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Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith
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Polar Star (original 1989; edition 1990)

by Martin Cruz Smith

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1,273216,194 (3.85)41
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Title:Polar Star
Authors:Martin Cruz Smith
Info:Ballantine Books (1990), Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith (1989)

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English (18)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (21)
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Shunted off to a Soviet psychiatric hospital after Gorky Park (embarrassed the state, but son of a famous military father), former Inspector Arkady Renko manages to get sent to work on a Russian fishing/processing ship in the Bering sea, finding some peace on the "slime line" gutting and scaling. As usual, a body drops out of the nets--a young Georgian woman on bad terms with the Soviet authorities and Americans in Alaska. Arkady is called upon to redeem himself by wading into another diplomatically and emotionally charged situation, with the possibility of a return to civilization and a reunion with Irina. ( )
  Hanneri | Jul 22, 2014 |
I’m not sure why I delayed getting to this title since I enjoyed Gorky Park so much, to which this book is a sequel of sorts. Of sorts, because it follows directly on the heels of Gorky, but the author in a few brief paragraphs lays out precisely why Arkady, formerly head investigator for the prosecutor’s office in Moscow is now working as a slimer on a factory ship in the Bering Sea.

It’s good. Those who don’t like what they view as excessive detail in Moby Dick probably won’t like this book either, but as you know, I wallow in all manner of detail and the descriptive scenes of working on the factory ship were quite interesting, particularly when they discover a slime eel (hagfish) in the body of a Russian woman who was dragged up by one of the accompanying American trawlers (it’s a joint Russian/American business.) Totally gross.

Because of his previous investigative experience, the captain pulls Arkady from the factory line and has him investigate, wanting to have everything kosher for the American observers on board. Arkardy is forced to walk a very fine line between those in power who see no reason for an investigation, nor do they want one, and his innate sense of justice that refuses to accept the official verdict of suicide when all the evidence points in a different direction. Everyone lies and everyone has nefarious reasons for doing so. It’s a world populated by paranoiacs and schemers.

Lots of reflections on Russian society; comments like “In irony we lead the world,” which in context is not only amusing but perspicacious. And, my goodness, Smith has a dim view of people in general if his books are any testament. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
In Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith conjured a claustrophobic atmosphere in Soviet-era Moscow; that task is simpler here, where the action takes place on a handful of ships and a single, small Aleutian island. Yet the overall feel is considerably more upbeat, perhaps because former detective Arkady Renko enters this story at rock bottom, cutting fish on the slime line of a fish processing ship. A young woman worker from the boat goes missing but, before anyone really notices, reappears from the depths of the ocean, hauled up in a fishing net. Renko is drafted to solve the mystery, then undrafted, but he's hooked; a combination of integrity, curiosity, and pressure from above won't let him drop it. The author makes Renko smart, tough, and canny. There's plenty of psychological complexity, but it belongs to other characters, so a reader can follow along as Renko sorts it out, without having to wade through pages of the detective probing his own soul. The novels in this series are pretty astringent, and would be hard to read straight through, but are a real pleasure with a break in between. ( )
  bezoar44 | Mar 12, 2013 |
Polar Star
Martin Cruz Smith
Monday, August 13, 2012 9:25 PM

Arkady Renko is a former police investigator, now disgraced, and working on the “slime line” on the Soviet factory fishing ship “Polar Star”. When the dead body of a female crewmember is dragged in a net from the sea floor, he is pressed into service as an investigator again. In the grim surroundings of the ship, he pursues with singular concentration the truth of the girl’s death. The Polar Star is serving as host to several American trawlers, and in the end the CIA is involved, as well as the grim Soviet mafias smuggling drugs on the side. Renko is an interesting, moody character, and the setting is superbly described. I bought this as a “Signed Limited Edition” from the Franklin Library, on a recommendation from a book review. ( )
  neurodrew | Aug 27, 2012 |
Wow! This layered, lyrical, brutally realistic depiction of a man trying to survive the repression of the Soviet system without entirely forfeiting his intellectual integrity and dignity is literature disguised as a thriller. By all means read this for the murder mystery, which is entirely fulfilling. But what made this novel stand out for me was Cruz Smith's deft rendering of the protagonist, Renko, and the world in which he is forced to find his way. Surrounded by brutality of every sort (physical, mental and emotional), Renko learns to bend but, in the end, refuses to be broken. A lovely and thought-provoking study of the triumph of humanity in the face of inhumanity ... and a darn good mystery, too!
  Dorritt | Jul 10, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martin Cruz Smithprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beltran, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lorentzen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muller, FrankNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Like a beast, the net came steaming up the ramp and into the sodium lamps of the trawl deck.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345498178, Paperback)

He made too many enemies. He lost his party membership. Once Moscow’s top criminal investigator, Arkady Renko now toils in obscurity on a Russian factory ship working with American trawlers in the middle of the Bering Sea. But when an adventurous female crew member is picked up dead with the day’s catch, Renko is ordered by his captain to investigate an accident that has all the marks of murder. Up against the celebrated Soviet bureaucracy once more, Renko must again become the obsessed, dedicated cop he was in Gorky Park and solve a chilling mystery fraught with international complications.

“Stunning.”
–The New York Times Book Review


“Impossible to put down . . . a book of heart-stopping suspense and intricate plotting, but also a meticulously researched, ambitious literary work of great distinction.”
–The Detroit News

“Martin Cruz Smith writes the most inventive thrillers of anyone in the first rank of thriller writers.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“Gripping . . . absorbing.”
–The Philadelphia Inquirer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:28 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Arkady Renko has made too many enemies and now he toils in obscurity on a Russian factory ship in the middle of the Bering Sea. But when a female crew member is picked up dead with the day's catch, Arkady becomes obsessed with the case and once again discovers more than he wants to know and certainly more than he bargained for.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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