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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arkady Renko's latest adventure-descending into Moscow's rings of hell
This is a very fast-paced and character-heavy novel that has Russian police detective Arkady Renko in the thick of a serial murder case that nobody wants to acknowledge and may cause him to lose his job. Long portrayed as a kind moral icon in this long-running series of excellent stories, Renko has become far too incorruptible and committed to justice to comfortably fit...
Published on August 20, 2010 by Blue in Washington

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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Weakest of the Arkady Renko Series
Though still an enjoyable novel, I found this to be the weakest book in the Renko series which started with the ground-breaking "Gorky Park". Not coincidentally, this is also the thinnest book physically of the series; compared to the rest of the books, it's a novelette.

It lacks the plotting complexities of Smith's earlier works; it's a pretty straightforward...
Published on August 21, 2010 by Brian Baker


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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arkady Renko's latest adventure-descending into Moscow's rings of hell, August 20, 2010
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This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
This is a very fast-paced and character-heavy novel that has Russian police detective Arkady Renko in the thick of a serial murder case that nobody wants to acknowledge and may cause him to lose his job. Long portrayed as a kind moral icon in this long-running series of excellent stories, Renko has become far too incorruptible and committed to justice to comfortably fit into the Moscow police force that has long since headed in the opposite direction. Renko's status as a paragon was never more clearly sketched than in this novel that very quickly plunges into the lowest depths of contemporary Russian society.

The action--and much of it is starkly brutal and unrelenting--takes place mostly in the Three Stations neighborhood of Moscow--a kind of latter-day Times Square. It's a garish and squalid place that attracts every kind of criminal activity, but ironically, serves as a haven for the displaced and disadvantaged too. Those already victimized souls are further exploited mercilessly by the heavies in charge of the area's crime. Child prostitution, drugs, theft, and forgery abound, surrounded by high-end nightclubs that offer more sophisticated and expensive forms of distraction for the newly wealthy of the city. Renko is pulled into the Three Stations when the body of a young woman is discovered and the Inspector's sidekick, Victor Orlov is despatched to the crime scene. As usual, Victor is too intoxicated to investigate on his own, so Arkady helps out. The murder is unwelcome in the neighborhood that depends on tourists and other visitors, and Renko's efforts to shed light on who killed the girl are not appreciated. The first murder is followed by other killings and it gradually becomes apparent that a kind of serial murderer is at work.

Several other story lines emerge and cross. The plight of "thrown-away", homeless children is an important part of the novel. The story of Maya, a 15-year girl forced into prostitution by her parents, becomes central when her two-week old baby is stolen from her as she flees to Moscow from her provincial town. She is followed by the gangsters who "own" her and plan to punish her severely for her flight. The plights of other homeless children are threaded through Maya's saga as author Martin Cruz Smith hammers home the point that newly rich Russia is creating a large underclass that is officially and publicly ignored and abused by the government and better-off citizens. A NOTE OF WARNING--some of the abuse is extremely graphic and violent.

"Three Stations" does end on a note of justice and redemption for several of the characters, notably Arkady Renko himself. His integrity stands out and is celebrated in a modest way, giving some hope that the excesses of the new Russian society will eventually fade.

A very good action crime novel. There are a few loose ends, but it doesn't detract from the very engaging plot.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Weakest of the Arkady Renko Series, August 21, 2010
By 
Brian Baker (Santa Clarita, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
Though still an enjoyable novel, I found this to be the weakest book in the Renko series which started with the ground-breaking "Gorky Park". Not coincidentally, this is also the thinnest book physically of the series; compared to the rest of the books, it's a novelette.

It lacks the plotting complexities of Smith's earlier works; it's a pretty straightforward procedural. Though it evidently attempts to weave two "parallel" story lines, it fails because in the end, the resolution depends on pure chance rather than the true efforts of lead character Renko.

Essentially, Renko finds himself trying to solve a murder in Moscow. Meanwhile, a teen from the Russian sticks has her baby kidnapped from her while on the train to Moscow. Do these two events seem unrelated? Well... that's the problem with this book. They are, in virtually every way except for that chance overlap I mentioned earlier, which pushes all bounds of credibility, and only serves to provide an ending to the story.

I still give it three stars because in Smith's hands Renko is such an appealing character. But this book falls WAY short of the bar set by all the previous books.
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89 of 98 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brave New World, August 17, 2010
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This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
It is a rare and wonderful thing to be able to follow the adventures of a literary character for thirty years. And the author's evident skill in portraying the shifting fortunes of Russian society make for a most interesting setting. Three Stations is a police procedural set in contemporary Moscow centered upon events that converge in a modern crossroads frequented by over a million subway travelers each day; crimes take place that most are unwilling to see, including those with the responsibility to protect society.

