Martin Cruz Smith

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"Rose"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark OCT 18, 1998)

I have enjoyed every book Martin Cruz Smith has written featuring Russian detective Arkady Renko (Gorky Park, Polar Star and Red Square), so when I ran across this book I picked it up without hesitation.  Despite my admiration of his past work, I was not at all prepared for how totally engrossing this latest novel would be.  Smith conveys the time period so well, I felt I was covered in coal dust. 

Rose is set in 1872 in Wigan, a coal-rich suburb located in Lancashire, England. Mining engineer Jonathan Blair wants only to return to Africa, but his sponsor, coal baron and Anglican bishop Hannay, who funds African explorations, coerces him into going to Wigan to investigate the disappearance of a young curate who was engaged to Hannay's daughter. Blair is assaulted by the soot-covered coal-mining center where, for everyone but the Hannays, life is brutish and short. Blair's investigation antagonizes miners, mine supervisors, and the bishop's daughter, but when he falls in love with a "pit girl" named Rose, the antagonisms turn deadly.

Not only is the protaganist fascinating, but so is the time period. We meet the moneyed Victorians who send the English on expeditions in Africa to tame "the savages" and the extreme other side - the night world of the coal miners.  Coal mining has always been a dangerous occupation, but imagine it when there was no electricity! The miners would go a mile below the earth with all those natural gases, carrying lanterns  As is Smith's style, this mystery is not only delightfully detailed, it is a real page turner. 

  • Amazon readers rating: from 111 reviews


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About the Author:

Martin Cruz SmithMartin Cruz Smith grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, his father a white jazz musician and his mother a Pueblo Indian jazz singer.  At first he supported his wife and children as a newspaper reporter and wrote potboilers under various pseudonyms until he sold Gorky Park for $1 million in 1981.  He lives in California with his wife and they have three children.

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