In TATIANA, Martin Cruz Smith, “the master of the international thriller” (The New York Times) creates the most compelling heroine of his career and the most accurate, damning portrait of modern Russia in contemporary literature. One of the iconic investigators of contemporary fiction, Arkady Renko—cynical, analytical and quietly subversive—has survived the cultural journey from the Soviet Union to the New Russia, only to find the nation as obsessed with secrecy and brutality as was the old Communist dictatorship. In Tatiana, Martin Cruz Smith’s most ambitious novel since Gorky Park, the melancholy hero finds himself on the trail of a mystery as complex and dangerous as modern Russia herself.
The fearless investigative reporter Tatiana Petrovna falls to her death from a sixth-floor window in Moscow the same week that a mob billionaire, Grisha Grigorenko, is shot and buried with the trappings due a lord. No one makes the connection, but Arkady is transfixed by the tapes of Tatiana’s voice, even as she describes horrific crimes hidden by official versions. The trail leads to Kaliningrad, a Cold War ‘secret city’ and home of the Baltic Fleet, separated by hundreds of miles from the rest of Russia. Arkady delves into Tatiana’s past and a surreal world of wandering dunes and amber mines. His only link is a notebook ‘written’ in the personal code of a translator whose body is found in the dunes. Arkady’s only hope of decoding the symbols lies in Zhenya, a teenage chess hustler.
In a fast-changing and lethal race to uncover what the translator knew, Renko makes a startling discovery that propels him deeper into Tatiana’s past—and, paradoxically, into Russia’s future, where bulletproof cars, poets, a butcher for hire, and a Chechen ‘weekend terrorist’ combine to lend Kaliningrad the ‘distinction’ of the highest crime rate in all of Russia.
More than a mystery, TATIANA is a story rich in character, black humour and romance, with an insight that is the hallmark of Martin Cruz Smith.