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Wolves Eat Dogs Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 16, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Why would anyone jump out a window with a saltshaker?" A good question, especially when the suicide victim is Pasha Ivanov, a Moscow physicist-turned-billionaire businessman--a "New Russian" poster boy, if ever there was one--with several homes, a leggy 20-year-old girlfriend ("the kind [of blonde] who could summon the attention of a breeze"), and every reason to be contented in his middle age. So, wonders Senior Investigator Arkady Renko, in Martin Cruz Smith's Wolves Eat Dogs, what provoked Ivanov to take a header from his stylish 10th-floor apartment? And how does it relate to the shaker clutched in his dead hand or the hillock of table salt found on his closet floor?

Renko, introduced in Smith's 1981 bestseller, Gorky Park, is a cop well out of sync with rapidly changing Russian society, "a difficult investigator, a holdover from the Soviet era, a man on the skids" whose determination to do more than go through the motions of criminal inquiries inevitably exasperates his superiors. Thus, when this saturnine detective declines to accept the verdict that Ivanov did himself in--who peppered that salt around the capitalist's premises, Renko still wants to know, and what about rumors of a security breach at Ivanov's apartment building?--he is exiled to the Ukrainian Zone of Exclusion, the "radioactive wasteland" surrounding Chernobyl, site of a notorious 1986 nuclear disaster and the place where, only a week after Ivanov's demise, his company's senior vice-president is found with his throat slit. There, among cynical scientists, entrepreneurial scavengers, and predators both two- and four-legged--an exclusive coterie of the rejected--Renko chews over the crimes on his plate. Unfortunately, the dosimeter that warns him of radiation exposure at Chernobyl does not also protect him from a pair of malevolent brothers, or a "damaged" woman doctor offering him mutually assured disappointment.

Smith has a keen eye for the comical quirks of modern-day Russia--its chaotic roadways, voracious appetite for post-communist luxuries, and evolving ethics ("Russians used to kill for women or power, real reasons. Now they kill for money"). And this story's bleakly beautiful Ukrainian backdrop nicely complements the desperate hope of Renko's task. Still, the greatest strength of Wolves Eat Dogs (Smith's fifth series installment, after Havana Bay) is its characters, especially Arkady Renko, who despite his lugubrious nature continues to show a heart as expansive and unfathomable as the Siberia steppe. --J. Kingston Pierce

From Publishers Weekly

Smith's melancholy, indefatigable Senior Investigator Arkady Renko has been exiled to some bitter venues in the past—including blistering-hot Cuba in Havana Bay and the icy Bering sea in Polar Star—but surely the strangest (and most fascinating) is his latest, the eerie, radioactive landscape of post-meltdown Chernobyl. Renko is called in to investigate the 10-story, plunge-to-the-pavement death of Pasha Ivanov, fabulously wealthy president of Moscow's NoviRus corporation, whose death is declared a suicide by Renko's boss, Prosecutor Zurin. Renko, being Renko, isn't sure it's suicide and wonders about little details like the bloody handprints on the windowsill and the curious matter of the closet filled with 50 kilos of salt. And why is NoviRus's senior vice-president Lev Timofeyev's nose bleeding? Renko asks too many questions, so an annoyed Zurin sends him off to Chernobyl to investigate when Timofeyev turns up in the cemetery in a small Ukrainian town with his throat slit and his face chewed on by wolves. The cemetery lies within the dangerously radioactive 30-kilometer circle called the Zone of Exclusion, populated by a contingent of scientists, a detachment of soldiers and those—the elderly, the crooks, the demented—who have sneaked back to live in abandoned houses and apartments. The secret of Ivanov and Timofeyev's deaths lies somewhere in the Zone, and the dogged Renko, surrounded by wolves both animal and human, refuses to leave until he unravels the mystery. It's the Zone itself and the story of Chernobyl that supplies the riveting backbone of this novel. Renko races around the countryside on his Uralmoto motorcycle, listening always to the ominous ticking of his dosimeter as it counts the dangerous levels of radioactivity present in the food, the soil, the air and the people themselves as they lie, cheat, love, steal, kill and die.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684872544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684872544
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Cruz-Smith's novels include Stalin's Ghost, Gorky Park, Rose, December 6, Polar Star and Stallion Gate. A two-time winner of the Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers and a recipient of Britain's Golden Dagger Award, he lives in California.

