Havana Bay

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Novelist Martin Cruz Smith first introduced readers to the smart, caring, and no-nonsense Moscow detective Arkady Renko in the best-selling thriller GORKY PARK (1981). Smith was praised for the novel’s gritty action, the ability to juggle complex plot twists, and the richness of the characters. He especially was praised for the unusual character of Renko. Smith had created a multi-faceted individual who was honest at the core and who had no time for pretension. Smith brought Renko back in the novels POLAR STAR (1989) and RED SQUARE (1992). After a seven-year absence, HAVANA BAY marks the welcome return of the world-weary Moscow detective. The novel opens with Renko having to fly to Havana in order to identify a body that is thought to be an old friend of his, Sergei Pribluda. Pribluda was a former KGB agent and had been on staff of the Russian embassy in Cuba. The body was found floating in an inner tube in the bay and Cuban authorities believe that it is Pribluda. Never one to take things at face value, Renko is not convinced that the authorities are telling him everything.

HAVANA BAY has a rich set of characters, a vivid description of locale, and many plot twists that will keep any attentive reader on the edge of their seat. Renko’s wife, Irina Asanova Renkova, tragically had died before his trip to Cuba and Renko had decided to commit suicide in sunny Cuba. While Renko came to Cuba tired of life, he finds himself rejuvenated by the mystery that surrounds Pribluda’s death. Irony is thick throughout the novel. At one point, Renko attempts to kill himself only to be interrupted by someone else who wants to kill him. Renko kills the intruder with the weapon that he intended to use on himself. With the help of the young and attractive Cuban detective Ofelia Osorio, Renko sets his sights on exposing the vast conspiracy that reaches beyond the borders of Cuba.

Smith has once again adeptly written a thoroughly satisfying as well as complex thriller.