Martin Cruz Smith Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Martin Cruz Smith’s novel Gorky Park (1981), his most important work, showcases his power to create believable characters within the mystery genre. The hero of Gorky Park, Arkady Renko, is the prototypical investigator—intelligent, cynical, beleaguered by a cheating wife and cheating superiors—who is proud to be Russian. The villain, American John Osborne, is slippery and homicidal. Smith’s ability to make the murderous KGB officer Pribluda more sympathetic than the privileged Osborne proves his skill with plot and characterization. For the most part, Smith’s language is compact, page-turner prose. He generally describes the grotesque—such as the dwarf Andreev in Gorky Park and the bat caves in Nightwing (1977)—without relying on metaphor. Smith is notable as well for his ability to paint a convincing portrait of societies and institutions, such as the bureaucracy in Gorky Park, and of the dynamic between a couple, such as the relationship between Anna Weiss and Joe Pena in Stallion Gate (1986). He has contributed to an understanding of humans’ relationship to other animals with the mythic interaction between man and animal depicted in Nightwing, Gorky Park, and Gypsy in Amber (1971).


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

“Martin Cruz Smith.” Current Biography 51 (November, 1990). A well-informed article on Smith as a personality, on the progression of his work, and on the distinctions of his writings.

Ott, Bill. Review of Stalin’s Ghost, by Martin Cruz Smith. Booklist 103, no. 17 (May 1, 2007): 42. Review of Renko series book in which Renko finds himself investigating appearances of Joseph Stalin’s ghost in a Moscow subway. Notes that the novels in the series have a theme about the perils of digging.

Smith, Martin Cruz. “Escape: Tales from My Travels—Martin Cruz Smith, Shadows of Chernobyl.” Interview by Carl Wilkinson. The Observer, April 10, 2005, p. 24. Interview discusses Smith’s travels to the Soviet Union in 1973 to research Gorky Park and his later visits to Chernobyl.

Wroe, Nicholas. “Saturday Review: Profile—Crime Pays.” The Guardian, March 26, 2005, p. 20. This substantial profile of Smith looks at his background, how he got started in writing, his early series, his decision to write about the Soviet Union and how his publishers initially were not interested in Gorky Park, and his subsequent writing career. Notes how his works about Russia provide a short history of the changes that have taken place in that nation.