Cover image for Three stations : an Arkady Renko novel / Martin Cruz Smith.
Three stations : an Arkady Renko novel / Martin Cruz Smith.
Title Variants:
3 stations
1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.
Publication Information:
New York ; Toronto : Simon & Schuster, 2010.
Physical Description:
243 p. ; 24 cm.
Struggling with a prosecutor's refusal to send work his way, investigator Arkady Renko of Moscow finds his efforts to watch out for teen chess prodity Zhenya challenged by a case involving a kidnapped baby, a dead prostitute, and police corruption.
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SMI Book Adult General Collection

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A passenger train hurtling through the night. An unwed teenage mother headed to Moscow to seek a new life. A cruel-hearted soldier looking furtively, forcibly, for sex. An infant disappearing without a trace.

So begins Martin Cruz Smith's masterful Three Stations , a suspenseful, intricately constructed novel featuring Investigator Arkady Renko. For the last three decades, beginning with the trailblazing Gorky Park , Renko (and Smith) have captivated readers with detective tales set in Russia. Renko is the ironic, brilliantly observant cop who finds solutions to heinous crimes when other lawmen refuse to even acknowledge that crimes have occurred. He uses his biting humor and intuitive leaps to fight not only wrongdoers but the corrupt state apparatus as well.

In Three Stations , Renko's skills are put to their most severe test. Though he has been technically suspended from the prosecutor's office for once again turning up unpleasant truths, he strives to solve a last case: the death of an elegant young woman whose body is found in a construction trailer on the perimeter of Moscow's main rail hub. It looks like a simple drug overdose to everyone--except to Renko, whose examination of the crime scene turns up some inexplicable clues, most notably an invitation to Russia's premier charity ball, the billionaires' Nijinksy Fair. Thus a sordid death becomes interwoven with the lifestyles of Moscow's rich and famous, many of whom are clinging to their cash in the face of Putin's crackdown on the very oligarchs who placed him in power.

Renko uncovers a web of death, money, madness and a kidnapping that threatens the woman he is coming to love and the lives of children he is desperate to protect. In Three Stations , Smith produces a complex and haunting vision of an emergent Russia's secret underclass of street urchins, greedy thugs and a bureaucracy still paralyzed by power and fear.


Author Notes

Martin Cruz Smith is a writer of suspense novels. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on November 3, 1942 but grew up in New Mexico and the Philadelphia area. Smith earned a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Smith worked for local television stations, newspapers, and the Associated Press. His early work was published under the names Simon Quinn, Jake Logan, and Martin Smith. Smith is best known for a series of suspense/thrillers featuring Investigator Arkady Renko. The first of these books, Gorky Park, was published in 1981 and adapted as a film starring William Hurt and Lee Marvin two years later. An earlier film of his work, Nightwing, directed by Arthur Hiller, was released in 1979. Smith is a member of the Authors League of America and the Authors Guild.

In 2013 his title Tatiana made The New York Times Best Seller List. The Girl from Venice also became a bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Smith's seventh Arkady Renko novel (after Stalin's Ghost) falls short of his usual high standard. The Russian police detective, now a senior investigator, is seriously considering quitting the force because his boss, state prosecutor Zurin, refuses to assign him any cases. Renko seizes the chance to buck Zurin by finding the truth behind the death of a prostitute found in a workers' trailer parked in Moscow's seedy Three Stations (aka Komsomol Square). While the young woman, who Renko guesses is 18 or 19, apparently took a fatal drug overdose, he believes she was murdered. A subplot centering on a mother whose infant is stolen on a train detracts from rather than enhances the main investigation. This disappointing entry does only a superficial job of bringing the reader inside today's Russia. Hopefully, Smith and Renko will return to form next time. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

