Three Stations (Arkady Renko Series #7)

Three Stations (Arkady Renko Series #7)

3.2 180
by Martin Cruz Smith
     
 

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A passenger train hurtling through the night. An unwed teenage mother headed to Moscow to seek a new life. A cruel-hearted soldier looking furtively, forcibly, for sex. An infant disappearing without a trace.

So begins Martin Cruz Smith’s masterful Three Stations, a suspenseful, intricately constructed novel featuring Investigator

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Overview


A passenger train hurtling through the night. An unwed teenage mother headed to Moscow to seek a new life. A cruel-hearted soldier looking furtively, forcibly, for sex. An infant disappearing without a trace.

So begins Martin Cruz Smith’s masterful Three Stations, a suspenseful, intricately constructed novel featuring Investigator Arkady Renko. For the last three decades, beginning with the trailblazing Gorky Park, Renko (and Smith) have captivated readers with detective tales set in Russia. Renko is the ironic, brilliantly observant cop who finds solutions to heinous crimes when other lawmen refuse to even acknowledge that crimes have occurred. He uses his biting humor and intuitive leaps to fight not only wrongdoers but the corrupt state apparatus as well.

In Three Stations, Renko’s skills are put to their most severe test. Though he has been technically suspended from the prosecutor’s office for once again turning up unpleasant truths, he strives to solve a last case: the death of an elegant young woman whose body is found in a construction trailer on the perimeter of Moscow’s main rail hub. It looks like a simple drug overdose to everyone—except to Renko, whose examination of the crime scene turns up some inexplicable clues, most notably an invitation to Russia’s premier charity ball, the billionaires’ Nijinksy Fair. Thus a sordid death becomes interwoven with the lifestyles of Moscow’s rich and famous, many of whom are clinging to their cash in the face of Putin’s crackdown on the very oligarchs who placed him in power.

Renko uncovers a web of death, money, madness and a kidnapping that threatens the woman he is coming to love and the lives of children he is desperate to protect. In Three Stations, Smith produces a complex and haunting vision of an emergent Russia’s secret underclass of street urchins, greedy thugs and a bureaucracy still paralyzed by power and fear.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The sustained success of Smith’s Renko books is based on much more than Renko. This author’s gift for tart, succinct description creates a poisonous political backdrop, one that makes his characters’ survival skills as important as any of their other attributes. . . [This is] one top-flight series, still sharply honed, none the worse for wear.”

Janet Maslin, New York Times

Olen Steinhauer
Like the luminaries of the genre, Smith is at heart a deeply moral writer, and beneath his wry, cynical tone you can feel his authorial anger twitching a safe distance away. Paired with what reads deceptively like a native's knowledge of Russia, it makes for a potent brew…long live Renko. I don't care how he lays waste to Moscow package tours, for without this despairing seeker of truth, what would that heightened Russia of our imagination be left with? Convenient truths, still-buried secrets and tales that end abruptly before they've gotten started. We'd all be the worse for it.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Smith's seventh Arkady Renko novel (after Stalin's Ghost) falls short of his usual high standard. The Russian police detective, now a senior investigator, is seriously considering quitting the force because his boss, state prosecutor Zurin, refuses to assign him any cases. Renko seizes the chance to buck Zurin by finding the truth behind the death of a prostitute found in a workers' trailer parked in Moscow's seedy Three Stations (aka Komsomol Square). While the young woman, who Renko guesses is 18 or 19, apparently took a fatal drug overdose, he believes she was murdered. A subplot centering on a mother whose infant is stolen on a train detracts from rather than enhances the main investigation. This disappointing entry does only a superficial job of bringing the reader inside today's Russia. Hopefully, Smith and Renko will return to form next time. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Arkady Renko's reward for his investigative prowess described in five previous novels (from Gorky Park to Stalin's Ghost) is pathetic—he's about to be cashiered from his job as a cop in Moscow. He and his alcoholic detective buddy Viktor find a lovely young woman dead in a filthy trailer in Three Stations, a crime-ridden transportation center. The fate of one prostitute, however young or beautiful, is a trivial matter to their boss, so the investigation is squelched. Renko forges on stubbornly and develops clues that point to a serial killer on the loose. At the same time, Zhenya, Renko's solitary protégée, is embroiled in the kidnapping of another prostitute's infant. At Three Stations these two grim story arcs converge, and Renko's bravery, tenacity, and sheer intelligence are burnished to a warm glow in this compact yet deeply textured and finely written descent into Moscow's lower depths. VERDICT Fans everywhere will be eager to get the latest installment in the Renko saga, a terrific oeuvre for readers in every public library. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/10.]—Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743276757
Publisher:
Gallery Books
Publication date:
09/06/2011
Series:
Arkady Renko Series, #7
Edition description:
Simon & Schuster
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
301,124
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

The summer night swam by. Villages, ripening fields, derelict churches flowed and mixed with Maya’s dreams.

