Russian investigator Arkady Renko has hunted for many mysterious figures since appearing in the 1982 novel Gorky Park, but none as elusive as the title character in his latest adventure, Stalin's Ghost. In the beginning, author Martin Cruz Smith plays reports about subway riders spotting the long-dead dictator for black comedy. But the spirit of Old Joe takes on an unexpectedly haunting presence as the plot develops into an investigation of mass killings colored by history both shared and personal. At times the dialogue seems more hard-boiled L.A. than deep-seated Moscow, but it's so ripe and entertaining that few fans of the genre will complain. With Smith working at his usual high level, tedium doesn't stand a ghost of a chance.
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Smith will read from and sign his latest starting tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch, 9315 Dorchester Street; admission is free. Call 303-470-7050 or go to www.tatteredcover.com for details.