New York Review of Books Review

If Russia's Tourism Ministry keeps a blacklist of undesirables, Martin Cruz Smith has to be near the top, underlined and starred. Though the Soviet Union that once banned Smith's groundbreaking 1981 novel, "Gorky Park," no longer exists, 29 years later the land he depicts in his seventh Russian mystery, "Three Stations," looks no more inviting. While the enemies once were K.G.B. agents, Soviet corruption and American capitalists, now they're power-hungry bureaucrats, Russian corruption and Russian capitalists - those trading in public utilities, as well as those trading in human flesh. At times it's even less inviting than the old police state. "You know what's tragic about all the money floating around?" one character says. "A bottle of vodka used to cost 10 rubles, just the right sum for three people to share. "Not too much, not too little. That was how you met people and made friends. Now they have money they got selfish. Nobody shares. It's torn apart the fabric of society." Such observations have helped elevate Smith's Russian novels to the level of social criticism, which great crime fiction has always done well. Like the luminaries of the genre, Smith is at heart a deeply moral writer, and beneath his wry, cynical tone you can feel his authorial anger twitching a safe distance away. Paired with what reads deceptively like a native's knowledge of Russia, it makes for a potent brew. What keeps such work from becoming a sermon or, God forbid, overly sentimental is Smith's not-so-secret weapon: Arkady Renko, an ironic, self-effacing Militsiya investigator cursed with a level of persistence that would have killed most characters years ago. Now we find this survivor of Communism, a Bering Sea factory ship ("Polar Star"), the U.S.S.R.'s dissolution ("Red Square"), an attempted suicide ("Havana Bay"), exile in Chernobyl ("Wolves Eat Dogs") and a gunshot to the head ("Stalin's Ghost") on the edge -again - of trading his career for a life of books and his decrepit family dacha. "Three Stations" takes its title from the informal name for Moscow's Komsomol Square, where the Yaroslavl, Leningrad and Kazan train stations converge, an area populated by prostitutes, glue-sniffing children, pickpockets and violent gangs who occasionally, for laughs, set people on fire. It's a place where even cops moonlight as pimps. The story begins on a Moscow-bound train, with 15-year-old Maya and her 3-week-old daughter in the aptly named Hard Class, where "snoring, muffled sex, body odor and domestic quarrels were shared by all." When a drunken soldier tries to extract sexual favors from Maya, an old babushka, Auntie Lena, rescues her. Soothes her. Gives her tea. Hours later, Maya wakes from a drugged sleep in Yaroslavl Station. Her possessions, her baby and Auntie Lena are gone. Renko is introduced as he's retrieving his friend and co-worker, Sgt. Victor Orlov, from the drunk tank, and when they're called to Three Stations it seems the stories will connect immediately. Not so. There's a dead woman in a work shed who, to all but Renko's obstinate eye, appears to be an overdosed prostitute. These dual story lines continue to orbit Three Stations. Maya (who at times feels like a disenfranchised, yet no less post-traumatic, Lisbeth Salander) meets Renko's surrogate son, Zhenya, also 15, a chess prodigy who lives in the abandoned Peter the Great Casino. Dodging cops, gangs and a pair of eerie professional killers, they search for the missing child. Renko, on the other hand, spends a lot of his time locking horns with his boss, District Prosecutor Zurin, in order to follow the case of the dead prostitute. This conflict will be familiar to readers of Smith's previous novels, but those same readers know that even when Renko has been dismissed from his job the investigation will continue. Without this reckless persistence, Renko's stories would rarely last beyond the 50-page