Welcome! Log in or Register

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith

  • image
£7.97 Best Offer by: amazon.co.uk marketplace See more offers
10 Reviews

Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Tom Rob Smith / Hardcover / 480 Pages / Book is published 2008-03-03 by Simon & Schuster Ltd

  • Sort by:

    * Prices may differ from that shown

  • Write a review >
    How do you rate the product overall? Rate it out of five by clicking on one of the hearts.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages? Use up to 10 bullet points.
    Write your reviews in your own words. 250 to 500 words
    Number of words:
    Write a concise and readable conclusion. The conclusion is also the title of the review.
    Number of words:
    Write your email adress here Write your email adress

    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    10 Reviews
    Sort by:
    • More +
      04.05.2013 02:29
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      5 Comments

      Advantages

      Disadvantages

      Excellent debut novel, 1950s Cold War Russian crime thriller

      Tom Rob Smith's debut novel, Child 44, is an often bleak outline of post war Russia, a totalitarian state where there is no crime; for it to exist would mean an ineffective military and secret service, which under Stalin's rule is just not acceptable. Families live in fear that the wrong word here or there would see the rest of their lives shortened considerably and spent in horrific conditions, sympathy non-existent.

      Leo Demidov is a high ranking officer in the MGB, a secret police officer. Often at cross purposes with his second in command, the ambitious and cruel Vasili, the younger officer wastes no time in seizing an opportunity to place Leo in trouble with his own rigorous interrogation procedures. A killer is at large; someone is attacking and mutilating children, a spate of them across Russia. Thrust into a dangerous situation and on the receiving end of the pain and anguish his country inflicts on its innocent citizens, Leo and his wife find themselves as the only light of hope for countless potential victims.

      The book starts slowly, but somehow this is fitting. I think a little history is necessary when a book is about to rely heavily on the bleakness and unfairness of the conditions it projects, and Smith certainly does that in the first 50 pages or so. It's a very progressive book, the story spending time in detail with each part of the tale, no glossing over at any point. This means that everything is very clear and flows at an even pace throughout. certain elements of terminology are explained, as are the conditions in specific detail. You get a real feel for just how bleak things must have been, although it's clear that you can never imagine what these conditions are like unless you have felt them for yourself.

      Stalin was responsible for thousands of his citizens and millions of people in total by the end of his terrifying regime, and Smith has certainly done his homework. His acknowledgements at the end of the book refer to a number of factual texts and conversations with historians, all of which he indicates were of great interest to him. This is believable, as he writes with a true passion that is evident and infectious. I found the historical and factual elements riveting, especially as they were incorporated into a thriller so well written that I really found it hard to put down.

      The thriller concludes in a pacy fashion, but unlike a lot of thrillers it doesn't leave an anti-climax by rushing it. The main point is that there are a few interesting twists, some predictable and some not, and while they surprises are well written in, they're never overplayed and exaggerated - it's all clearly part of the structure. Whether or not any of this had anything to with the story being based on a true story or not is debatable, although it seems more about the writer's style and patience than anything else.

      Smith's characters are well defined; we get clear descriptives throughout the book of villains and heroes, brief parts and those who stay the distance. There is clear penetration into thought processes, and Smith endeavours to tell various parts from different points of view. Getting perspectives from various sides adds to the tension and makes it harder to put the book down, something I thought was a skill well used. The book is well worth a read. It takes a while to get going, but this scene setting is essential to the pace of the rest of the book, so not a waste of time or effort at all. Highly recommended.

      Comments

      Login or register to add comments
      • More +
        07.08.2011 19:15
        Very helpful
        (Rating)
        1 Comment

        Advantages

        Disadvantages

        A highly recommended crime thriller!

        In 1950's Russia, people live in fear under Stalin's terrifying regime. Leo Demidov, a secret police office in Moscow, has spent his career arresting anyone who steps out of line. However, his world is turned upside-down when he discovers evidence of a child killer. With the State insisting there's no crime in Russia, Leo must put not only his own life at risk, but his wife's too, to save the lives of others. Can Leo stop the killer without becoming a covered-up statistic himself?

        The first pages of Child 44 are not easy to read, in fact I was wondering if I was going to be able to read on. However, the book proved to be gripping and I'm glad I read on.