There is no need to be familiar with the series to enjoy what is an excellent self-contained story, well-paced, well-plotted and among the best of its genre; however, to read the Renko stories merely as detective stories, is to miss the point that despite omnipresent corruption and vice an individual with honor and integrity can still make a difference. Renko is a survivor, but he survives without taking from others--in fact, he gives of himself at great personal cost. As such, the reader is not only looking for justice for the victims but also for Renko, who can't seem to ever catch a break.

This book, like its predecessors, does not spare its descriptions of the failings of modern civilization; it can be a tough read and presents doses of tough language but does not gratuitously dwell on the negative. Apparently modern Russia is competing with Victorian England in its ability to produce Dickensian squalor. Yet, like Mr. Dickens, Mr. Smith rewards his faithful and innocent characters in a manner that gives hope that eventually society may come to its senses and recognize the need to clean things up.

A respected English Professor of mine once opined that the value of fiction lies in its ability to provoke readers to action by virtue of vicarious experience. Thus the value of Mr. Smith's works is evident as they not only provide good reading, they should provoke anyone to be less tolerant of vice and more interested in protecting the rule of law; private acts have public consequences. I am grateful for modern authors willing to tackle moral issues; Arkady Renko is no saint, but he does the right thing in a society intent on punishing anyone who takes a stand against evil.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid view of Moscow's seamy side, September 16, 2010
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This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
Maya, a frightened teen with a baby, flees a countryside brothel on the Moscow-bound train, looking over her shoulder for the hunters she knows will follow. But when a kindly old woman rescues her from a bullying soldier she allows herself to be coddled a bit - and wakes in the chaos of the Three Stations train depot in Komsomol Square - her infant and her few possessions gone.

Naturally the cops don't believe her and when she escapes them it's not Renko who takes her under his wing but Zhenya, the 15-year-old orphan chess prodigy Renko rescued and sort-of adopted in a previous adventure. Zhenya is smart but socially awkward and lacks the muscle of Yegor, the local child-gang leader who promises to protect Maya - at a price, of course.

Meanwhile Renko is worrying about Zhenya as he rescues his old colleague Victor Orlov from the drunk tank and helps him investigate a suspicious death in a derelict trailer at another area of Three Stations. The dead girl is apparently a prostitute, most likely dead of an overdose.

Renko is on the outs with his superiors, as usual, and looking for something to do, so, although the higher-ups rule it a natural death, he commandeers an autopsy, rules it a homicide and is fired for his trouble. As Renko digs deeper the case grows more complex and Renko once again butts heads with the powerful, including a swaggering billionaire, Sasha Vaksberg, whose several casinos have been shut down by Putin, although his glittering nightclub boasts its own choreographer, a once-famous dancer: "Photos covering the walls as if she were a person with no faith in her memory."

Coincidentally Vaksberg's Three Stations casino is Zhenya's secret hideout, an eerie place where even the ice machines are kept in perfect readiness for the doors to be thrown open once again.

Things get deadly when the hunters come for Maya, and Renko refuses all offers to give up digging and go away. Both plotlines take place mostly in Three Stations, but Smith keeps Renko and Zhenya apart most of the way through.

This story is not as wide-ranging as most of Renko's outings, but Smith paints his usual vivid picture of Moscow's corruption and dysfunction as point of view moves from child prostitutes and gangs of pre-teen homeless children (most from abusive, alcoholic families) to the realms of the newly rich where anything can be bought if the price is right.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Russia is upside down.", August 21, 2010
This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
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.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Three strikes for Mr Smith, March 4, 2011
This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
Back in 2008, I read a fantastic article in National Geographic by Mr Smith, "Moscow Never Sleeps". In the article, he plays on the contrast between the outrageous wealth of Russia's nouveau riche and the sorrowful squalor of society's least fortunates, geographically embodied in the part of Moscow known as Three Stations.

"Three Stations", the novel, is basically that article turned into a book, minus the focus and editing, 30 times longer but many times less interesting. It's social commentary masquerading as a crime novel, and doing neither with any particular distinction.

The seventh outing for Mr Smith's Moscow police investigator, Arkady Renko, packs a surfeit of plots into its slimmish 240 pages. There's a runaway teenage prostitute, whose baby has been stolen. There's a pair of hired killers looking to bring her back to the whorehouse. A kindly teenage street gang. A murderer obsessed with ballet.

