Red Square (novel)
|Author||Martin Cruz Smith|
|Series||Arkady Renko # 3|
|Preceded by||Polar Star|
|Followed by||Havana Bay|
Red Square is a crime novel by Martin Cruz Smith, primarily set in Moscow, Munich and Berlin between August 6 and August 21, 1991. It is a sequel to Gorky Park and Polar Star and features the Investigator Arkady Renko, taking place during the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
As the existing social and economic structures of the Soviet Union break down, Arkady Renko has been reinstated as an Investigator in the Moscow Militsiya (Police Force). He is trying to clear up a nest of illicit traders when his chief informant dies in a horrific fireball. At the late informer's flat, his fax machine keeps asking the apparently meaningless question, "Where is Red Square?"
The question does not pertain to a location but to an avant-garde painting by suprematist painter Malevich which has resurfaced on the black market after being lost since World War II. The story, however, reverts to the August Coup, which takes place in and around Red Square and indeed throughout Moscow in August 1991, leading to the fragmentation of the former Soviet Union.
One of the subplots within this novel involves Arkady Renko's improbable reunion with the one great love of his life, Irina Asanova. Her seemingly total disinterest in Arkady sends him resignedly on his way until, in an ultimate ironic twist, a belatedly-delivered message from Renko's recently deceased father galvanizes him into one last, determined attempt at winning Irina back.
Now back in Moscow, Arkady Renko struggles to keep the peace in a town overrun by organized crime and the economic recession caused the by death-throes of the Soviet Union. The lawlessness of the new Moscow is brought home to him when one of this informants, a Russian Jewish black marketer named Rudy Rosen, is killed by a fire bomb. Suspicion for the act is divided among each of the leading gangs, such as one led by a new Soviet "entrepreneur" or the ever troublesome Chechens.
Whilst looking over Rosen's apartment, Arkady is confused by an incoming fax asking "where is Red Square?", as well as several connections to Germany, specifically Munich. He also is amazed to hear the voice of Irina Asanova, his long lost love from Gorky Park, announcing for the recently unblocked American propaganda station Radio Liberty, operating out of Berlin. Uncovering more and more connections to Germany, and once again facing suppression at home - including the killing of his partner - Arkady manages to coerce the prosecutor to allow him to go to the recently reunified Germany, in an unofficial capacity.
He looks up leads in the Rosen case, as well as trying to re-connect with Irina, but finds she wants nothing to do with him. He soon enters a strained but beneficial relationship with a German police officer called Peter Schmidt, who describes his father's escapades as one of Heinrich Himmler's art collectors, particularly of revolutionary avant garde Russian art, presently persecuted by the Soviet regime. Arkady finds himself a rival in Max Albov, Irina's colleague at Radio Liberty, whom he had previously encountered in Moscow and starts to suspect of involvement with Rosen. Irina repents of her dislike for Arkady, after learning that he had not been living as the spoiled apparatchik he had been portrayed, and awkwardly all three of them head for Munich. At an art exhibition, the avant garde piece by Malovich called "Red Square" is proudly shown to audiences. Increasingly finding his present company intertwined with the case, Arkady realizes that he has stumbled across a vast, and deadly, art smuggling operation.
In an effort to silence him, Arkady is framed in the death of the Chechen leader Mahmoud and has to dodge the inevitable reprisal. Arranging to get the painting, Arkady and Irina head back to Moscow - well aware of the staged coup of Communist Party hard-liners. He arranges a swap, knowing full well that it is a trap. During a fire-fight in rural Moscow where the stash of paintings are kept, both he and Max escape, and settle into the confusion of the coup and protests. Arkady finds himself cornered, but is saved by Chechen gang members who have learned the real cause of their leader's death. Together with Irina again, they stand with the other protesters and press as tanks march towards Russia's new impromptu parliament, the White House.
- Wroe, Nicholas, The Guardian (March 26, 2005). Crime Pays