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3.5 out of 5 stars57
3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 8 January 2011
There is something not right with this book but I can't quite put my finger on it. Sometimes the burden of writing about the same characters seems to become too much for an author to sustain as time goes on. Publishers and the public want more of the same but after a time it seems to get harder and harder to keep it fresh and keep it tight. This is not the best Arkady Renko story - all the elements are there - Moscow, a city of wild schemes and broken dreams - grubby,vibrant,menacing - Arkady, the good man who refuses to be ground down. There are strong story threads - a girl escaping to Moscow from the provinces, a theme that has been played out in real life every day for years,the relationship between Arkady and the damaged troubled boy he has befriended. Put it all together and this should have been a classic but it just isn't - just like a part cooked pizza, this story is soggy in the middle. Characters are just storyboard sketches. The attention to plot detail seems have drifted.
It's not just the author - look at the cover - a train in the snow emerging from a forest - is it the Taiga? Possibly except that the locomotives look suspiciously American.
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on 10 January 2011
What a disappointment. Arkady Renko is absolutely my favourite character and I re-read the previous books regularly. Three Stations is Renko lite. Compared to previous books the characters are undeveloped and the "plots" feeble and improbable. Had this been my first book by Martin Cruz Smith it would have been my last. A pity because the book has the makings of another outstanding story but the impression is that the author has lost interest in his character (or is writing with a film script in mind). Even the actual text of the story was poor - two canvas bags suddenly turn into two baskets, skirts become shirts etc.
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on 9 January 2011
I've read and enjoyed all of the Renko novels since Gorky Park, but this was a real disappointment. It feels more like a first draft than a finished novel. Few of the storylines seem fully developed - why was Renko suspended and then reinstated? The oligarch story doesn't really go anywhere. The final scenes are telescoped so much that it seems as if the publisher was knocking on the door because the book was late. Also, the unremittingly pessimistic image of Russia is beginning to become somewhat tedious. A shame, but I think Zurin is right - it's time for Renko to be retired.
At only 240 pages it's also a lot shorter than the other novels in the series. I feel even more cheated as i got the hardback version rather than waiting for the paperback.
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on 12 January 2011
Arkady Renko novels are ones that I always buy in hardback - can't wait for the paperback as I usually enjoy them so much. This was a huge disappointment. The usual tight and complex plotting is absent. The characters remain undeveloped by and large and, instead of the usual pleasurable immersion in the story I actually put the book down part way through and read something else before completing it. And having completed it felt somewhat let down. Unless you know the previous Renko books it's hard to explain why this was so. I think one of your reviewers refers to it as being like a draft document and that is a pretty close definition of what is wrong - an effective film script maybe but not a novel (or novella, really). There just isn't enough there to identify with anybody, even Renko himself, one of the, for me, great detective figures in modern literature. Re-reading Polar Star it is hard to believe that the same author is involved, almost as if he is bored with his character. Also, as a foot note, MCS should hire a more competent proof reader (if he does use one) lots of continuity slips in the story which jar rather.
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on 30 October 2011
Just to give an example of what the 1* and 2* reviewers are on about. On pages 24 - 27 you have a detailed description of the long-standing character Zhenya observing Maya being disbelieved and mis-treated by the militia police. On page 39, after Zhenya and Maya have hooked up as allies after she has escaped the disbelieving militia WITH HIS HELP, a new chapter begins with 'Zhenya didn't understand why Maya refused to go to the militia.' A fundamental error that should have been picked up and tightened by the editors. I love Renko - he deserves better.
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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2011
I really, really like Arkady Renko. I must one of his biggest followers and I still will be if.....

I feel cheated with this book. 240 pages was all I got and it is reflected in the way the story jumps ahead of itself. Was my book an abridged version? Dunno. It didn't say it was but the info at the head of Amazon's page states 320 pages.

There is a story somewhere inside the book. Renko is on form - sort of. His very useful and sometimes useless friend Victor is also on form, more so than Renko, in fact. The depressing life centred around the three main stations is expertly captured as ever by the author. Victor's Lada seems par for the course from my knowledge of an earlier Moscow and futile yet overpowering bureaucracy still enmeshes the wheels of the State.

Through all this, as usual, Renko strives to maintain his own standards. He is a good investigator and the characters around him breathe life and, of course, death into this short story about a very young girl, her baby, her life of prostitution, Renko's attempts to find her now missing baby. It's all a mess, frankly.

Unfortunately, I didn't really understand half of it. People came and went, the pages also went and then the book ended. How? Why? What happened?

Please, Mr. Smith. Give us a break. If you want to kill off Renko, okay, then do it but please don't let him die of boredom, nor, more importantly, let your fans die of a similar fate.
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on 26 July 2011
I love this character, Arkady Renko has been 'with me' for years now starting with the classics Gorky Park, Polar Star, Wolves Eat Dogs & Havana Bay to the so-so (but still entertaining) Red Square & Stalin's Ghost. This offering however, is disappointing in the extreme. A great pity as the story itself was so full of promise at the outset only to morph into an awful mess as I ploughed on through, then to be totally confused by the rapid climax.

Dear Martin,

Why does Renko always have to be failing foul of his superiors? This has become a nonsense tack and features in every book.
Why 'promote' Zhenya to play a worthwhile role at last, only to cut his story out at the end?
Why race to finish the book in the final ten pages, causing the reader to flick back time after time to catch and catch the story?
What happened to Itsy?
How did the car chasing Renko (at 150km through Moscow?) end up in the pothole previously filled in earlier that day?

The book is so littered with careless mistakes and story leaps, one wonders if it ever got edited? I hope Cruz Smith gets his act back together when the time comes to kill Arkady off...
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on 26 September 2011
As a big fan of the Arkady Renko novels, I'd been waiting with great anticipation to get stuck into Three Stations. It's an entertaining read but I couldn't help feeling a bit short-changed. It's significantly shorter than any of the other books in the series and therefore there isn't nearly as much plot development. As always, the author sets the scene wonderfully well - this time the story focuses on the seedy characters working the streets around a Moscow train station. If you're already into the Renko series, then I definitely think it's worth a read. If you haven't read Renko yet, then I would suggest you choose another in the series, Havana Bay for instance.
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on 16 February 2011
So disappointed as a huge fan of the Arkady Renko books. This book was nothing like what has gone before, the plot and characters overly simplistic and so short, cannot put into words what a let down this was. Now regret buying this book in hardback. However, glad I read it as had been eagerly awaiting publication, now re-reading Gorky Park ( yet again) and there is just no comparison between the two.
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on 27 December 2011
As a huge fan of Russian history, and indeed of crime/detective fiction, the Arkady Renko was a recipe for success. Coming off the back of the also exquisite Leo Dormidov stories, I was engrossed into Martin Cruz Smith's masterpieces, especially Polar Star. I've missed a few of his novels, and in fact hopped to this one after Stalin's Ghost (one which has mixed reviews but I would give 7/10, a slight downward deviation)

Three Stations was a huge let-down. It seemed as if Zhenya was being hyped up as a future protaganist, when in fact his story was by far the easier to follow, understand and the most enjoyable. I tend to enjoy novels when the detective makes a deduction, and after he says it I think, "Oh my God, he's right!" but for Arkady it was a case of "I knew that already" or the most prevalent "how they **** did you make that conclusion????"

Arkady pulls his logic from the clouds and to be honest I struggled to follow the storyline and his deductions properly, which already dampened the story, added to the fact my sister's bedtime stories seem to be longer.

BRING US BACK ARKADY RENKO
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