mark. "Three Stations" not only moves forward but outward, its narratives intersecting as they accumulate a spectrum of illegal activity: sexual slavery, drugs, the black market for babies, serial killers and financial fraud. It twists upward as well, from Three Stations to Russia's financial pinnacle, the oligarch billionaire Sasha Vaksberg. Despite this textured picture of Moscow's darker side, "Three Stations" feels less a novel of place than the earlier Renko mysteries, perhaps because the action sticks almost solely to his home turf. One of the pleasures of these books has been watching Renko, the perpetual Muscovite, stranded in some odd and threatening land - the Arctic Circle, Havana, Chernobyl - that we see freshly through his eyes. In Moscow, Renko feels out of place only at the Club Nijinsky's luxury fair, among millionaires and billionaires. I would too. THERE'S an inevitable compare/ contrast here between the extremes of Russian society. One surprisingly subtle example concerns two price lists. Early on, we learn the cost of hiring prostitutes in various Moscow locations, from the exotic and expensive clubs ($1,000 a night) to "oral sex in Lubyanka Square, $10. Three Stations, $5." Later, we find a different list from the Nijinsky fair. A child's rifle that once belonged to the murdered Romanov heir, Aleksei? $75,000. A ride to the International Space Station? $25 million. These lists spotlight the chasm between Russia's rich and poor, and the comparison is bluntly effective. But Smith is too smart to draw attention to these details; he simply places them naturally within the story for us to discover on our own. AT times the writing mesmerizes with its originality, as when a Three Stations kiosk clerk has sex with Maya, a scene sketched entirely through the man's self-conscious monologue. Less successful is one of the violent scenes toward the end, when a car chase abruptly materializes, feeling like something borrowed from another, less artful novel. Still, this is just one of many climaxes, most of which are astutely composed. Death is never far from Renko, either because of the corpses that litter his life or because his own thoughts tend in that direction. His depressive nature has always been worn on his sleeve, and the reasons for this are numerous: a father who mistook abuse for character-building, young Arkady's unwitting assistance in his mother's suicide, as well as the death of his wife at the hands of incompetent doctors. The reader, though, needs no elaborate explanations. In the wasteland of Smith's Russia, with its degraded homeless outcasts, nationalist brutes, endemic corruption and criminals driving armorclad Mercedes-Benzes, you sometimes wonder why everyone isn't fingering a double-bladed razor, considering a quick escape. Yet you never dread a visit from Renko, since Smith has infused him with a pristine Slavic humor. "This wasn't Arkady's Moscow anymore," we're told as he reaches the affluent strip between the Kremlin and the Church of the Redeemer. When he parks to make a call, a woman in a white S.U.V. pulls up. "This is a 'No Lada Zone,'" she tells him. "We are in Russia?" Arkady asks. "Yes." "In Moscow?" "Yes, of course." "And the Lada is a Russian car?" "One Lada can reduce the value of an entire city block." "I had no idea." "I mean, were you towed here?" "Passing through." "I knew it. 'Through traffic' is the worst. Why did you stop?" "We're releasing rats." "That's it. I'm alerting Security." Apologies to Russian tourism, but long live Renko. I don't care how he lays waste to Moscow package tours, for without this despairing seeker of truth, what would that heightened Russia of our imagination be left with? Convenient truths, stillburied secrets and tales that end abruptly before they've gotten started. We'd all be the worse for it. Olen Steinhauer is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, "The Nearest Exit." He lives in Budapest.