        This book is tense. If there's one book that gets you right in the story, with the feeling of being there and living it too, it's this one. It has just the right feel for a story based in 1950's secretive Russia, not knowing who to trust or believe. It's a edgy read which has even the reader being cautious and suspicious about the characters.

        Child 44 was inspired by a real-life serial killer in Russia and Russia's own criminal system (or lack of one that provided justice). According to the author's Q&A at the end of the book, the television series "24" was also an influence. Tom Rob Smith wanted to write a book that was as exciting and compulsive as "24". As a big fan of "24" (and now of Tom Rob Smith, too!), I can honestly say that he has succeeded. Child 44 has the tension, excitement and action of "24" and is compulsive reading, it's a real page-turner.

        Child 44 is one of the best books I've read this year and it's definitely the best debut novel I've read so far this year. I can't wait to read the next two books in this Leo Demidov trilogy, The Secret Speech and Agent 6.

        Highly recommended!

        (Please note: this review also features on my blog).

        Comments

        Login or register to add comments
        • More +
          06.12.2010 12:36
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          1 Comment

          Advantages

          Disadvantages

          An original work of fiction borne from truth that makes for a gripping read.

          I'd heard of Child 44 before, perhaps from TV and internet reviews, and had the sense that it was a very good book. None the less, being a booked based in Russian history I wasn't that interested in reading it. After buying it for my dad, my mum read it too and highly recommended it to me. I'm glad I read it because it wasn't what I had expected; it was very engaging to read, brilliantly written and very atmospheric, and I read it so quickly I surprised myself!

          Child 44 is Tom Rob Smith's first novel, though it's sequel has since been released (The Secret Speech). The front cover advertises a quote by Lee Child, an acclaimed thriller/crime novelist himself: 'An Amazing debut - rich, different, and thrilling'. It's quite a chunky book and I picked up the hardback copy, so at first I wasn't too convinced I manage to get the whole way through it without giving up in boredom. I was wrong because I felt compelled to read it from the first page.

          The book opens with some heart-rending clips of stories, including that of two boys chasing a cat. The scenario is an icy cold Russia, 1953 in the Soviet Union Stalin era, where people are starving and in fear for their lives confined within such a terrifying dictatorship. The cat-chasing wasn't a fun game that two little boys could play, but instead was a very important mission; it was the only cat seen for a very long time and the only source of potential food, so their ability to catch it was of high importance. Something goes wrong, the chapter ends, and a new chapter begins.

          We're soon pushed forward in time as we're introduced to Leo Demidov, a high ranking officer that's dedicated to the Party and enforcing the strict rules and regulations it stands for. When a boy is discovered by train tracks, dead, he has to confront the grieving family. Convinced the boy's death wasn't an accident but rather murder, Leo has to rule it was an accident, because murder wasn't accepted as a truth in the new Russia. This new era wanted to see the perfection of society; enforcing hard-line rules and ridding the country of traitors was its way of pruning society to become perfect, free from disharmony. However, it seems that so much was covered up, so many facts were distorted or ignored, that this perfection ideal was just a mirage.

          Fast forward a bit and we see the gradual paranoia that festers within Russia become the demise of Leo. We can tell that his heart's not quite in it as much as it used to be as he questions his actions on behalf of the state. It's not long before the state come after him, accusing him of being against his country. What we really get the sense of is sheer panic, of complete mistrust of everything and everyone, because there's so much paranoia and backstabbing that every word and action must be closely monitored. Saying the wrong word or looking the wrong way can mean death, so the book is consequently always on edge, always on a precipice of imminent danger.

          The novel then goes on as a bit of a crime thriller as Leo, exiled with his wife Raisa, tries to uncover the truth. The odds are against them within such a fascist dictatorship, heightened by a personal vendetta held by another officer. The author is really able to bring this sense of blind obedience, fear and paranoia to the foreground, allowing you to feel fully involved and empathic to the situation. The description of the scenes are vivid and easy to imagine; it was like having a film playing inside your head even after just the first page.

