1992 "First Edition" stated on copyright page; Random House publishers, New York; hardbound in red and grey boards with red foil lettering on cover and gilt stamp lettering along spine; very good condition with unmarked pages; dust jacket very good.
In the summer of 1991, Arkady Renko has returned from exile and is back on the homicide squad in a newly democratic Moscow. When Arkady’s informant, Rudy Rosen, and his underworld bank-on-wheels are consumed in a ball of fire, Arkady finds himself in an investigation that points to the heart of Russia’s decaying infrastructure.
Inspector Arkady Renko, banished to a Soviet factory-ship in Polar Star (1989), returns to Moscow on the eve of the Coup--and steps into the kind of intrigue, atmosphere, and excitement not seen from Smith since Renko's megaselling debut in Gorky Park (1981). The winds of glasnost may have blown the insubordinate Renko back from exile, but they've also stirred up the Soviet Union's criminal class, which now rules the land hand-in-crooked-hand with the Party's panicking elite--as shown in the mesmerizing opening scene that has Renko meeting with an informer at Moscow's thriving nighttime black market. Minutes after Renko exits the informer's car, it explodes under the impact of two bombs. Why? Renko pursues leads that take him on a spellbinding tour of Moscow (here, a starving city spinning out of control) as he encounters the new Soviet capitalism (a shady entrepreneur who, with green paint and cutout trees, has transformed a bullet-casing factory into an indoor golfing range); the new Soviet mafia (the Chechens, Muslim gangsters ruled by a withered devil named Makhmud); and the old, power-grasping rear guard. A mysterious fax sends Renko chasing a further lead abroad to Munich, where he reunites with Irina, his forsaken lover from Gorky Park. Here, the narrative slackens into a lovers' awkward waltz between Renko and Irina, and between Renko and the material temptations of the West--though it picks up with a sidetrip to Berlin, the ghastly murder of Makhmud, and revelations of stolen art treasures at the root of the killings. The action climaxes on a note of astonishing grace and hope back in Moscow, as Renko concludes his case and joins the radiant masses facing down the tanks on the steps of Boris Yeltsin's White House. A bit long and choppy, but brimming with political insight and psychological nuance, and a powerful reaffirmation of Renko's love/hate for Russia as one of the great romances of thriller fiction.