Library Journal Review

Arkady Renko's reward for his investigative prowess described in five previous novels (from Gorky Park to Stalin's Ghost) is pathetic-he's about to be cashiered from his job as a cop in Moscow. He and his alcoholic detective buddy Viktor find a lovely young woman dead in a filthy trailer in Three Stations, a crime-ridden transportation center. The fate of one prostitute, however young or beautiful, is a trivial matter to their boss, so the investigation is squelched. Renko forges on stubbornly and develops clues that point to a serial killer on the loose. At the same time, Zhenya, Renko's solitary protegee, is embroiled in the kidnapping of another prostitute's infant. At Three Stations these two grim story arcs converge, and Renko's bravery, tenacity, and sheer intelligence are burnished to a warm glow in this compact yet deeply textured and finely written descent into Moscow's lower depths. Verdict Fans everywhere will be eager to get the latest installment in the Renko saga, a terrific oeuvre for readers in every public library. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/10.]-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 The summer night swam by. Villages, ripening fields, derelict churches flowed and mixed with Maya's dreams. She tried to stay awake but sometimes her eyelids had their way. Sometimes the girl dreamt of the train's first-class passengers tucked away asleep in their compartments. Hard class had no compartments. "Hard class" was a dormitory coach where a few lamps were still lit and snoring, muffled sex, body odor and domestic quarrels were shared by all. Some passengers had been on the train for days and the fatigue of close quarters had set in. A round-the-clock card game among oil riggers soured and turned to resentment and accusations. A Gypsy went from berth to berth hawking the same shawls in a whisper. University students traveling on the cheap were deep in the realm of their headphones. A priest brushed cake crumbs from his beard. Most of the passengers were as nondescript as boiled cabbage. An inebriated soldier wandered up and down the corridor. Still Maya preferred the rough sociability of hard class to traveling first class. Here she fit in. She was fifteen years old, a stick figure in torn jeans and a bomber jacket the texture of cardboard, her hair dyed a fiery red. One canvas bag held her earthly possessions, the other hid her baby girl of three weeks, tightly swaddled and lulled by the rocking of the train. The last thing Maya needed was to be trapped in a compartment under the scrutiny of snobs. Not that she could have afforded first class anyway. After all, a train was just a communal apartment on rails, Maya decided. She was used to that. Most of the men stripped to warm-up pants, undershirts and slippers for the duration; she watched for any who had not because a shirt with long sleeves might conceal the tattoos of someone sent to bring her back. Playing it safe, she had chosen an otherwise empty berth. She talked to none of the other passengers and none noticed that the baby was on board. Maya enjoyed creating stories about new people, but now her imagination was caught up with the baby, who was both a stranger and part of herself. The baby was, in fact, the most mysterious person she had ever met. All she knew was that her baby was perfect, translucent, unflawed. The baby stirred and Maya went to the vestibule at the end of the car. There, half open to the wind and clatter of the train, she nursed the baby and indulged in a cigarette. Maya had been drug-free for seven months. A full moon kept pace. From the tracks spread a sea of wheat, water tanks, a silhouette of a shipwrecked harvester. Six more hours to Moscow. The baby's eyes regarded her solemnly. Returning the gaze, Maya was so hypnotized that she did not hear the soldier join her in the vestibule until the sliding door closed behind him and he said smoking was bad for the baby. His voice was a jolt, a connection with reality. He removed the cigarette from her mouth and snapped it out the vestibule window. Maya took the baby from her breast and covered herself. The soldier asked if the baby was in the way. He thought it was. So he told Maya to put the baby down. She held on, although he slid his hand inside her jacket and squeezed her breast hard enough to draw milk. His voice cracked when he told her what else he wanted her to do. But first she had to put the baby down. If she didn't, he would throw the baby off the train. It took a second for Maya to process his words. If she screamed, could anyone hear her? If she fought, would he toss the baby like an unwanted package? She saw it covered with leaves, never to be found. All she knew was that it was her fault. Who was she to have such a beautiful baby? Before she could put the baby down, the vestibule door opened. A large figure in gray stepped out, gathered the soldier's hair with the grip of a butcher and laid a knife across his neck. It was the babushka who had been suffering the crumbs of the priest. The old woman told the soldier she would geld him next time they met and gave him a vigorous kick as a demonstration of sincerity. He could not get to the next car fast enough. When Maya and the baby returned to their berth, the babushka brought tea from the samovar and watched over them. Her name was Helena Ivanova but she said that everyone up and down the line called her Auntie Lena. Worn-out, Maya finally allowed herself to plunge into true sleep, down a dark slope that promised oblivion. When Maya next opened her eyes sunlight flooded the coach. The train was at a platform and the dominant sound was flies circling in the warm air. The fullness in her breasts was urgent. Her wristwatch said 7:05. The train was expected to arrive at six-thirty. There was no sign of Auntie Lena. Both baskets were gone. Maya rose and walked unsteadily down the corridor. All the other passengers--the boisterous oil riggers, the university boys, the Gypsy and the priest--were gone. Auntie Lena was gone. Maya was the only person on the train. Maya stepped onto the platform and fought her way through early-morning passengers boarding a train on the opposite side. People stared. A porter let his baggage cart coast into her shin. The ticket takers at the gate didn't remember anyone resembling Auntie Lena and the baby. It was a preposterous question from a ridiculous-looking girl. People in the platform area were making good-byes and hundreds circulated around kiosks and shops selling cigarettes, CDs and slices of pizza. A thousand more sat in the haze of a waiting room. Some were going to the wilds of Siberia, some all the way to the Pacific and some were just waiting. But the baby was gone. © 2010 Titanic Productions Excerpted from Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.