Friday, March 21, 2014

Eight of the best crime & thriller stories set in the former USSR

J. Kingston Pierce is both the editor of The Rap Sheet and the senior editor of January Magazine. One of eight top former Soviet Union-set crime and thriller novels he tagged at Kirkus Reviews:
Wolves Eat Dogs, by Martin Cruz Smith (2004)

Smith can justly claim at least some responsibility for stimulating growth in the number of Russian cop novels produced by Americans over the last 30 years, thanks to the celebrity of his 1981 book, Gorky Park, which introduced Moscow inspector Arkady Renko. In Wolves Eat Dogs, Renko looks into the passing of Pasha Ivanov, a billionaire businessman whose body was found 10 stories below his stylish apartment. Why would Ivanov, who’s made out like a bandit, literally, in the “New Russia” of cutthroat capitalism, take his own life? More curious yet, why would he leap from his window with a salt shaker in hand? Police higher-ups are upset that Renko won’t just declare this a suicide and move on, so they’re pleased to hear that Ivanov’s senior vice-president has been found in the Ukraine with his throat slit. It gives them an excuse to send Renko on an apparent wild goose chase, off into the “radioactive wasteland” surrounding Chernobyl, the site of a notorious 1986 nuclear disaster. Yet in that bizarre place Renko finds not only scavenging opportunists and despondent scientists, but also a sexy, damaged physician and clues to these killings held by defiant villagers.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue