Gorky Park (novel)

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Gorky Park
Gorky Park (novel) cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorMartin Cruz Smith
CountryUnited States
SeriesArkady Renko # 1
GenreCrime novel
PublisherRandom House & GK Hall
Publication date
March 1981
Media typePrint (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages365 pp
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3569.M5377 G6
Followed byPolar Star 

Gorky Park is a 1981 crime novel written by American author Martin Cruz Smith.[1][2]

Set in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Gorky Park is the first book in a series featuring the character Arkady Renko, a Moscow homicide investigator. Two subsequent books, Polar Star and Red Square, are also set during the Soviet era. Five further books take place after the fall of the Soviet Union. These are Havana Bay, set in communist Cuba; Wolves Eat Dogs, which follows Renko in the disaster of Chernobyl; Stalin's Ghost in which Arkady returns to a Russia led by Vladimir Putin, Three Stations and Tatiana.[3]

Gorky Park was a major best-seller, vaulting Smith to fame after a decade as a moderately successful professional author. The novel was adapted into a successful 1983 film of the same name.


The story follows Arkady Renko, a chief investigator for the Moscow militsiya, who is assigned to a case involving three corpses found in Gorky Park, an amusement park in Moscow. The victims - two men and a woman - were shot, and have had their faces and fingertips cut off by the murderer to prevent identification.

Ice skates found on the woman's body leads Arkady to Irina Asanova, a wardrobe girl at a movie studio, who claims that she reported them stolen, and has no idea how they ended up with the victims. However, Arkady tentatively identifies the three bodies as known associates of Irina: her friend Valerya Davidova, Valerya's boyfriend Kostia Borodin, and an American expatriate student named James Kirwill. Arkady gives the woman's skull to Professor Andreev, an anthropologist at Moscow University, who specializes in reconstructing whole faces from bone structure.

At a bathhouse, Arkady's superior, Chief Prosecutor Iamskoy, introduces Arkady to an American fur millionaire, John Osborne, who regularly visits Russia. When Arkady begins to suspect a connection between Osborne and the murders, he is warned by his associate, Mendel, a junior official in the Soviet Trade Ministry, that Osborne is an informant for the KGB, and thus regarded as a "friend" by all of Arkady's superiors.

Arkady's problems escalate when his partner is shot to death investigating Davidova's apartment, and Kirwill's elder brother William, a detective with the New York City Police Department who speaks fluent Russian, arrives in Moscow intending to find and kill his brother's murderer. Arkady tries to discover as much as he can from Kirwill to confirm the corpse's identity, without admitting that he suspects Osborne.

When Irina is attacked on the Moscow underground, Arkady hides her in his own apartment, vacant since his wife, Zoya, left him for one of her colleagues at the school where she teaches.

Arkady reluctantly pays a visit to his father, retired Red Army General Renko, a.k.a. "Stalin's Favorite General", a.k.a. "The Butcher of Ukraine". The elder Renko remembers that Osborne was an O.S.S. officer attached to the Red Army during the Nazi invasion, tasked with interrogating three captured S.S. officers. Thanks to his charm and fluent German, Osborne got the information he needed from the officers over a friendly picnic in the countryside, then shot all three of them dead - almost exactly the manner in which the three bodies in Gorky Park were killed.

Arkady and Irina become lovers after admitting their mutual attraction, but Arkady is convinced that she knows about Osborne's connection with the three victims, except she believes that Osborne has helped Valerya and Kostia to defect to America, with their friend Kirwill, a radical anti-Soviet, hoping to claim a publicity victory for having facilitated their escape. To convince Irina that Valerya is dead, Arkady sets up a situation in which he is going to show her Professor Andreev's reconstruction, even though by this point the reconstruction has been destroyed by Renko's higher-ups. The ruse works, and she admits that her friend is dead rather than have to look at the reconstructed head.

