Wolves Eat Dogs, Martin Cruz Smith, Simon & Schuster, 2004, 336 pp
Summary from Goodreads: In Wolves Eat Dogs, Renko returns for his most enigmatic and baffling case: the death of one of Russia's new billionaires, which leads him to Chernobyl and the Zone of Exclusion -- closed to the world since 1986's nuclear disaster. It is still aglow with radioactivity, now inhabited only by the militia, shady scavengers, a few reckless scientists, and some elderly peasants who refuse to relocate. Renko's journey to this ghostly netherworld, the crimes he uncovers there, and the secrets they reveal about the New Russia make for an unforgettable adventure.
After I read Voices From Chernobyl, someone told me about Wolves Eat Dogs. I am glad I read it because it makes a good companion piece to the other book. On the other hand, if I hadn't read Voices first, I would have been seriously lost.
Because Smith's book is a political/crime thriller, the pace is fast, the brutality is frequent, and the plot is thick. But he does address the Soviet government corruption and cover up of the nuclear meltdown as well as that of the Russian mafia after the fall of the Soviet Union. He truly brings that gnarly situation alive and so makes the point that humans cannot be trusted with nuclear power as did Voices From Chernobyl.
Svetlana Alexievich hinted at such things via the people she interviewed but she is Russian and has been viewed with suspicion by her government. Martin Cruz Smith is American.
Wolves Eat Dogs (a comment made often by the people who live near Chernobyl) is the 5th book in Smith's Arkady Renko series. I think I read Gorky Park way back when. I think I might read the rest one day.
(Wolves Eat Dogs is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)