The Siberian Dilemma

The Siberian Dilemma

Book - 2019
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"Journalist Tatiana Petrovna is on the move. Arkady Renko, iconic Moscow investigator and Tatiana's part-time lover, hasn't seen her since she left on assignment over a month ago. When she doesn't arrive on her scheduled train, he's positive something is wrong. No one else thinks Renko should be worried--Tatiana is known to disappear during deep assignments--but he knows her enemies all too well and the criminal lengths they'll go to keep her quiet. Renko embarks on a dangerous journey to find Tatiana and bring her back. From the banks of Lake Baikal to rundown Chita, Renko slowly learns that Tatiana has been profiling the rise of political dissident Mikhail Kuznetsov, a golden boy of modern oil wealth and the first to pose a true threat to Putin's rule in over a decade. Though Kuznetsov seems like the perfect candidate to take on the corruption in Russian politics, his reputation becomes clouded when Boris Benz, his business partner and best friend, turns up dead. In a land of shamans and brutally cold nights, oligarchs wealthy on northern oil, and sea monsters that are said to prowl the deepest lake in the world, Renko needs all his wits about him to get Tatiana out alive"--Amazon
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2019
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9781439140253
1439140251
Characteristics: 276 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm

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j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

Arkady was an Investigator of Special Cases, and if a bear running loose in the heart of Moscow was not a special case, he didn’t know what was. Victor, his partner, was an excellent detective when he was sober.
===
The natives made their living by trapping or shooting sables through the eye, leaving a pelt smooth and intact. General Renko nearly matched the hunter’s marksmanship. With a rifle, Arkady was lucky to hit a tree.
===
As an investigative journalist, Tatiana was the natural target of thugs: a stab in the leg with a poisoned umbrella or sometimes a shot in the back of the head.
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A dozen years earlier he had investigated the death of a colleague floating in Havana Bay.

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

“I have an assignment for you. Nothing could be simpler. Next week you go to Irkutsk, pick up a would-be murderer named Aba Makhmud, take him to a transit prison where you will prosecute him, and see that he gets a good, long sentence.” “‘A would-be murderer’?” “He’s a Chechen, a terrorist. He tried to kill a prosecutor…“
===
Five o’clock was the hour when many Russian men got thirsty, especially men who had reached the retirement age of sixty-five and had little else to do. Of course, they weren’t totally retired. They washed cars, collected bottles and cans, or tutored unappreciative students. On holidays they brought out their good suits and caps and chest boards full of medals, then curled up with the cat and drank.

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

Riot police were allowed early retirement at forty-five, and in recognition that the state would collapse without him, the president had the option of living forever. Imagine that. Living forever with Putin.
===
A providnitsa was a person of some consequence. Riding on each passenger car, providnitsas collected tickets, fed the stove, tended the samovar, settled disputes, and kept third-class passengers out of first class.
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Siberian Express. The train started in Beijing, stopped in Irkutsk, and finished in Moscow.
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“He killed more of the enemy than of his own men, but it was close,“ …
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“What does a factotum do?” “Well, he does everything. That’s the point. Anything and everything: driver, translator, hunting guide. A factotum can even arrange romantic liaisons. At your command,“ Bolot beamed.
===
“Is it dangerous to walk across a crocodile? Maybe so, but worth it if there is a pot of gold at the other end,…“

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

“If a man has confessed, what does evidence matter? I’ve told you a hundred times that the best evidence in the world is a confession. And among colleagues, cooperation. Each man pulling his own oar,“ …
===
They drove in silence and mutual contempt along a street deep in winter ruts.
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Prisoners in transit might wait a day or a year in suspense. A cell designed for four prisoners might hold twenty men with a single pail for slops. The heat, even in the dead of winter, was so stifling that men sometimes passed out on the floor. Misery had an epic quality.
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The prison was a place where bodies crawled over each other and mixed their sputum and bacilli, and it occurred to Arkady that the warden was as much a prisoner as Aba Makhmud.

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

Irkutsk was a city of two minds. It was a modern Soviet city and a quixotic collection of old wooden houses amid colorful onion domes. A vast public space was taken up by the park where Lenin Prospect met Karl Marx Square. Pedestrians moved with deliberation through drifts of snow, and even the ponies in the park leaned into the cold.
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…the prisoners in their cells were watchful and silent, turning as a group like fish in an aquarium. It was the sweat of bodies and the funk of stale cigarettes, the rotting smell of addicts and the fruity, ever-present bouquet of human waste and buzz of flies that made life sad. It was the triumph of hopelessness.

