“It was the sort of day that didn’t give a damn.”
Eleven words. This first line of Tatiana, 2013 by Martin Cruz Smith immediately sets a mood and tone that makes me want to settle in for a good long read. This line holds its own among some of the best hard-boiled fiction first lines I wrote about in “Hard-boiled- First Lines Part I, Books Part 2.”
From there Smith expands:
“Summer was over, the sky was low and drained of color, and dead leaves hung like crepe along the road. Into this stillness dashed a cyclist in red spandex, pumping furiously, taking advantage of the flat terrain.”
What a wonderful visual and now I’m really curious. This could almost be taking place here in the Pacific Northwest, but since this is another great novel featuring Russian Senior Investigator Arkady Renko we know it actually takes place in Russia. The first Martin Cruz Smith novel I ever read was Gorky Park, 1981, which introduced Arkady Renko, then a chief inspector in the Soviet period. Cruz masterfully moves Arkady through this period to the Russia of today in his series. A navigation that is also well-crafted by Stuart M. Kaminsky in his Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov series. I think Gorky Park is my favorite of Smith’s Arkady stories. He begins this tale with another excellent hook:
“All nights should be so dark, all winters so warm, all headlights so dazzling.”
Director Michael Apted adapted this for the screen in 1983 and the movie is as suspenseful and enjoyable to re-watch as the book is to re-read. The movie is well-cast, including William Hurt as a believable Arkady Renko, and beautifully filmed by Ralf Detlef Bode.
I have one more great quote to share from a dialog with Arkady Renko in my most recent read, Tatiana:
“Is it true that you don’t carry a firearm? For what reason?”
“Well, when I did carry one I hardly ever used it. And it makes you stupid. You stop thinking of options. The gun doesn’t want options.”
If you like detective fiction and haven’t read any of the Renko novels by Smith, nor seen Apted’s Gorky Park, I highly recommend them. In fact I may have talked myself into a re-read, re-watch soon!