Martin Cruz Smith
3.5 / 5
Crime, Thriller, Conspiracy, Russia
The brilliant and fearless young reporter Tatiana Petrovna falls to her death from a sixth-floor window in Moscow the same week that a notorious mob billionaire is shot in the back of the head. There is no discernable connection and Tatiana's death is ruled a suicide. But Investigator Arkady Renko senses that the truth isn't being told.
"Tatiana" is set in the Russian cities of Moscow and Kaliningrad. The whole story revolves around the mystery behind three deaths: 1) an interpreter was killed in Kaliningrad by a man in a pink pig butcher van, 2) a mob billionaire with a hole in the back of his head, and 3) a reporter fell from the sitxh floor of a building. Why did they die? How were they connected? The main character of the book is Arkady Renko - an investigator who trusted his gut and linked the three deaths. His investigations brought him to a cryptic notebook filled with strange and bizarre symbols, found by Tatiana. The notebook belongs to the interpreter. No one else but him can decrypt the information. Or so he believed. Renko chased after the culprit behind the three deaths from Moscow to Kaliningrad. With assistance from Victor Orlov (his partner), Zhenya (a chess hustler), Maxim Dal (a poet) and Lotte (a chess player), Renko uncovered something beyond his imagination - more than just the deaths of the three.
I love crimes and thrillers. So, when I read the synopsis on the back of this book, I just had to get it. The keywords deaths and cryptic notebook are the cues. And the fact that the story was set in Russia was the other cue. My expectations of this book was quite high in the air - even though I have never heard of the author before. I wanted to know what happened to the brilliant and fearless Tatiana? Who is she? And what about this cryptic notebook?
In my honest opinion, this book fall flat. The joy of reading crimes and thrillers is the suspense and tension that I get. And I can get fully absorbed if the book is really good and can barely let the book out of my hand. However, with "Tatiana" I have to say that Smith failed to do just that. The mystery itself is intriguing with the cryptic notebook being the key to everything. But the way the story was written was simply flat. There was no suspense or any sense of mystery in the way in was written.
Smith described Arkady Renko as someone who is obsessed with Tatiana. Renko was infatuated by the reporter's voice. One can interpret this as Renko falling in love with a dead woman. However, I wonder if this part of the story even necessary. Why does Smith feels the need to add romance into the otherwise grim thriller? In my opinion, the romance was uncalled for. It does not add anything to the story. What is the impact that Smith wanted in the first place?
As Renko uncovered more of the mystery behind the interpreter's notebook, I expected the story to evolve and reach its climax soon after. However, it was more like a highway. Sure, there were obstacles faced, assassins looking for their targets and a scene with the Russian mobs. But it was no page-turner. Obstacles were overcame and there was no bloodbath. So, yes, it was flat.
What I love?
The idea of the cryptic notebook, basically, is what I fall for.
What I hate?
The cryptic notebook. Smith spent quite a number of chapters trying to build the mystery behind the notebook. It was repeatedly mentioned that only the interpreter can decrypt the codes. But, the solution to the code was terribly anticlimactic. All the tension built up in the chapters came crumbling down in just one chapter.
The needless need to use Russian terms. For someone who studied Russian language before, it is not a problem to understand. To others, it can be tiring. If there is no English equivalent of the word, I can understand Smith's way of writing. But some terms are unnecessary in my opinion.
Arkady Renko tried to solve the murder of Grisha Grigorenko - a Russian mob billionaire. His investigations brought him to the deaths of a female reporter and an interpreter. A cryptic notebook surfaced and is the key to solving the murders.
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Labels: #martincruzsmith, book reviews, Tatiana