WOLVES EAT DOGS
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Smith's melancholy, indefatigable Senior Investigator Arkady Renko has been exiled to some bitter venues in the past—including blistering-hot Cuba in Havana Bay and the icy Bering sea in Polar Star —but surely the strangest (and most fascinating) is his latest, the eerie, radioactive landscape of post-meltdown Chernobyl. Renko is called in to investigate the 10-story, plunge-to-the-pavement death of Pasha Ivanov, fabulously wealthy president of Moscow's NoviRus corporation, whose death is declared a suicide by Renko's boss, Prosecutor Zurin. Renko, being Renko, isn't sure it's suicide and wonders about little details like the bloody handprints on the windowsill and the curious matter of the closet filled with 50 kilos of salt. And why is NoviRus's senior vice-president Lev Timofeyev's nose bleeding? Renko asks too many questions, so an annoyed Zurin sends him off to Chernobyl to investigate when Timofeyev turns up in the cemetery in a small Ukrainian town with his throat slit and his face chewed on by wolves. The cemetery lies within the dangerously radioactive 30-kilometer circle called the Zone of Exclusion, populated by a contingent of scientists, a detachment of soldiers and those—the elderly, the crooks, the demented—who have sneaked back to live in abandoned houses and apartments. The secret of Ivanov and Timofeyev's deaths lies somewhere in the Zone, and the dogged Renko, surrounded by wolves both animal and human, refuses to leave until he unravels the mystery. It's the Zone itself and the story of Chernobyl that supplies the riveting backbone of this novel. Renko races around the countryside on his Uralmoto motorcycle, listening always to the ominous ticking of his dosimeter as it counts the dangerous levels of radioactivity present in the food, the soil, the air and the people themselves as they lie, cheat, love, steal, kill and die. Agent, Knox Burger. 7-city author tour. (Nov. 9)