“POLAR STAR” by Martin Cruz Smith thrilled and moved me
Somewhere in the collective memory, “Gorky Park” has been lurking for decades. If an author is lucky enough to see one of his novels turned into a successful Hollywood movie, he or she is guaranteed a future audience. And quite rightly so in the case of Cruz Smith. “Polar Star” is the first of his novels I have ever read, and for me it is an immediate hit. Here’s a writer who goes to great lengths to come up with something good for his hero, Renko Arkady. I learned from an interview with Cruz Smith that after finishing “Gorky Park” (filmed with stars Lee Marvin and William Hurt) he had no plans for a new episode with the same hero. It took him some time before he saw the opportunity to come up with something good. Well, I am glad he took his time, because it is well worth it. This is the kind of crime novel that stands way above average because there’s more than a corpse coming out of the Bering Sea here; there’s the life journey of the hero of the series (this is only the second book about Renko Arkady, lots more have followed, with intriguing titles like “Stalin’s Ghost”) who comes from a police position in Moskow and is now a worker on a huge Soviet fishing ship. All the nitty gritty stuff of the life aboard this floating factory and worker’s hotel comes to life: both the technicial and the political details. Life on this ship, the Polar Star, in the icy Bering Sea and around the Aleut islands (a sort of hair in the ocean coming off Alaska), is unbelievably rough. The talent of Martin Cruz Smith in this novel, for me, is that he: • brought all this to life, • came up with some of the most chilling suspense in writing I have come across in years (some really nasty, frosty stuff), • and added some real life goings on about the people on board, how they danced in the evening simply to remember how to dance, and how sturdy Soviet women can still move these numbed men in that arctic climate (no irrelevant romantic involvement here, but something real and heartwarming). I was thrilled and moved. See what you think.