          There's a lot of ground covered, from Belogorod and Orel, to Moscow and Tver, so we're immersed with Russian scenes, characters and atmosphere. I learnt new things too throughout reading the book, not just about the political atmosphere of Russia during this time but of the typical geography, thoughts and language used (this is all in English by the way); Smith makes everything very clear and easy to comprehend, so you don't feel like you're being dragged along unwillingly but rather guided through a minefield of explosive events.

          This book is complex and it doesn't make for pleasant reading, but it's excellently written, creative, unique and engaging enough to keep you hooked from start to finish. Whilst there are no chapters per se, its 470 pages are split into places/dates so it's easier to keep track of what's happening and when.

          I would highly recommend this book; it wasn't what I had expected and it wasn't one I was looking forward to at first. It turned out to have the hallmarks of a gritty crime/thriller novel with murders and signatures of the killer, and plenty of backbone provided by emotional content and adventure.

          RRP for the paperback is £7.99 but selling on Amazon for £4.00

          Comments

          Login or register to add comments
          • More +
            24.03.2010 15:26
            Very helpful
            (Rating)
            1 Comment

            Advantages

            Disadvantages

            worth a read

            The reason I read this book was that there had been a lot of hype about it and because my sister bought it!

            ----------
            THE PLOT
            ----------

            Taken from the interview on amazon.co.uk because I don't trust myself not to give too much away:

            Child 44 is a thriller set in the terror of 1950s Stalinist Russia, a brutal regime that executed anyone who disagreed with its dogma. It proclaimed to be a perfect society. So, when a series of brutal murders take place, no one is permitted to say that these are the work of a serial killer. In a perfect society there can be no crime.

            One man, Leo Demidov, a State security agent, a man who has spent his entire career arresting innocent men and women, decides to redeem himself by catching this killer. To do so, he must buck the system, risking his life and the life of everyone he loves.

            I really enjoyed reading this book - it was very much page turner and none of it dragged - there was a lot of suspense.

            --------------
            THE SETTING
            --------------

            Because my knowledge of the history of Stalinist Russia is not great, I would not be able to say whether the portrayal was completely correct, but the author did a great job of setting the scene and gives a lot of descriptive and evocative imagery, and portrays the bleakness of the weather and the surroundings well.

            ------------------
            THE CHARACTERS
            ------------------

            Because there were not too many characters, the book was easy to follow.

            The main character was Leo, who I could sympathise with but didn't find completely believable.

            The killer is slowly revealed throughout the book and is described quite a lot but I felt there were a few contradictions in the character.

            Leo's wife, Raisa is another character who is revealed slowly throughout the book. At first she seems very quiet and passive but is revealed to be quite feisty, which I liked - but towards the end of the book, I think the author forgets this and seems to make her boring again!

            Vasili is an agent who Leo has to work with - he takes great pleasure in being sadistic and inflicting physical and emotional pain on others - at times he is so villainous though, that he turns into a bit of a caricature.

            ---------------
            OVERALL
            ---------

            If you wanted to read something that you could finish quite quickly and that would keep your interest, I would recommend this book.

            However, I found the style of dialogue a little irritating - each line of dialogue has a hyphen at the beginning, and is in italics - I felt like everyone in the book was talking telepathically! It did give emphasis and seriousness to the dialogue though, which I suppose was the author's reason for doing this.

            Reading the book, I felt like it had been written with the intention of being made into a film (which it is).

            I also felt like some of the 'scenes' in the book were a bit too gory and sadistic - I suppose this is true of a lot of thriller books, but I sometimes wonder if it is wrong to encourage detailed descriptions of torture etc.

            I liked this book for its description of Stalinist Russia - such a contrast in comparison to the justice and right to free speech we have now, and for the interesting story.

            Comments

            Login or register to add comments
            • More +
              12.02.2010 03:40

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              A great read

              I bought this book as part of a 'buy one get one half price' offer during a mad dash at an airport.

              It is a thriller set in Stalinist Russia, in which an MGB officer (MGB became KGB in later years) attempts to solve the case of a serial child killer. Crime is not accepted as existing in the Soviet Union at this time, and to admit it's presence is taken as a criticism of the state.

              The novel follows the life of the protagonist Leo (the afformentioned MGB officer). Leo changes dramatically during the course of the book from a model state officer to an enemy of the state, such as those he has previously sent to the Gulags.

