Tatiana: An Arkady Renko Novel

TatianaThursday, 20 March 2014 

If there wasn’t a specific link on the official Martin Cruz Smith website I probably wouldn’t be referring to the revelation that one of my favourite authors has had Parkinson’s Disease and the diagnosis dates back to 1995.

Under the circumstances, one can see why he kept it hidden from the reading public, but it was also a closely guarded secret as far as his publisher and editors were concerned. You would tend to assume, given the medical condition, that the writing might suffer, but in the period since the diagnosis he’s produced the Arkady Renko titles Havana Bay, Wolves Eat Dogs, Stalin's Ghost and Three Stations, all of which were quite sublime.

And, with Tatiana, he’s done it again, confirming a long-held belief that a new Martin Cruz Smith Arkady Renko novel needs to be approached as soon as I can get my hands on it. Better still, from my reading of the photographs here, there’s more on the way.

It’s not as if there’s going to be a lack of material to work with. While Arkady Renko has survived the transition from the old Soviet Union to Vladimir Putin’s New Russia, the country’s oligarchy is as obsessed with maintaining secrecy and enforcing its wishes through whatever means it deems necessary as any of its predecessors have been.

There are disturbingly familiar events at the beginning of Tatiana after reporter Tatiana Petrovna is alleged to have thrown herself from the sixth-floor window of the Moscow apartment she was trying to save from demolition by corrupt developers who want to convert the area into a shopping complex.

Her death coincides with a power vacuum at the top of the criminal food chain after the execution-style murder of mob billionaire Grisha Grigorenko, a member of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce  and patron of charities and the arts whose status stems from his interests in drugs, prostitution and stolen weaponry. While Grigorenko is buried with the trappings associated with a feudal lord, his death paves the way for a war of succession involving his son and heir apparent, and other Mafiosi with criminal empires of their own. 

Given the tendency for mobster funerals to attract persons of interest, Renko and his offsider attend Grigorenko’s funeral, where Arkady is sidetracked by a protest about Tatiana’s death. Her record of exposing corruption and cover-ups in government circles means there were any number of people who’d want to see her dead and the official verdict of suicide seems a little less than credible. There is a witness who heard her screaming as she fell. 

What caught Arkady’s attention was that a neighbour had heard her scream. Suicide usually took concentration. People who committed suicide counted pills, stared in fascination at their pooling blood, took the high dive in silence. They rarely screamed.


© Ian Hughes 2012