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Gorky Park: 10/15/06
Although I love thrillers and "man books" as I often heard them called, I usually avoid the Soviet Union based stories. For whatever reason, the KGB bores me. There are a few exceptions to the rule like From Russia with Love and The Red Fox. Gorky Park isn't exactly a KGB thriller but they are there as foils to Moscow detective, Arkady Renko. In fact it is their role across so many books as foils and cardboard cutout villains that contributes to so much of my boredom in the sub-genre of the KGB thriller.
The bulk of Gorky Park's mystery could have happened anywhere. It is a triple murder where the bodies have had most identifying features removed and the bodies left to freeze out in the middle of a park. Those working on the case must: identify the bodies, determine cause of death, find and interview potential "persons of interest" and hopefully track down a suspect with enough evidence to warrant an arrest. These tasks require time, skill, a degree of luck, and resources. By choosing Moscow at the nadir of the Soviet Union, Smith forces a number of restraints on his mystery: corruption, a meddling police state, and no financial support for a large case.
Over all I liked the change of scenery from the usual cities the mysteries I read take place: London, San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York, but Smith seemed to take much too long building his world and commenting on the bleak life style of the typical detective in Moscow. After a while, all this commentary from various characters on what life in the city was like seemed artificial and a hindrance to the story.
Here is my BookCrossing review: