by Martin Cruz Smith
Simon & Schuster, 2013. 290 pgs. Mystery
Martin Cruz Smith's latest Arkady Renko mystery begins with a murder. A young and full-of-himself young man is intercepted as he cycles down the road outside Kaliningrad after having served as an interpreter at a secret meeting. Apparently his notes from that meeting are suddenly in high demand, even though they are designed to be indecipherable to anyone but him. A short time later, Tatiana Petrovna, a brilliant and daring journalist, dies in a fall from her sixth floor apartment (think the real-life Anna Politkovskaya, only without guns). The official line is that Petrovna killed herself; Arkady Renko thinks not and begins to investigate at the same time as he is trying to figure out who killed billionaire mobster Grisha Grigorenko with a bullet to the head. Inexplicably, the young cyclist's notebook becomes important. Who has it? And was Tatiana killed for her knowledge of it? And why does Grisha Grigorenko's son Alexi suddenly want it? In one of the most satisfying of his ever-satisfying Arkady Renko books, Smith takes his hero to Kaliningrad, the most crime-ridden and corrupt of all Russian cities, where he is pursued by a homicidal butcher, and various thugs who think he has the notebook. But in the meantime, someone very close to Arkady is deciphering its contents. One of the best of Smith's Arkady Renko series, which is high praise, indeed, Tatiana is thrilling, atmospheric, and deeply satisfying.