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Women and fishing there is a joke somewhere in there
Polar Star - Martin Cruz Smith
Member Name: freediveheaven
Polar Star - Martin Cruz Smith
Advantages: Good competent thriller
Disadvantages: None really, some may find it a bit slow moving.
Based on a Russian factory ship called the Polar Star the story is set during the height of the Communist regime with the Cold War in full swing. The Polar Star is part of a joint venture with the American fishing fleet whose trawlers catch the fish in the ice cold Bering Sea and transfer their catch for processing to the Polar Star. When a female crew memberís body is found amongst the fish in one of the nets an investigation is started by the ships authorities and a former special investigator from Moscow who now works on the processing line is called upon to investigate the death.
The worker, Arkady Renko is reluctant to take on the investigation knowing that often the reason for his involvement is to not necessarily find the truth but to ensure there is no embarrassment to the state however as his investigation progresses he begins to become obsessed with the victim and finding out the truth behind her death as details of her life style become apparent.
As I have already said, I did enjoy this book and found it an interesting read. It is effectively a straight who dunnit and whilst it is not the fastest paced of storylines I certainly found it to be an engrossing read and one that fully held my attention.
The main character Arkady is quite unique in the way he is portrayed. A reluctant investigator the author Martin Cruz Smith does an excellent job of developing a complicated character who while obsessed with discovering the truth is awful very fearful about his own vulnerability yet despite the fact that he continually puts himself in perilous positions he is unable to curb his drive as an investigator to seek the truth. Arkady past is often hinted at and a couple of flash backs fill in the details but there is still a certain greyness about the events that resulted in him leading a life effectively on the run from the main apparatus of the state.
The story is very good at building up in the readers mind a sense of the creeping fear that Arkady feels and whilst reading I always had the feeling that this was a story that may not have a happy clean cut ending. The tension builds up nicely towards the eventual climax and there are quite a few red herrings (ignore the pun) thrown into the storyline to keep the reader guessing.
I found the setting very interesting, firstly the location of the Polar Star in the Bering Sea helps to create a feeling of austerity and danger with the weather always a factor and also I felt the book gave an interesting insight into life on a factory ship. The time period that the book was set in also made it of interest with the focus on protecting the good name of the Soviet State whilst at the same time ensuring that all the benefits of a joint venture with the Americans and access for a day to an American port were realised for the crew.
The politics that influenced the storyline was a strong factor and whilst a couple of the characters did fit with a stereotype of Soviet officialdom there was also enough originality in the characters to stop the book becoming predictable and whilst at times Arkady motivations were a little difficult to fathom out he did generate enough empathy in my eyes to the extent that I actually cared about what happened to him.
One strange feature in the book that is worth a mention is the fact that at the start of the book there are three detailed pictures two of the Polar Star and one of one of the American trawlers to help the reader create a mental picture of the boats and assist when descriptions are provided of Arkady movements on the boats.
This was an entertaining read and the first time I had read anything from this author. Prior to this Cruz Smith had published five books and the most well known of these was Gorky Park which found its way onto the big screen. Definitely a book I would recommend as deserving four stars and whilst it is not a book I would return to read again I will probably check out some of his other work.
Published by Fontana my rather old copy which was published in 1990 has an rrp of £3.99. A more recent copy will cost £5.99 on mason however there are a large number in the new and used section starting at a penny. The ISBN is 0-00-617848-0.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.
Summary: Good book with an interesting setting.