              The first chapter I found quite difficult to read and almost gave up as it was so depressing. After this I could not put it down. As well as being a great thriller, Child 44 is full of fascinating details about Stalinist Russia. After finishing the book, I went out and bought the sequel - The Secret Speech.

              Not only was Child 44 a great read, but it gave me a hunger to find out more about Russian history during this period.

              Comments

              Login or register to add comments
            • More +
              20.11.2009 16:23
              Very helpful
              (Rating)
              2 Comments

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              An MGB officer risks his life to bring justice to a country where justice is flawed

              The dark reign of communist terror inflicted by Stalin is conveyed from the instant. Tom Rob Smith's debut was captivating from the start, instantly planting your feet firmly in the wintery trenches of the depraved, hungry and desperate life of a Soviet Union citizen. Leo Demidov is an MGB officer whose dedication and ambition to the perfect proletariat society is unquestionable. However, with his power he faces tough decisions and when assigned to the task of investigating his wife Raisa, his unwavering allegiance to the party takes a stumble. Coupled with his impossible suspicions of a serial killer on the loose in a so called crimeless society, he is faced with a life changing decision, one that could lead to the Gulags, which would mean his and his families deaths.
              It's little wonder this book has been commissioned for a film by director Ridley Scott. Thought provoking; probably not, but a blockbuster of a book this certainly is. The twists and turns are endless and I was reigned in by this tense, somewhat unusual thriller.

              Comments

              Login or register to add comments
              • More +
                07.10.2009 01:17
                Very helpful
                (Rating)

                Advantages

                Disadvantages

                Worth a read

                Child 44 though fictional gives both an informative and thrilling account of Stalinist Russia. The author notes in the questions put to him at the end of the novel that the book was based on real events but the protaganists and timescale of the actual event moved around.

                Child 44 is the story of Leo Demidov who works for the Soviet secret service as a special agent. At the beginning of the novel Leo feels that his work is undertaken for the good of the country and it is the 'right'thing to do even though it requires arresting, torturing and killing countless numbers of people. Leo admits at the beginning of the novel that he has no real evidence these people are guilty but still assists in their capture and eventual murder. In short he trusts the system without question.

                However as the novel progresses and he is made to investigate his own wife as a traitor he realises that the state system is corrupt and blood thirsty - killing without trial. The states role is to initiate death to anyone who threatens in any way to upset the normal order of things. From my limited knowledge of Stalinist Russia and the purges this seems to fit to what actually happened.

                Ultimately this system allows a real killer to kill and not be brought to justice as long as they stay within the norms of society. This is what happens in the novel when someone begins killing children all over Russia, it is covered up and blamed on others that the state want an excuse to dispose of.

                It is left to Leo to beat the system and bring the killer to justice whilst alluding capture and murder himself for his disobedience.

                Comments

                Login or register to add comments
              • More +
                24.08.2009 00:22
                Very helpful
                (Rating)
                1 Comment

                Advantages

                Disadvantages

                A killer stalks Soviet Russia but is unintentionally shielded by The State in it's blinkered beliefs

                The stunning debut novel from author Tom Rob Smith, who has just recently had his follow-up novel, The Secret Speech, released in this country, Child 44 is a political thriller with a difference. It follows the investigation by MGB Officer, Leo Demidov into a series of child murders committed in a country where crime does not officially exist. It is the late '50's in Soviet Russia, at the end of Stalin's reign, and everyone is encouraged to believe in and propogate the myth that they are living in the perfect model society. This, even as innocent people are everyday snatched from the streets and forced to confess their anti-communist intentions on the flimsiest of evidence and often mere heresay. Into this chapter of history, we are introduced to Leo who has been encouraged to convince a fellow officer that his son's death was an accident following an incident with a train. This despite his colleague's insistence that there are witnesses that his son's body was not found as described in the Official Party Report. Of course, none of the witnesses are willing to colloborate this and refuse to make anything official for fear they may be made an example of and Leo walks away convinced his fellow Officer has been merely rendered delusional through grief.

