In the years since Investigator Arkady Renko’s first appearance in Gorky Park his fortunes have waxed and waned with the politics of Russia. This has brought him threat of execution, exile on a factory ship as a political undesirable, and rehabilitation in Yeltsin’s Russia.
In Three Stations Renko is once more out of favour with the powers that be. In spite of this he begins to ask awkward questions relating to the dead body of a young woman found with no obvious injuries. Elsewhere Renko’s young friend Zhenya takes it upon himself to try to help a young girl who’s baby has been stolen, also in Three Stations. Their investigations bring them into contact with the excesses of Russia’s contemporary oligarchs and the desperation of the abandoned children who live at the margins of Moscow society.
Renko must rate as one of the nicest detectives in modern crime fiction: the tragedies of his life, his deeply regretted, but very useful, capacity for violence and the mundane horrors of his work never undermines his inate decency, wry humour, and unfailing politeness. In many ways he’s like Inspector Morse but without the grumpiness in a bloodier Russian milieu.
While there is little of the shock of the new that came with Gorky Park’s exploration of Soviet bureaucracy this book is still a cracking thriller, and a return to form of a great series that has lagged somewhat of late. As always Renko is like the most dependable of old friends, a compelling guide and knight errant in the midst of a brutal labyrinth.