THREE STATIONS by Martin Cruz Smith

Book Quote:

“During the day Three Stations was in constant motion, a Circus Maximus with cars…. Drunks were everywhere, but hard to see because they were as gray as the pavement they sprawled on. They were bandaged or bloody or on crutches like casualties of war…. At Three Stations the crippled, outcast and usually hidden member of society gathered like the Court of Miracles only without the miracles.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (AUG 23, 2010)

In Martin Cruz Smith’s Three Stations, Arkady Kyrilovich Renko, Senior Investigator of Important Cases, may be nearing the end of his career. He has a bitter enemy in Prosecutor Zurin, who detests Renko’s tendency to “disregard orders and overstep [his] authority.” Zurin “exemplified the modest ambition of a cork…. He floated and survived.” When Renko and his perennially inebriated buddy, Sergeant Victor Orlov (“the smell of vodka came off him like heat from a stove”) look into the suspicious death of a beautiful young woman, they are ordered to declare the case a drug overdose and drop the matter. Ever the maverick, Renko decides to find the killer and worry about the consequences later.

The novel also features Maya Ivanova Pospelova, a fifteen-year-old prostitute who adores her beautiful newborn infant, Katya. Maya is “a stick figure in torn jeans and a bomber jacket the texture of cardboard, her hair dyed a fiery red.” She runs away from the club where she works, taking the baby with her. A pair of vicious thugs will surely kill Maya if they catch up with her. Sadly, when she reaches Moscow, Maya awakens from a deep sleep to discover that her baby has been taken from her. On the run with no resources, the desperate girl turns to Zhenya, Arkady’s friend, who is also fifteen and a chess hustler. Zhenya feels protective towards Maya, and he risks his own safety to do what he can to keep her alive.

The strength of Three Stations lies in its vivid characterizations, sharp and darkly humorous dialogue, and magnificent descriptive writing. Smith depicts a Moscow that resembles a fading lady of the evening. She appears attractive until you take a closer look. Then, her pitted skin, heavy-lidded eyes, and sagging body reveal the rot and decadence that lie beneath the surface. Moscow’s flashy exterior is a thin veil covering a multitude of horrors–drug use, rampant alcoholism, poverty, homelessness, and untreated mental illness. Oligarchs and ruthless politicians amass wealth and power, caring for no one but themselves. Corruption is everywhere; to have integrity is to be a fool.

Although the plot is a bit too hectic and far-fetched, readers will root for the spunky and determined Maya, the compassionate and honest Renko, and the good-hearted Zhenya. Smith’s cynicism about the ability of Muscovites to survive in a society gone mad is offset by his depiction of stalwart people like Arkady Renko. Although it would be easier for Renko to turn in his credentials and spend time reading novels and smelling the roses, he stubbornly persists in taking on the system and helping those who are in no position to help themselves.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 157 readers
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster (August 17, 2010)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Martin Cruz Smith
EXTRAS: AudioВ Excerpt
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August 23, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: ,  В· Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Russia, Sleuths Series, y Award Winning Author

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