“Wolves Eat Dogs” by Martin Cruz Smith: Again the knife cuts the reader in this crime story with a surreal twist

wolves-eat-dogs_coverWithin the crime genre, I believe Martin Cruz Smith plays in a league of his own. His Arkady Renko series once kicked off with the now-famous “Gorky Park”, an exciting tale of murder within the once powerful nomenklatura of the USSR. Renko returned in several other novels, a reluctant detective, too focussed on asking questions to ever relax, and too attracted to people on the low side of life, criminals, women or even an orphan. All of this drenched with a touch of Russian life that makes his novels a special, and rare, journey. In an earlier novel, “Polar Star”, Cruz Smith demonstrated his skills of painting a location that is almost palpable — a floating fish factory in the Bering Sea — and now he takes on the spot where one of history’s most frightening nuclear incidents took place in 1986: Chernobyl. He is really there to carry out an investigation, but the band of people living off the grid, as well as the derelict city they live in, have been given so much strength here that they have become main protagonists of their own. Yes, this is an investigative police novel about a detective from Moscow, but it is just as much a story about life in the woods and lakes and houses of Prypiat, the city that has Chernobyl on its premises. That is a life of surrealism, for me, full of snowy landscapes, the occasional wolves, derelict buildings with dolls, an abandoned ferris wheel from the Prypiat fair, another corpse in a long lake that once served as cooling reservoir for the reactors and so forth. The investigation drags along, you might say, because Renko is also intrigued by a female doctor who treats people here, a character that makes every scene she’s in worth wile for her independence and toughness. For me, “Wolves Eat Dogs” is another successful novel by Martin Cruz Smith. It is definitely not the ordinary police novel, it goes much deeper than that and I am anticipating its fallout to remain with me for a long time. See what you think.