Wolves Eat Dogs

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The old Soviet Union has undergone monumental changes. Citizens of Russia are uncertain how to proceed with matters that once seemed routine. This confusion pervades officialdom as well. New hierarchies are in place, but not everyone within them knows where they stand. This eventually becomes manifest when new Soviet businessman Pasha Ivanov plunges to his death from his penthouse apartment. His associates are baffled not only by his death but by his recent behaviors, in which he cut off access to his premises and to himself.

Called to the scene, veteran investigator Arkady Renko registers a bizarre find: an enormous pile of what appears to be ordinary table salt, tucked away in Ivanov’s bedroom closet. Prosecutor Zurin urges Renko to see this as a routine suicide, but Renko is troubled by the evidence, and begins to ask questions. Thus, once again, Renko threatens influential interests that do not always operate within the law. When a key figure in Ivanov’s enterprises is found dead near the site of the Chernobyl disaster, Zurin decides that the still lethally radioactive region is the perfect place to assign Renko.

In previous works, Martin Cruz Smith invests Arkady Renko with an unmistakable sense of moral disillusion. Wolves Eat Dogs masterfully continues in this vein. Chernobyl and its surroundings are haunted places, innocent on the surface yet stricken with forces equally deadly as the still potent radiation levels. Renko is plunged into this atmosphere as a matter of political machination, but his prolonged exposure to moral convolution makes him an ideal presence in the case. Among the perverse souls who call Chernobyl home, Renko must seek a solution to a crime, and a reason to persist in living.