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Independence Square

Arkady Renko in Ukraine

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About The Book

Detective Arkaday Renko—“one of the most compelling figures in modern fiction” (USA TODAY)—risks his life when he heads to Ukraine shortly before the Russian invasion to find an anti-Putin activist who has mysteriously disappeared.

Martin Cruz Smith has written nine previous novels featuring Arkady Renko, one of modern detective fiction’s most popular characters. These novels, beginning with 1981’s international sensation Gorky Park, have collectively traced Russia's evolution over the last half-century. Now, with Independence Square, Smith focuses on the fraught and frenzied days leading up to Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.

It’s June 2021, and Arkady knows that Russia is preparing to invade and subsequently annex Ukraine as it did Crimea in 2014. He is, however, preoccupied with other grievances. His longtime lover, Tatiana Petrovna, has deserted him for her work as an investigative reporter. His corrupt boss has relegated him to a desk job. And he is having trouble with his dexterity and balance. A visit to his doctor reveals that these are symptoms for Parkinson’s Disease.

This is an ingenious autobiographical conceit, as Martin Cruz Smith has Parkinson’s, and is able through Arkady to movingly describe his own experience with the disease. Parkinson’s hasn’t stopped Smith from his work, and neither does it stop Arkady. Rather than dwell on his diagnosis, he throws himself into another case.

An acquaintance has asked him to find his daughter, Karina, an anti-Putin activist who has disappeared. In the course of the investigation, Arkady falls for Karina's roommate, Elena, a Tatar from Ukraine. The search leads them to Kyiv, where rumblings of an armed conflict grow louder. Later, in Crimea, Tatiana reemerges to complicate Arkady’s new romance. And as he gets closer to locating Karina, Arkady discovers something that threatens his life as well as the lives of both Elena and Tatiana.

Few fiction writers have better captured contemporary Russia with more insight or authenticity than Martin Cruz Smith. He does the same here for Ukraine and the events that preceded Russia’s invasion. Independence Square is a timely and a uniquely personal mystery novel-meets-political thriller by a master of the form.


Chapter 1 1
“You know what the two most depressing words in the Russian language are?” Arkady asked.

“How long have I got?”

Victor’s voice sounded thick with gravel, which was always a sign that the previous night he hadn’t so much fallen off the wagon as plunged from it.

“?‘Desk job,’?” Arkady said. “In a country which clasps tragedy to its breast, nothing is more tragic than a man with a ‘desk job.’?”

“As always, Investigator, you zero in on the truth.”

“Investigator.” Arkady sighed. “The only inquiry I’ve made in the past three months has been into the quality of the coffee here in Petrovka.”

Petrovka 38 was the police headquarters where Arkady worked as investigator for the Office of Prosecution, and Victor was his good friend and assistant detective.

“What did you decide?”

“That when the devil came to seduce Margarita in Patriarch Ponds, he stopped off on the way to install vending machines. Come on, Victor, what do you call an investigator who doesn’t investigate?”

“A crime,” said Victor.

It was, of course, Prosecutor Zurin who had confined Arkady to office duties. He had, over the years, sent Arkady to various extremities of the country on cases: to Kaliningrad, hard up against the Polish border in the west, and to Lake Baikal, halfway to the Far East, across endless rolls of Siberian tundra. Perhaps, Arkady thought, he could complete the compass by going to the far north or the far south. The Northern Fleet in Murmansk was always a hotbed of scandal, and any time spent there would play havoc with Arkady’s circadian rhythms to an extent which would please even Zurin. The sun didn’t rise for six weeks in the winter and didn’t set for six weeks in the summer. Men went mad with monotonous regularity up there, and sometimes Arkady felt he had less far to go than most. As for the south—well, Crimea was Russian again now, and it was very nice at this time of year. Arkady had been there once with his first wife, Zoya, back in the days when every woman on the beach wore the same leopard-print swimsuit because that was the only one on sale that year. As the saying went, the past was another country.

Papers were stacked in ziggurats on Arkady’s desk. He picked up a sheet off the tallest one and waved it vaguely in Victor’s direction. “Departmental liaison officer. Do you know what that means?”

“That you attend endless meetings where you’re neither wanted nor needed.”

“Right,” said Arkady.

The ziggurat slid and toppled as Arkady put the paper back. A solitary sheet floated gently downwards like a snowflake. Victor stretched out a hand and caught it lightly between thumb and forefinger.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The handwriting is so tiny, it’s illegible. I can’t read a word of it. Can you read it?”

“Of course. It’s my handwriting.”

“Go on, then.” He handed the paper to Arkady. “Read it to me.”

Arkady hesitated.

“I can’t read a word of it either,” Arkady said.

“You should transcribe it onto the computer while it’s still fresh in your mind.

“It’s called age, Victor. Everything starts going with age.”

About The Author

Dough Menuez

Martin Cruz Smith’s novels include Gorky ParkStallion Gate, Nightwing, Polar StarStalin’s GhostRose, December 6, TatianaThe Girl from Venice, and The Siberian Dilemma. He is a two-time winner of the Hammett Prize, a recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award and Britain’s Golden Dagger Award, and a winner of the Premio Piemonte Giallo Internazionale. He lives in California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 9, 2023)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982188306

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Raves and Reviews

“Poignant….a moving portrayal of struggle against political and personal tides.” —New York Times Book Review

"A thrilling and poignant novel." —Wall Street Journal

"[Detective Arkady] Renko, who made his debut in 1981's Gorky Park, remains the archetype of an honest cop working for a corrupt regime." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Solid sleuthing by Arkady Renko and a good read for his fans." Kirkus Reviews

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