Customer Reviews

I thought I remembered liking it, but now I'm not so sure, at least if it was anything like this book.
Judith E. Persons
Martin Cruz Smith has written a masterful tour of one of the strange planets that co-exist with our familiar reality.
John Skilbeck
I love Martin Cruz Smith's writing, and he has really created an interesting character in Arkady Renko.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on November 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have read and enjoyed Smith's previous Renko novels. Renko's erratic career path as a police inspector has seen him survive, barely, the apparatchiks of the Soviet regime (Gorky Park). He has survived its imminent demise (Polar Star) and the emergence of bloody cowboy capitalism (Red Square). Now, in Wolves Eat Dogs, Renko must operate in a Russia dominated by an elite group of billionaire oligarchs.

The primary setting of Wolves Eats Dogs is the 30-kilometer evacuation (or exclusion) zone in the northern Ukraine, just south of Ukraine's border with Belarus, surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On April 26th, 1986 the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded after a planned test shutdown went seriously wrong. The subsequent release of radioactive material (cesium and strontium) is estimated to have reached levels exceeding 40 times the amount of radioactivity released by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The short and long term effects of this explosion, particularly on the Republics of Belarus and Ukraine has been devastating. For example, the phrase "Chernobyl Necklace" refers to the ubiquitous ear-to-ear scar worn by Byelorussians and Ukrainians that have had thyroid cancer surgery. The thyroid cancer rate is estimated to be up to 2000 times greater in Belarus than in the general world population. Smith's eye for details makes note of these scars. The Chernobyl disaster has special resonance for me as I have spent five years involved with a Children of Chernobyl program that brings children from Belarus to the United States for six week health and respite visits.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on November 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Arkady Renko is a pessimist; he thinks everything will go wrong. Arkady Renko is a realist; he believes everything will go wrong. Arkady Renko is a Russian; he knows everything will go wrong.

Way back in "Gorky Park", the first of Martin Cruz Smith's tales about the Moscow investigator, Arkady Renko was faced with crime and corruption hidden behind the mask of Soviet communism. In this latest novel, the Soviet Union is no more, but crime and corruption remain -- indeed, they are blossoming -- under the rabid capitalism of the New Russia. In "Wolves Eat Dogs" Renko investigates (well, he is offically ordered not to investigate) the death of Moscow's darling billionaire-of-the-moment, Pasha Ivanov, who threw himself, maybe, out of the window of his luxurious high-rise apartment, leaving behind anxious business partners, a young mistress, and a pile of salt in his closet.

Succeeding events lead Renko to "the Zone", the radioactive wasteland around Chernobyl in the Ukraine, a journey to a grim circle of hell straight out of Dante's Inferno, inhabited by the mad, the doomed, and the hopeless. Who else would eat food grown in radioactive earth and turn off dosimeters because their constant clicking is too distracting? Life there is very cheap, and death can be had at virtually no price at all. Yet, beneath all else, "Wolves Eat Dogs" is more than anything a story of redemption, never certain redemption but, ultimately, the undying possibility of redemption. Renko's descent to this nightmare of a real world makes for strongly compelling reading, arguably the best of the Renko books since "Gorky Park".
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader on November 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Martin Cruz Smith's Russian detective Arcady Renko began his career discovering bodies in Soviet Gorky Park, went on the lam on the Soviet fishing trawler Polar Star, came back to the force to follow a crime to Havana Bay, and now, he takes on the New Russia, where different wolves eat dogs. Pasha Ivanko is one of those wolves who made the transition from communism to the free market with brazen success, but now he lies smashed on the pavement in front of his luxury apartment building with nothing but a salt shaker to break his fall. In fact, when called to investigate, Arkady finds salt scattered throughout Ivanko's designer digs. His superiors tell him to write it off as a suicide, but somehow he can't. Why would someone who had embraced the new order as gleefully as Pasha kill himself, and what is it with this salt? The murder of Pasha's business partner in neighboring Ukraine earns Arkady a trip to Chernobyl's Zone of Exclusion with its eerie abandoned city still shimmering with radioactivity.

The number of people who died in the 1986 nuclear explosion at Chernobyl is not known, nor is it known how many will die in the decades to come. The Zone of Exclusion is supposed to be completely de-populated except for scientists who are rotated in and out. Arkady discovers that the Zone is in fact quite a busy place with a variety of scavengers, entrepreneurs, elderly farm folk and fearless radioactive wild animals calling the place home. Smith loves to put the ironic but big-hearted Renko in surreal environments and this one is certainly one of the weirdest. Solving murders is one thing, but solving them while keeping one eye on radioactive warning signs is really something else.
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