Picks and Pans Review: Gorky Park

updated 04/06/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/06/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Martin Cruz Smith

Three frozen bodies are found in the snow in Moscow's Gorky Park, faceless and with fingertips clipped off. The Russian investigator, hero of this police procedure novel and the most intriguing Russian detective since Porfiry Petrovich chased Raskolnikov around in Crime and Punishment, suspects a KGB officer. Dogged detective work finally identifies the victims, two men and one young woman. One of the men is an American, whose brother is a New York cop and just happens to be fluent in Russian, setting up a tale of two cultures, two sets of law, two cities. Smith spent only two weeks of research in Russia in 1973, but they must have been memorable; it took him eight years to turn out this book, during which he also wrote eight novels (including the chiller Nightwing) under his own name and pseudonyms. The toil paid off, since he got $1 million for this book (in hard-and soft-cover advances), and his Moscow subways, apartments, cafeterias and outlying dachas seem convincing. His New York, seen through the eyes of the cynical Russian cop, is a surprisingly original setting, too. For readers who like their international intrigues peppered with shootouts, this is the best of its kind so far in 1981. (Random House, $13.95)

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