Simon & Schuster, 2004, $25.95, 337 pages, ISBN 0-684-87254-4
Books which will transport all of us through time and space; books that know no borders, no limits and allow the reader to peek over the shoulder and into the lives of all the characters the world has to offer. Take this week’s MBR No. 70 for example . . .
Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith is a crime-fiction mystery that begins in Moscow with the death of Pasha Ivanov, a billionaire and oligarch of the ‘New Russia’ . . . a society fueled by corruption, secrecy and organized crime, much the same as the old USSR . . . who either jumped or was thrown from the 10th floor balcony of his luxury penthouse. A sour, disillusioned and ‘slightly subversive’ detective and Senior Investigator named Arkady Renko is at the scene as the opening page begins, trying to determine if Ivanov jumped, or was pushed. All the obvious signs point to suicide, but Renko, cynical, analytical and prone to depression, isn’t so sure; one of the only clues in this locked room mystery is salt . . . it’s found on the windowsill Ivanov went out of, under his body, and forty pounds of it are poured on the floor of his walk-in closet. Renko gets drawn ever deeper into the world of super-rich billionaires as he tries to unravel a case that takes him from Moscow to the ghostly Zone of Exclusion: the contaminated radioactive area around Chernobyl, where the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place in April, 1986. There, amid the toxic and abandoned ruins, inhabited by the daring, the foolhardy and the criminal classes, as well as some militia sent to impose marital law, Renko will try to sift through the debris and overcome criminal sabotage in order to solve the case before the toxicity of the environment does irreparable damage to his health. It’s an intense, page-turning marvel from one of the masters of the detective and mystery genre. If you’re a crime-fiction junkie, you’ll do well to read Wolves Eat Dogs! Enjoy.