Smith's latest Renko mystery might seem very slight: slimmer than prior entries, less expansive in its musings on the social context, and a bit slapdash in its second-half plotting, the bow tied a little too neatly on loose ends. Yet there's also a concise wit in the style and substance, almost every page offering up precise delight. E.g., this musing from one of Moscow's new-wealth oligarchs:A year ago we had over a hundred billionaires in Moscow. Today there are less than thirty. So it's the best of times, the worst of times and sometimes it's just the shits. It turns out we don't know how to run capitalism. That's to be expected. As it happens, nobody knows how to run capitalism. That was a bad surprise.
Or this study of two suspicious characters in a building adjacent to the central plot's homicide:Apartment 2C. Volchek and Primakov, bear-size Siberians with furtive eyes. Both loggers, thirty-five years of age, in rooms so cold the air conditioner shivered. The scent of something rotten was coated by the floral spray of an air freshener. A saw lay in the bathtub. In the refrigerator, mold and a case of beer. They said they had played cards and watched DVDs all night. Arkady pictured them swatting salmon from a stream.
In a nutshell, I could stand another few thousand pages with Arkady Renko, and Smith, even if the mystery is a bit pat, the dish slightly less filling or nutritious than previous entrees.