She tried to stay awake but sometimes her eyelids had their way. Sometimes the girl dreamt of the train’s first-class passengers tucked away asleep in their compartments.

Hard class had no compartments. “Hard class” was a dormitory coach where a few lamps were still lit and snoring, muffled sex, body odor and domestic quarrels were shared by all. Some passengers had been on the train for days and the fatigue of close quarters had set in. A round-the-clock card game among oil riggers soured and turned to resentment and accusations. A Gypsy went from berth to berth hawking the same shawls in a whisper. University students traveling on the cheap were deep in the realm of their headphones. A priest brushed cake crumbs from his beard. Most of the passengers were as nondescript as boiled cabbage. An inebriated soldier wandered up and down the corridor.

Still Maya preferred the rough sociability of hard class to traveling first class. Here she fit in. She was fifteen years old, a stick figure in torn jeans and a bomber jacket the texture of cardboard, her hair dyed a fiery red. One canvas bag held her earthly possessions, the other hid her baby girl of three weeks, tightly swaddled and lulled by the rocking of the train. The last thing Maya needed was to be trapped in a compartment under the scrutiny of snobs. Not that she could have afforded first class anyway.

After all, a train was just a communal apartment on rails, Maya decided. She was used to that. Most of the men stripped to warm-up pants, undershirts and slippers for the duration; she watched for any who had not because a shirt with long sleeves might conceal the tattoos of someone sent to bring her back. Playing it safe, she had chosen an otherwise empty berth. She talked to none of the other passengers and none noticed that the baby was on board.

Maya enjoyed creating stories about new people, but now her imagination was caught up with the baby, who was both a stranger and part of herself. The baby was, in fact, the most mysterious person she had ever met. All she knew was that her baby was perfect, translucent, unflawed.

The baby stirred and Maya went to the vestibule at the end of the car. There, half open to the wind and clatter of the train, she nursed the baby and indulged in a cigarette. Maya had been drug-free for seven months.

A full moon kept pace. From the tracks spread a sea of wheat, water tanks, a silhouette of a shipwrecked harvester. Six more hours to Moscow. The baby’s eyes regarded her solemnly. Returning the gaze, Maya was so hypnotized that she did not hear the soldier join her in the vestibule until the sliding door closed behind him and he said smoking was bad for the baby. His voice was a jolt, a connection with reality.

He removed the cigarette from her mouth and snapped it out the vestibule window.

Maya took the baby from her breast and covered herself.

The soldier asked if the baby was in the way. He thought it was. So he told Maya to put the baby down. She held on, although he slid his hand inside her jacket and squeezed her breast hard enough to draw milk. His voice cracked when he told her what else he wanted her to do. But first she had to put the baby down. If she didn’t, he would throw the baby off the train.

It took a second for Maya to process his words. If she screamed, could anyone hear her? If she fought, would he toss the baby like an unwanted package? She saw it covered with leaves, never to be found. All she knew was that it was her fault. Who was she to have such a beautiful baby?

Before she could put the baby down, the vestibule door opened. A large figure in gray stepped out, gathered the soldier’s hair with the grip of a butcher and laid a knife across his neck. It was the babushka who had been suffering the crumbs of the priest. The old woman told the soldier she would geld him next time they met and gave him a vigorous kick as a demonstration of sincerity. He could not get to the next car fast enough.

When Maya and the baby returned to their berth, the babushka brought tea from the samovar and watched over them. Her name was Helena Ivanova but she said that everyone up and down the line called her Auntie Lena.

Worn-out, Maya finally allowed herself to plunge into true sleep, down a dark slope that promised oblivion.

When Maya next opened her eyes sunlight flooded the coach. The train was at a platform and the dominant sound was flies circling in the warm air. The fullness in her breasts was urgent. Her wristwatch said 7:05. The train was expected to arrive at six-thirty. There was no sign of Auntie Lena. Both baskets were gone.

Maya rose and walked unsteadily down the corridor. All the other passengers—the boisterous oil riggers, the university boys, the Gypsy and the priest—were gone. Auntie Lena was gone. Maya was the only person on the train.

Maya stepped onto the platform and fought her way through early-morning passengers boarding a train on the opposite side. People stared. A porter let his baggage cart coast into her shin. The ticket takers at the gate didn’t remember anyone resembling Auntie Lena and the baby. It was a preposterous question from a ridiculous-looking girl.

People in the platform area were making good-byes and hundreds circulated around kiosks and shops selling cigarettes, CDs and slices of pizza. A thousand more sat in the haze of a waiting room. Some were going to the wilds of Siberia, some all the way to the Pacific and some were just waiting.

But the baby was gone.

© 2010 Titanic Productions

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