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

He tried calling Tatiana, but it was like playing a slot machine that never paid off.
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“…Lake Baikal?” “I haven’t been there yet.” “I read about it. Deepest lake in the world. Holds more fresh water than all other lakes in the world combined...”
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Irkutsk was a university town full of students circulating from coffee shops to their first classes of the day. Walls were plastered with notices for chamber music, karaoke, flamenco. What impressed Arkady was the number of Buryat students. Many of them had made the leap from herding reindeer to an urban lifestyle in one generation.

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

He paused to contemplate an ice creature that was half tiger, half beaver, with a sable in its mouth, “It’s Babr, an imaginary creature,” a voice said, “It’s on Irkutsk’s coat of arms,“ …
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He loved to waltz and occasionally dropped one of his many medals down his partner’s décolletage. A search for the missing medal was always the highlight of the evening, to hear the old man tell it.
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It was as if she were standing between a leopard and a jaguar, two variations of the same animal.
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“Tatiana is fatally attracted to dangerous stories, and you are attracted to her. It makes for inevitable consequences,…“

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

Siberia was a land of Mongolians before most of them were slaughtered by the Cossacks. So mix together Mongolians, Slavs, and now Chinese, and the population changes.
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In December of 1825, three thousand troops rose up in St. Petersburg to abolish serfdom and overthrow the tsar. Nine thousand loyalists fought back and won the battle in Peter’s Square. Over 120 of the rebels, many of them aristocrats and intellectuals, were exiled to Chita and forced to work in the silver and salt mines from six in the morning to eleven at night. Ever since, Chita had been known as a prison city, a uniformly ugly city of factories and shabby wooden houses built, in good part, by prisoners and the children of prisoners.

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

Like all Siberians, the people of Chita half foundered on their expectations. Some opened their chains and irons and lived the bitter lives of exiles. They felled the taiga to build their ships and mined the hills for gold, uranium, and precious stones. Finally, oligarchs arrived to drill for oil.
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“It’s Chita. Anything can happen. ‘Not yet ready for tourists, the guidebooks say,“ …
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It was no use trying to rekindle a fire that was damp. He was tired.
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“You’re being cynical.” “I hope so. I hope I’ve learned something from my years in Moscow.” “This is Siberia.” “Siberia, the home of the gulag,“ …
===
“Bears are omnivores, so they taste like their last meal,” Bolot said, “Berries are good. But if they’ve been eating salmon, they smell like low tide on a hot day, …”

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

He told tales about murderers and thieves who understood how important it was to defend even a shred of honor. Some were heroic, others pathetic, all full of rue. One man had amassed a fortune in cigarettes. The moment he stepped out of the prison gate and was a free man, his treasure was worthless. The stories tended to be obsessed with perceived insults, letters from home, days left to serve.
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All I ask is that people follow their conscience, not their fears.
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“How old were you when she died?” “Ten.” “Too young.” “Everyone is too young when their mother dies,“…
===
“Napoleon lost Russia because he didn’t bring along enough supplies,“ …

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DCLadults Jan 15, 2020

A New & Noteworthy Fiction pick. If you haven't read the author's Arkady Renko, Moscow investigator, books yet, now is the time! This is a series to savor this winter.

j
jimg2000
Jan 10, 2020

The cynical investigator extraordinaire accepts the task to bring back a would-be murderer arrested in Irkutsk Siberia where his love interest, journalist Tatiana is currently working on a news story. Like Smith's exploration of Kaliningrad in his 2013 Tatiana novel, readers are taken on a wild ride in Siberia, its culture, politics, people(s) and brown bears. Not so much a mystery but a thrilling magical adventure.

Note: The library's description, sourced from Amazon, effectively tells most of the story. Personally, I have no problem with. Just wonder where are those readers who flag comments with potential spoilers.

d
Dave99_0
Jan 06, 2020

It seems to me that the plots have lost focus and tend to meander, ever since "Tatiana." I would rate "The Siberian Dilemma" at 3.50 stars.

a
AlmadenAFS
Nov 28, 2019

1958 Labrador. On top of a mountain at an isolated radar station........30 below zero wasn't unusual, snow so deep that snow shoes were the norm, sun glasses mandatory to prevent snow blindness.......Smith brought it all back. I was with Renko reading this book. And yes we
had polar bears too.

u
USAF1969
Nov 28, 2019

Arkady Renko is back! This is classic Renko style by Martin Cruz Smith. Tightly written and covers a lot of ground - literally. Bears on the loose at the Moscow Zoo, Moscow street-chess tournaments, and then a good bit of the book is set in Siberia in winter. No spoilers other than those and to say that end is bizarre (in a good way) and seems to portend more Renko stories in the future. Only one complaint about the book. It's a fast read and was over way too soon. Enjoy.

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