Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson (1994)

‘Many tricky dicks walk the trail.’ (Jean-Baptiste Porteur, p.88) I saw this book in several second-hand bookshops before I picked it up for a pound imagining, from the stylish cover, that Davidson was one of the new young generation of thriller writers. How wrong I was. Davidson was born in 1922 and published his first […]

Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum (2003)

I went back to my apartment from which no policeman could evict me now. There was no one home, and finally I was able to weep freely. To weep for my husband, who perished in the cellars of the Lubyanka, when he was thirty-seven years old, at the height of his powers and talent; for […]

Tokyo Station by Martin Cruz Smith (2002)

It is Tokyo, December 1941, and Harry Niles is a fast-talking, streetwise American nightclub owner, one-time American movie importer, gambler and fixer with friends in low – and high – places. He was brought by his parents (Roger and Harriet Niles) to Japan soon after the First World War. They were Southern Baptist missionaries who […]

Stallion Gate by Martin Cruz Smith (1986)

Martin Cruz Smith is best known for the series of eight novels he’s written about Moscow-based police detective Arkady Renko, which kicked off with the international best-seller Gorky Park. Having read all eight I was dazzled by Smith’s ability to create memorable characters, to conjure up eerily powerful scenes, and to make the English language dance […]

Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith (2013)

‘All I know is that we don’t have a government anymore, just thieves.’ (p.269) Joseph Joseph cycles out to the beach. He’s a cool, well-paid freelance translator. The current job has gone well and he’s cycled here to Kaliningrad strand on his priceless bicycle to take the sea air and feel the sand between his […]

Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré (2010)

‘Well, fuck, said Hector happily. ‘Fuck indeed,’ Perry agreed, bemused. (p.88) Plot Perry and Gail Thirty-something Oxford tutor, Peregrine ‘Perry’ Makepeace, and his girlfriend, the beautiful, rising star barrister, Gail (immediately reminiscent of the beautiful, rising star journalist, Penelope, in The Mission Song), are on holiday in Antigua. Gail is a stunner (‘Men fell in […]

Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith (2010)

She crossed the road to look at the bus shelter. It had been built during a period of optimism, and although the pain had faded and holes had been mysteriously punched through the wall, Maya could still make out the faint outline of a rocket ship lifting off the ground, aspiring to more. The bus […]

Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith (2007)

This is the sixth of the eight novels featuring Russian homicide investigator, Arkady Renko, and arguably the most Russian. As usual there is an extensive cast list and lots of scenes, events and encounters which often border on the bizarre and even visionary. For example, one evening Arkady is driving through the choked Moscow traffic […]

Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith (2004)

Fifth in the addictive series of novels about former Soviet (and now plain Russian) homicide investigator, Arkady Renko, who we first met in Cruz Smith’s 1981 international bestseller, Gorky Park. It’s 23 years later and a lot has happened in that time, namely the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and […]

Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith (1999)

Havana had been the staging area for the treasure fleets of the Spanish empire. Over time silver and gold were replaced by American automobiles, which were replaced by Russian oil. All of this was handled in the warehouses of a barrio called Atares, and when the Soviet Union collapsed parts of Atares, like a half-empty […]