                He returns to his pursuit of an Enemy Of The State who, in his absence, has done a runner. Forced to give chase in order to save face, Leo finds himself quickly at odds with one of the men under his command who has ambitions of his own that do not include Leo. And when their target is apprehended, Leo becomes slowly convinced that their suspect might well be innocent. An opinion his subordinate does not share and is eager to disprove. Returning to Moscow, and following a very intense interrogation, Leo finds his own wife implicated in a conspiracy against the goverment and all he believes in and his loyalty is put to the test. Refusing to charge his wife with treason, and knowing full well the consequences of his actions, Leo becomes disgraced and is ostracized to a lowly position out in the back country. And it is there he learns of another child's body found in similar conditions to that, allegedly, of his former colleague's son.....and there may even be more....

                Rejected by everything he has ever believed in, forced to readdress everything he has ever been taught about The State and forced to go against orders to the contrary, Leo realises it is up to him alone to track a killer no one will ever admit exists. For if Stalin's perfect society can create a killer, how can it possibly be any better than that of the Capitalist West? Hunted by his own people and hindered at every turn, Leo must fight against the odds to solve a crime that can never be acknowledged and idenify a killer who has everything on his side. The result ~ a truly original, well thought-out and cleverly crafted thriller that has echoes of Martin Cruz Smith and equally uses similar ideas explored in Robert Harris' Fatherland.

                Though at times some of Leo's exploits come close to stretching credubility, just how many times CAN he escape his own people by the narrowest of margins, still this a great portrayal of a society that actually existed ~ albeit long before most of our life-times. The feeling of paranoia and tension shown here echo the things I have read about fellow communist Mao's regime and never fail to send little shivers of terror down the spine. After all, this kind of society could never exist now, could it? True, at times the story feels a little convienient and the plot devices a little too Hollywood cliff-hanger, and is it any coincidence that this book has already been commissioned for a film project by Director Ridley Scott of Bladerunner and Gladiator fame, still this is a gripping read inspired by the tale of a true-life child murderer who left more than sixty victims in his wake across the vast continent of Russia. Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the opening pages are full of critical praise and acclaim and though all this hype might put off some readers, all of it bar none is justified. Rob Smith's writing style is fairly easy and the plot never becomes too bogged down by the historical facts of the era whilst still managing to educate as well as entertain and the only fault I had was the way Smith characterises his speech.

                Whenever a character talks, his words are put into italiacs with no evidence of speech-marks and it is only a small thing, but I did find this more than a little distracting and overly annoying right through to the end of the novel! True it is a slight niggle but enough to make me want to drop this otherwise cracking novel a star. And that is a shame, as if anything deserves five stars it is this but I'm afraid something that troubled me that much continousally can not be ignored. This aside, Child 44 is an astounding novel, a real page-turner, that is worth picking up even if "this sort of thing is not normally my cup of tea!"

                Think a better version of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko and you will get a good idea what to expect. Leo Demidov is an uneasy hero at times and strangely rather niave but by the end of the novel, you will certainly be rooting for this unlikliest of good men. And the good thing is, if you like this he returns for The Secret Speech which looks back at Leo's life before Child 44 and will explore what lies ahead for the future of Russia's Secret Police following the death of Stalin and the gradual collapse of a society as all in Russiance knew and accepted. Personally, I'm quite looking forward to that and, after this, I am confident you will be too.....

                Comments

                Login or register to add comments
                • More +
                  23.06.2009 14:48
                  Very helpful
                  (Rating)

                  Advantages

                  Disadvantages

                  don't be put off by the historical background

                  When I received this book, I'd heard a lot of good things about it so I was a bit worried it wouldn't live up to the hype. I read the blurb on the back and inwardly groaned because the setting, Communist Russia, seemed all-encompassing and of major importance and I'm not big on politics and political fiction. But I decided to give it a go and see how I got on.

                  Within a few pages, I was hooked. While the political and historical setting WAS important, it wasn't THE most important thing - the story revolved about the "little people", the man on the street and how his day-to-day life (and often death) was affected by the political decision-makers. Tales of horrific living conditions and poverty, the Big Brother/Trust No One mentality and total disregard for human life and morality were shocking, even more so because (as the bibliography at the end proves) it's all based loosely on fact.

