Three Stations – Martin Cruz Smith

three-stations

Investigator Arkady Renko is a loose cannon, now even more than before because he has been suspended from the Moscow prosecutor’s office. Apparently people in high places do not like him uncovering their dirty deeds. But Renko is an unstoppable force for good (in truth, a fair assessment of the power of this character) and when he is inadvertently at the scene of what looks like the suicide of a young addict and prostitute, it sets him off.

Renko moves from the underbelly of organized crime, through the abused population of Moscow, to the high society of equally organized crime, tracking down the clues and the links, unraveling the murky fog, and catching the bad guy. Through the hunt, there is a sort of side issue of a mother searching for her stolen baby, aided and abetted by Renko’s almost adopted son.

Once again, the author delivers a crisp, fast, and sharp tale. The plot is well paced, the storytelling is masterful, and the characters grow and grow. All the while, the setting – observed with empathy despite is gaping flaws – stacks up like some gothic, threatening, monstrous shadow.

If the book has one disappointing part, it may be the ending. It’s not a bad ending, but I was not convinced it had the same gravitas as the preceding narrative. Still, it was a cracking read.