Genre: Spy, thriller, politics
Synopsis: When three bodies are found in Gorky Park, minus any identifying features (e.g. fingertips and faces), Arkady Renko is called in to investigate. Renko knows from the very first that there is more to this crime than anyone is letting on and when his investigations lead him to wealthy American John Osbourne, he soon finds his own life is in danger.
I have seen the film of this book and so was quite excited when this appeared in my weekly kindle e-mail. Unfortunately the book didn’t live up to my memories of the film for a number of reasons.
It started well and at first I was gripped by Renko’s investigations and the inevitable clashes with the power structures in Russia. Renko is an outsider who has failed in life due to his inability to play the party game and as such has little to lose. I liked him almost instantly for the same reasons that I love Inspector Rebus in Rankin’s books. No one was above the law for Renko. He was not about to let the KGB get away with murder.
The story is certainly full of twists – at least at first. In fact, I found myself sometimes getting a little lost and having to look back through the book. That is fine, I’d rather that than the stodgy plot towards the end. The ending goes on for far too long and with not really that much happening. I thought the ending was generally disappointing although I was definitely glad to get to it.
I wasn’t particularly convinced by the love story between Renko and Irina Asanova and felt that whenever they were together, the plot slowed right down. There was no real explanation why Asanova suddenly changes her mind about Renko and decides not only to help him but to sleep with him as well.
Finally, the Americans in this book are stereotypical – as, I suppose, is the portrayal of Renko. There is the Irish New York cop who is out to revenge his brother’s death and there is Osbourne himself, the very living embodiment of capitalism, willing to sacrifice anything for his precious furs. Neither of them are really developed beyond the obvious.
So, in the end, the film was better than the book. The plot was interesting at first. By the time it got to the end, I really just wanted it to be over and I had stopped caring about the characters.