Just got the latest Martin Cruz Smith novel: Stalin's Ghost. This is another in the Arkady Renko series and as good as any of the others, all the way back to Gorky Park. I don't know how Smith does it, but he captures the essence of Russia time and again, over time, as the country has emerged from the Cold War to its current state of nationalist resurgence.
Is the Russia that Smith describes the real Russia? Well, between the previous installment, Wolves Eat Dogs, and Stalin's Ghost, I was fortunate enough to spend about a week in Moscow. Everything I experienced there meshed perfectly with the Moscow that Arkady inhabits in this latest installment. (I only wish I had used the metro while I was there--you'll understand when you read the book).
So my guess is that all the other Arkady Renko novels are equally realistic. Each captures a part of the Russian reality, not the whole story, but enough to give you a lot more insight into the country and its people that many history books and documentaries. And they are enjoyable books, dependably tense, full of surprises, and the persistence of Arkady, a character who seems to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune despite himself and his utter lack of respect for [illegitimate] authority.