Once in a long while a novel appears whose plot is original, atmosphere so authentic, characters so vivid, execution so skillful amd premise so true that it reverberates long after the reader has finished its last page. Gorky Park is such a novel.
When three mutilated bodies are discovered in the deep snow of Moscow’s Gorky Park, and chief Homicide Investigator Arkady Renko is beaten to the site by the KGB agent, Major Pribluda, he knows that these are no ordinary murders, As head of the Homicide Department of the moscow Town Prosecutor’s office, Arkady’s cases generally are typically Russian (which is to say that they involve approximately equal doses of vodka, jealousy, boredom and despair). Usually, too, the KGB leave Arkady alone; it is understood that his job consists of picking up the everyday corpse, while political crimes are left to them.
But these victims, Arkady soon realizes, are part of a seemingly motiveless crime both ruthless and bizarre. And though his every move in the case is monitored by the KGB, he is puzzled that they don’t take on the case themselves, especially when, strangely, a New York City detective obsessed with avenging one of the victims beats Arkady almost to death and a powerful American businessman who basks in a luxurious bathhouse with the Kremlin’s apparatchiks also appears to be implicated in the brutal murders. Even more unsettling to Arkady is his interrogation of Irina, a dissident at Mosfilm, the Soviet film studio. He falls in love with her, even though he cannot trust anyone in an investigation that reaches to the highest levels of the communist hierarchy.
Arkady is an anomaly in Soviet society: too vigorous in his pursuit of justice, too intelligent to accept Party doublethink, too cynical to believe that there is a happy ending for someone like himself in such a world, and too sensitive and honest to be able to avoid falling in love even when it clearly will be to his cost. Finally, he is too brilliant an investigator not to solve the Gorky Park murders, though the personal price he pays is devastating, and though the deaths reveal more corruption in Soviet-and American- society than he had thought possible.
Gorky Park (#1) by Martin Cruz Smith