                  It was a bit hard at times keeping up with the different time periods without losing track of who was who (I'm useless at keeping track of characters with foreign names !!) but the story was well-told and kept you guessing all the way through. The very end was a bit of a let-down - it all seemed to be a bit of an anti-climax and all the loose ends got tied up a little too neatly. And I got the feeling the "evil eyes of the little girl" were put in there just to make a smooth transition to the sequel (just call me a cynic !!)

                  I got a lot more out of it than I expected, enjoying it as a thriller but also for learning about the background of Stalinist Russia, which originally was one of the elements that put me off

                  Comments

                  Login or register to add comments
                • More +
                  19.05.2009 21:21
                  Very helpful
                  (Rating)
                  6 Comments

                  Advantages

                  Disadvantages

                  A story about Soviet Russia in the 50's and one mans ability to murder at will

                  ~About the Author~
                  Tom Rob Smith is an English writer who grew up in London where he still lives. He graduated from Cambridge University in 2001 and continued studying creative writing in Italy before beginning work as a scriptwriter. Smith has also written his follow up to Child 44, The Secret Speech which was published in April 2009.

                  ~Background & Accolades~
                  This is Smith's first novel which was published in 2008 and quickly translated into 17 languages spurred on by its runaway success.
                  Child 44 was awarded the 2008 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best Thriller of the year and it was recently a Barnes and Noble recommended book. The book was also long listed for the 2008 Man Booker Prize and Smith himself was nominated for the 2008 Costa First Novel Award.

                  It has been reported that Ridley Scott beat Mel Gibson to the film rights for this story. Judging by Scotts past efforts (Hannibal, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven), I'd say he is just the person to give this film the dark edge it needs. As is generally the case, the films are never usually as good as the book but I'm likely to watch it anyway - I enjoy seeing how my visual interpretation differs from someone else's...

                  ~The Plot~
                  Leo is an office of the MGB - Stalin's secret police circa 1950's. This is a time when Russia 'has no crime' and anyone believed to be opposed to the nations beliefs can be interrogated, tortured and killed. Leo comes across the case of a boy whose parents believe he was murdered but Leo, doing his duty, advises the parents that it was an accident - the crime of murder does not exist. Separately, Leo finds himself and his wife persecuted by the MGB and forced to leave Moscow where more cases, similar to the boy's death, appear. Leo must follow these brutal murders, despite it putting everyone he knows in jeopardy, and bring the killer to justice; but not before he has dealt with the childhood he has tried so hard to forget.

                  ~The Main Characters~
                  Leo Demidov - Leo is an officer of the MGB who begins the tale believing in the State Security propaganda and upholds the 'law' without question. His unfailing belief in the system makes him a character to be pitied rather than despised. He doesn't take pleasure in his methods but he does feel that they are to be done for the greater good of the country. As the story moves along, Leo begins to question the new foundations of Stalin's Soviet Union but at times the change feels a little too forced and sudden - there is an incredibly saccharine moment whilst Leo and Raisa are hidden in a truck that just doesn't ring true and it's these moments that really let Leo down. Given the subject matter of the book I feel I was more than prepared to deal with the 'hero' not being all that pleasant; I don't need his darker traits glossed over to make him more appealing to me. For me, Leo come across much better in the first half of the book where get an insight into the brainwashing that went on to make the likes of Leo dutifully torture innocent people whilst firmly believing they were doing the right thing.

                  Raisa Demidov - Raisa is Leo's wife and really only comes into full play in the second half of the book. Initially, she is portrayed as the perfect officers' wife; sticking by him and asking as few questions as possible. Soon the lie of the land changes and she is under investigation herself. As she and Leo are exiled from Moscow the true Raisa begins to appear and, in this, becomes a stronger, more appropriate heroine for our tale. Her character is well used to document the injustices of the time coupled with the sacrifices that many had to make in order not to become a target of the state themselves. Unfortunately, once again, her change of heart in the latter stages of the book seems sudden and improbable - however Sorry Leo is could her feelings about him really change in matter of days when this man has wreaked years of havoc on the country at large?

                  I could probably have detailed another couple of characters but its possible that would help give away parts of the story so I have left it as just these two.