Despite being born into the nomenklatura himself, Arkady exposes corruption and dishonesty on the part of influential and well-protected members of the elite, regardless of the consequences. This rebounds on him when his own superior, Iamskoy, and his best friend, a lawyer named Misha, are both revealed to be working with Osborne. Arkady flees a meeting with Misha before a gang of killers arrive, but is too late to prevent Iamskoy from appropriating the reconstructed head and destroying it. Arkady confronts Osborne at gunpoint as he is about to leave the country, but Osborne informs him that Iamskoy has already kidnapped Irina, and if Arkady lets Osborne go and rushes to the university campus, he might be just in time to save her. Arkady does so, killing Iamskoy and Osborne's chief henchman, but suffering a near fatal stomach wound.

He recuperates in the custody of the State, being regularly interrogated by the KGB and watched over by his old antagonist, KGB Major Pribluda. In spite of his weakened state, Arkady laughs when he realizes from his interrogators' questions that Iamskoy was himself a high-ranking KGB officer, planted as a spy in the militsiya, and his superiors were badly embarrassed to find that he betrayed them to help Osborne.

Months later, Arkady is brought before a KGB General who confirms what Arkady already suspected: that Kostia Borodin (an expert hunter) and Valerya helped Osborne to trap and smuggle live sables - the only high-quality fur-bearing animal on which the Soviet Union enjoys a monopoly - out of Russia. They believed Osborne would help them defect in exchange, but instead he killed them. Now, after several months of negotiations, Osborne has agreed to return the sables in exchange for Arkady being released and brought to America.

Arkady's brief trip to New York City reunites him with Osborne, Irina, and Kirwill in succession. Arkady is outraged when Osborne tells him that he and Irina are lovers, but Irina swears that she only slept with Osborne twice - once to convince him to help her defect, and once more to convince him to bring Arkady to America.

FBI agents escort Arkady and Irina to a meeting at Osborne's ranch on Staten Island where the exchange is supposed to take place. Arkady realizes that the FBI plans to kill Osborne, and then Arkady, to cover up the theft of the sables. The plan goes awry when they arrive, and find Kirwill, shot and disemboweled. He finally identified Osborne as his brother's killer, but was overmatched when he went to confront him.

Armed with a hunting rifle, Osborne kills the FBI agents then stalks Arkady through the woods, but is shot outside the sable enclosure by Irina. Irina wants to stay in America, but Arkady, finding America to be as corrupt as the Soviet Union, chooses to return to the latter, knowing that if he does, the Soviet authorities will be less inclined to demand Irina's return.

Arkady picks up Osborne's hunting rifle, knowing that the only way of softening his superiors' ire is to kill all the illicit sables, but instead he breaks open their cages and releases them into the forest.

Pathoheterodoxy Syndrome[edit]

Pathoheterodoxy Syndrome is a fictional mental illness. It is the idea of a misguided arrogance. The syndrome was said to be contracted by Chief Investigator Renko, who was thus described by a KGB agent:

Ideas and influences[edit]

Smith satirically created the concept of "Pathoheterodoxy" to show the way that the Soviet Union would have characterised Soviet dissidents and their failure to obey and conform. While the syndrome itself is fictional, the incident also alludes to the very real Soviet practice of diagnosing dissidents with "sluggish schizophrenia", and of forcibly treating them with psychotropic drugs. Renko's love interest, Irina, was likewise revealed to have been institutionalized for similarly false "psychiatric problems" and forcibly treated at some earlier time, resulting in a tumor that left her with a severe facial blemish and blind in one eye.

Film Adaptation[edit]

In 1983 a film adaptation of the novel was released starring William Hurt as Arkady, Joanna Pacula as Irina, Lee Marvin as Osborne and Brian Dennehy as Kirwill.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Brien, Timothy L. The New York Times (August 6, 2007). Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series: A trail of clues to the Russian soul
  2. ^ Wroe, Nicholas, The Guardian (March 26, 2005). Crime Pays
  3. ^ See, Carolyn, Washington Post (September 3, 2010). "Three Stations," the new thriller by Martin Cruz Smith, author of "Gorky Park"

External links[edit]