Martin Cruz Smith is most famous for his creation of the Russian detective Arkady Renko, featured in Gorky Park and several other novels. This is Renko's latest adventure, set in the dark social climate of post-Soviet Russia and the Ukraine. Renko is investigating the murder of one of Russia's nouveau riche. The search leads him to Chernobyl, site of the horrifying nuclear disaster in 1986, where he meets a group of almost postapocalyptic residents. There are scientists who stay to study the effects of the radiation as well as elderly residents who came back because they just preferred to live there. Of course he solves the crime, but the journey is the real story. I was as interested in all the people Renko encountered, and their motivations for being at Chernobyl, as in the mystery.
After I read the book, I was amazed to hear that all of what Smith wrote about the Chernobyl residents was pretty much true (Hear the NPR story )
Tiger link: PS3569 .M5377 W65 2004