                  ~The Real Rostov Ripper~
                  Andrei Chikatilo is the real life character that the murders in Child 44 are loosely based on. He admitted to the murder of 56 women and Children in the 70s and 80s and was convicted of 52 murders. In contrast to the killer in Child 44, Chikatilo had a sexual motive - he would usually try to rape his victims but unable to perform, would achieve orgasm by killing his victim. Chikatilo was sentenced to death and executed in 1994. He blamed his crimes on the Stalin regime, political leaders and his childhood before changing tack and claiming he had done the world a favour by ridding it of "worthless people".

                  ~My Thoughts~
                  First off, this is not an easy read made all the more difficult by the elements to this book that are true. The story of the murders is a work of fiction based on a serial killer called Andrei Chikatilo, mentioned above. However, the elements of the MGB, government rules and militia are based very much on the way the country was run at the time. For me, this made the book incredibly chilling and haunting. Smith leads us through the paranoia of a country whose government believes that anyone with the tiniest crime (absences from work, petty theft, or anti-government jokes) should be sent to the gulags - harsh, overcrowded labour camps with poor food rations and little chance of release. Torture is seen as a legitimate method for extracting information and the scenes where this is encountered are truly disturbing, much to the credit of Smiths' writing.

                  So why 4 stars - for me it's quite simple: it feels like two books. There is a story here about Soviet Union oppression, propaganda, the secret police and their collective machinations; and then separately, there is a detective story to catch a brutal killer. Smith moved the real life story of the killer Andrei Chikatilo forward 30 years so that he could pose the juxtaposition of these awful crimes against Stalin's idealistic country which is 'free of crime'. I see why he has done this; it adds to the sense of injustice and outrage. However, the fist 200 pages of the book do not concern the killings in any significant way but is completely compelling all by itself. As the story of the murders appears it felt like I had two halves of a different book that had been glued together and I couldn't shake that feeling throughout the read. And because of this I feel that Smith compromised substance in order to tie up loose ends quickly: the ending to the book feels so rushed that I read it twice to be sure I had understood! The motives for the killer are, to put it mildly, weak.

                  After all that, Child 44 still remains a good read. Yes, I felt let down my some of the ending and the easy way in which Smith tied things up but I don't wish to take anything away from the other 450 pages of writing. It's compelling and intriguing; the writing about the arrests and interrogations will leave you wincing but that's the point - this was a brutal regime and Smith really gets this across to the reader. Whilst Leo's character goes through something of an unrealistic epiphany, Raisa works as a much more solid character that carry's the second half of the book.
                  In summary, read it, and forgive the issues I've mentioned - after all, this is Smiths first attempt!

                  ~The Extras~
                  We are treated to three extras:
                  1. An interview with Tom Rob Smith - this is fairly shallow and holds little insight into the book really. Apparently his motivation for the book was the TV series 24?! There is some rather slopping information that he gives about Andrei Chikatilo explaining he killed over 60 (nope, it was 56) children (nope, it was women and children) - always good to get your facts right if you are claiming to have based the killer in your book on a real life killer. The one instersting quote was Smith explaining the most illumiating piece of research he came across - the fact that Stalin ordered a census I 1937 and when the figures came back he was unhappy they were so low. He wanted the country to appear prosperous but he had killed so many people that the numbers didn't stack up. To overcome this, he had the people who conducted the census killed and released dramatically inflated population numbers anyway.
                  2. Statistics about the Soviet Union - this was tough reading. Mostly one-liners giving info such as 'in 1930 there were 170,000 prisoners in the GULAG system. In 1953 there were 2,468,524'. These were possibly the most moving things in the book and really hammer home the scale of Stalins operation.
                  3. A teaser for his latest novel The Secret Speech


                  Child 44 was published in hardback in Mar 2008 and paperback in 2009 (Pocket Books)
                  I read the paperback which was 512 pages long including statistics about Stalin's Soviet Union, an interview with Smith and a teaser for the new book The Secret Speech
                  The retail price for the paperback is £7.99 but it can be found on amazon.co.k for £3.86.

                  © of funkimunki. Also posted on caio.co.uk under jonescraiga

                  Comments

                  Login or register to add comments