What there isn't is a coherent story line stringing all these plot points together. Characters are introduced, only to vanish for chapters on end. The abducted baby and a murdered ballerina fight for space, and as a result neither story line feels fully developed. Also missing is the coherent social commentary that marks Mr Smith's other works, including his National Geographic article.

Renko this time is almost a parody of the established character--still the only one who believes a crime has been committed, still fighting with his boss, still bemused stepdad to chess prodigy Zhenya, still hooking up with women in passionless encounters (his girlfriend of the last two books has conveniently disappeared, for reasons not immediately obvious). There are the odd glimmers of Mr Smith's trademark dark wit, but mostly this Renko feels locked in a holding pattern, like a car in a traffic jam on Moscow's ring road.

The end result is a bit like "Indiana Jones 4". Or "Blair Witch 2" or "Son of Mask". In short, a poorly-written sequel that does its best to kill whatever good memories you had of the works that came before.

If the plot is a mess, the editing is worse. Mr Smith keeps forgetting to tell us things. An old woman appears; "It was the babushka who had been suffering the crumbs of the priest"--but Mr Smith never said there was a babushka with the priest. A bad guy is nasitly disemboweled by a hero who magically appears in just the right spot--but quite how this feat is managed is never entirely clear.

"Three Station" was almost physically painful to read, especially since I have long been an enormous fan of Mr Smith and his Renko books (read my reviews of "Wolves Eat Dogs" and "Stalin's Ghost"). Read Mr Smith's earlier Renko books, especially "Wolves Eat Dogs", read the National Geographic article, but whatever you do, don't read this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary insights, September 12, 2010
By 
L. Starks (Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
Three Stations is excellent Moscow noir. The Russian setting gives gritty texture to this urgent story, featuring superb dialogue.

L. A. Starks, Author of 13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fooled by the New York Times Book Review, February 21, 2011
This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
The review of "Three Stations" in the Book Review made me take a chance on this one when I might not have and I half regret it. The main story here is very weak, Smith's anti-hero Arkady Renko investigating what might be a new serial killer in Moscow, but with the kind of serial killer cliches you are more accustomed seeing in Jame,s Patterson's work or on television (the killer arranges the corpses in various ballet positions). That plot is so thin that whenever it is returned to, I had to remind myself that it was even part of the book. When another police investigator mentioned that there "might be a new serial killer in Moscow," in fact, it took me a moment to realize he was referring to the case Renko was investigating.

The main subplot follows Renko's ward as he helps a girl locate her missing baby in Three Stations, the combined train stations of Moscow that seem like an amazing place to set a better book. This plot kept almost taking off, but then would fall into cliche as well (was anyone shocked that the girl turned out to be an abused runaway prostitute?) and is tied up quickly in a somewhat unsatisfying way.

What I found interesting was that I still couldn't put it down. The plots might not have worked, but I really felt transported to the seedy side of a very real-feeling contemporary Moscow. The details drove me along, from the rich person's fair to the old woman photographer. It might've been better if Smith didn't feel the need to put in any kind of obvious criminal plot and just had it be Renko moving through this space akin to Pynchon's "Inherent Vice."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost opportunity?, November 2, 2010
This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
Most other novels I wind up wishing at least 20-30 pages were cut; this one, the reverse. I was quite hopeful when seeing that the plotlines seemed to be heading toward an interesting maturation of the Arkady-Zhenya relationship. But as things wound down and the pages dwindled alarmingly, I saw that it was not to be. Why not? It really seems as though MCS thought he had a month to finish but was surprised when his editor said he had only a week. I hate to sound churlish; I'm an enthusiastic fan of the series.. an abridged effort by Mr. Smith is worth a fully realized novel from most others. I mean, when you read that the vodka coursed through Arkady 'like water running down a chandelier'... where can you get that now other than from the McCarthy's and McGuane's and Smith's? Worth reading?- you betcha. But darn, it feels like a hecka lost opportunity when he tees up the whole Arkady-Zhenya thing and doesn't take a proper swing. May we all find this is just an appetizer for a main course being whipped up in Smith's kitchen... OK, enough metaphors for one review!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, April 25, 2011
By 
Ian S. Mccarthy (Myersville, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) (Hardcover)
I am a great fan of Martin Cruz Smith but I agree with others that this was one of his weakest works. It reads as if he has lost interest in his characters. The plotting was weak and the conclusion risible.
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Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels)
Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel (Arkady Renko Novels) by Martin Cruz Smith (Hardcover - August 17, 2010)
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