month knockabout through the USSR, Eastern and Central Europe, and Scandinavia before my Peace Corps service started. (That was the trip during which I was threatened by East German Vopos (Volkspolizei) at Hitler’s bunker and briefly confined under gunpoint in a Romanian secret prison.) My second, less harrowing trip, came in 1989 as a member of a delegation organized by one of my nonprofit clients to meet with the Soviet foreign policy hierarchy.During the first trip I glimpsed a country still slowly recovering from the unimaginable devastation of World War II, and still understandably bitter about the experience. Everything seemed gray: the cities, the skies, the clothing, the people. On my second visit I viewed a nation in its death throes, just months before its final collapse. There wasn’t much visible difference from one trip to the other despite the passage of a quarter-century. Everything was still gray.Now I have Martin Cruz Smith to guide me through the successors to the USSR another quarter-century later — in Wolves Eat Dogs, both Russia and Ukraine. Through his eyes, I observe an environment vastly changed in so many ways, yet essentially the same in others. The Russian character endures: stolid yet endlessly romantic, pessimistic, and prone to alcoholism. Still gray, by and large. The corruption of officialdom is expressed in different ways but is fundamentally unchanged. The skylines of the big cities bristle with gleaming high-rise towers, offering a glamorous and colorful lifestyle to the few who can afford it, while the overwhelming majority of the people still languish in poverty. All that is changed is the veneer of the New Russia, dedicated to the proposition that everyone is entitled to get rich and escape the stigma of the past.In Wolves Eat Dogs, it is 2004. The intrepid investigator, Arkady Renko, and his alcoholic detective-partner, Victor, are called to the scene of what everyone, from Renko’s boss to the friends and business associates of the deceased, calls a suicide. Though Renko has questions — he always has questions — the matter is considered closed. The man who jumped from a 10th-floor window onto a Moscow sidewalk was one of Russia’s richest and most powerful men. Nonetheless, Renko pursues an investigation — despite orders not to do so. He embarks upon a lengthy and painful journey that takes him to the radioactive hulks of Chernobyl and into the depths of depravity in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.In the course of his investigation, Renko learns what really happened at the huge nuclear power station that experienced the worst meltdown in history, even more terrible than the Fukushima disaster a quarter-century later. Wolves Eat Dogs is worth reading for that bit of imaginative speculation alone.

Cruz Smith has a way with words. A very heady, intoxicating way. As a matter of fact he's having his way with me right now.I'm reading the gritty yet dream-like Wolves Eat Dogs. It's unlike other crime fiction on the market. Too many books in this genre fall prey to "galloping gore". Thrillers that provide a series of ever-escalating shocks all the while ratcheting up the pace. So much rush-rush designed to obscure the truly bad writing. I mostly avoid those shelves at the bookshop.But I was stuck for several hours in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport and the lone kiosk appeared to have a boatload of crap for sale. Then I saw, on the bottom shelf, this little gem. Amazon in the US has the cover seen at left. Meh. The UK cover is much better. All dark-grey destroyed-forest realism with a howling wolf at centre stage. Very appropriate to the tale.Cruz Smith approaches the story slowly. He's more concerned about the characters than is customary. Renko isn't a compilation of over-used stereotypes. The story doesn't unfold so much as slowly unwind. A spiral of revisted scenes, revisited lives. You care as much about the secondary characters as you do about the crime.He writes economically, smoothly. Nothing grandiose. Nothing over the top. He shocks you with a throw way image. An unexpected revelation that resonates with sensory truths:"He lifted his ear to the muffled flight of an owl and the soft explosion that marked the likely demise of a mouse. Leaves swirled around the bike. All Chernobyl was reverting to nature. Sometimes it crept in while he watched."or"You're sure you latched the cow's stall? She could have been eaten by wolves. The wolves could have gotten her."Roman acted deaf, while Lydia, the cow, peeked through an open slat of her stall; the two put Arkady in mind of a pair of drunks who remembered nothing.It's rich and delicious and worth reading slowly.Take my word for it.

Do You like book Wolves Eat Dogs (2006)?

Splendid. I read Gorky Park, but not the two (three?) between that and this. I remember liking Gorky Park, and Wolves Eat Dogs reminds me why. Low-key, pessimistic Arkady Renko is a great character -- and the addition of a boy from an orphanage that Renko takes out once a week gives us more facets of Renko to appreciate. (Yes, that was a really bad sentence I just wrote.) I love Renko's dogged and constant asking of questions. And Martin Cruz Smith populates the book with secondary characters worth knowing.I found the setting -- mostly around Chernobyl -- fascinating, along with a look at the "New Russia" and its nouveau riche. I learned a lot about the Chernobyl accident and aftermath.
°™Lois

I prefer Polar Star and Red Square by the same author, but that doesn't mean to say this is bad, by any stretch of the imagination.Renko is an interesting enough character, but I think I preferred him as a rebel against the CPSU, rather than against Putin's New Russia. Although he is in different surroundings, I am not convinced he has changed much from the investigator of the last years of the USSR. The motives of a couple of the villains are a little unclear, as well.The part of the book with a particular resonance for me, living here in post-Fukushima Japan, is the description of the exclusion zone and the attitudes of those who refused to leave, or who crept back to their homes after being evacuated. I am unsure as to whether the description of cesium and its effects is accurate - certainly we've had a lot of that strewn over the landscape over the past two years, and there have been no reports of what is described in graphic detail here.Worth the re-read, anyway.
°™Hugh Ashton

I'm a Martin Cruz Smith fan. He doesn't fit easily into categories. Yes, his books are mysteries, in the sense there's a crime, but they're literature because they examine universal human longings, motives, desires, those of the detective as well as the people he meets on his way to solving the crime.Wolves eats dogs explores the blasted landscape of the exclusion zone around Chernoble, where people not only are still living, but they are surprisingly populous. There are scientists and old people who are gambling that old age will kill them before the radiation. Most of these characters create obstacles to the investigation, and Arkady is, in effect, sent to exile by his own superiors who do not want his conclusions publicized. Everything is supposed to be on a curve towards success and respectability in the new Russia. No one wants the suppossed suicide to be a murder. Renko's opponents are the criminals, his own fatalism and the official script. He's the ultimate outsider.Cruz writes like an articulate, droll and knowledgeable guide through the labyrinth. Arkady Renko is a detective because he is a detective. With all the drama and tragedy and farce in his life in pre-perestroika USSR and newly capitalistic Russia, whatever pursuit by killers - official and unofficial, his background mind is on the mark collecting the data, mapping out the logic, eliminating all the detritus until he reaches the conclusion that was, in looking back, the only explanation possible. I sink into reading his novels. Delicious
°™Carla

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