This is the first book I have read by Martin Cruz Smith. I know he has quite a following and his books are usually, if not always, on the best seller list. If you have read his crime novels before, you will know that his detective hero is Arcady Renko a Senior Investigator in the Moscow prosecutor's office. Mysteries of the thriller genre often feature a hero cop who is damaged in some way or depressed and trying to work out issues in their personal lives. Arcady is also of this mode. He is a chain smoker and like other fiction detectives is obsessive about the cases he works.
The story begins with a cyclist who is a brilliant translator who has invented a code that appears to be a series of doodles; he writes all his notes in this code. The translator was working with a mixed group of politicians, gangsters, and crooked businessmen who were formulating a secret deal taking place in Kaliningrad. The fate of this translator, an avid cyclist, is the catalyst which begins the action. His fate becomes tied to that of a Moscow investigative journalist, Tatiana Petrovna who has ferreted out the deal. Breaking the code in the translator's notebook is important in solving the case for Arcady. His forster son, a chess master, and son's girlfriend lend a clever hand in helping to solve the mystery and find themselves in danger because of it.
I don't want to give away any of the plot,but know that it concerns the Russian mafia, a body missing from the morgue, demonstrations, political corruption and other events tied to the Putin-era. Cruz Smith has used some thinly veiled references in this book to real events in Russia in the recent past.
This type of book is not my favorite read, but it did keep me interested enough to read it quickly. Renko is likable enough, though most of the characters are one-dimentional. I would say if you enjoy crime novels, this is good enough for a Saturday evening at home, but not up to the page-turners written by recent Scandinavian writers of mysteries.