MARTIN CRUZ SMITH – Three Stations. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, August 2010. Pocket, trade paperback, September 2011.

   As aged and battered as Moscovian police detective Arkady Renko must be by now, he’s evidently still irresistible to women, such as the journalist in Three Stations. Be that as it may, he’s worthy of being irresistible to readers. In this, the seventh in the series that began with Gorky Park 30 years ago, he’s still solving crime and helping friends with his intelligence, integrity and dark humor.

   One young woman’s murder intertwines with the story of a young prostitute, Maya. With her baby, she escapes her controllers; they send assassins to make an example of her. Hoping to disappear into the crowds of Moscow, Maya instead loses her baby to kidnappers running illegal adoptions.

   Determined to find the child, she crosses paths with Arkady’s chess-playing protégé, Zhenya, and the threads begin to weave together. The ending could be more elegantly finished, but at least it’s a happy one, whatever that means in such a bleak context.

   Three Stations is a devastating look at what the promise of a new Russia has devolved into.