Back in 1981, Smith’s mystery novel Gorky Park, set in the contemporary Soviet Union, won him great success: it became a bestseller and was later made into a movie. Gorky Park’s protagonist, the criminal investigator Arkady Renko, has since proceeded to solve crimes in an ongoing series of novels that now take place in modern Russia. The Siberian Dilemma, the latest in this series, unfolds in 2019 and refers to real events, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reelection the previous year. Renko, however, has not aged one bit and remains as astute and battle seasoned as ever. He faces a deadly dilemma as he finds himself personally implicated in the events he happens to be investigating, and he narrowly escapes death in the Siberian taiga. Those drawn to Smith’s mysterious Russian settings will be fully rewarded by the depictions of vast and cold Siberian expanses, monstrous bears, and precious sables (Smith appears to have a special feeling for the last: a sable-smuggling operation was central to the plot of Gorky Park), as well as small-time mobsters, big-time oil tycoons, dirty politics, banyas, and vodka. Russian readers, however, might smile at the book’s small cultural inaccuracies.
Enjoy more high-quality articles like this one.
Become a subscriber.
- Paywall-free reading of new articles posted daily online and almost a century of archives
- Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
- Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions