Child 44 Hardcover – Apr 29 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set in the Soviet Union in 1953, this stellar debut from British author Smith offers appealing characters, a strong plot and authentic period detail. When war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a rising star in the MGB, the State Security force, is assigned to look into the death of a child, Leo is annoyed, first because this takes him away from a more important case, but, more importantly, because the parents insist the child was murdered. In Stalinist Russia, there's no such thing as murder; the only criminals are those who are enemies of the state. After attempting to curb the violent excesses of his second-in-command, Leo is forced to investigate his own wife, the beautiful Raisa, who's suspected of being an Anglo-American sympathizer. Demoted and exiled from Moscow, Leo stumbles onto more evidence of the child killer. The evocation of the deadly cloud-cuckoo-land of Russia during Stalin's final days will remind many of Gorky Park and Darkness at Noon, but the novel remains Smith's alone, completely original and absolutely satisfying. Rights sold in more than 20 countries. (May)
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"This is a truly remarkable debut novel. CHILD 44 is a rare blend of great insight, excellent writing, and a refreshingly original story. Favorable comparisons to
"CHILD 44 telegraphs the talent and class of its writer from its opening pages, transporting you back to the darkest days of postwar Soviet Russia with assured efficiency and ruthlessly drawing you into its richly atmospheric and engrossing tale." (Raymond Khoury, NY TIMES bestselling author of THE LAST TEMPLAR and SANCTUARY)
"Achingly suspenseful, full of feeling and the twists and turns that one expects from le Carré at his best, CHILD 44 is a tale as fierce as any Russian wolf. It grabs you by the throat and never lets you go." (Robert Towne, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of CHINATOWN)
"CHILD 44 is a remarkable debut novel-inventive, edgy and relentlessly gripping from the first page to the last." (Scott Turow)
"An amazing debut-rich, different, fully formed, mature . . . and thrilling." (Lee Child, NY TIMES bestselling author of BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE)
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Top Customer Reviews
Speaking of sensationalizing, like too much we see around us now, it has an obsession with glorified violence and tries to out-do the next book over in its horror.
Coming from our modern liberal world, it's hard not to wonder how anyone lived in that kind of repression, and how anyone managed to get anything done...
It's fiction but how much of it could have been true? Were/are there serial killers in countries that weren't/aren't caught because the government doesn't acknowledge their existence? Will we ever know?
The author presents a solid mystery wrapped up in the enigma of Stalinist Russia -- where murder and crime doesn't officially exist. Although Stalin himself murdered millions.
I thought the story tied together well although the book plodded a bit in the middle. The author sets up sequels which I will have to check out.
Reality check; he may someday enter the lists of writers that include John LeCarrre and other notables of this genre however he is not there at present and based on what I have read of this man I think he would be the last to suggest it. This work is a solid debut; it is not the greatest work since Guttenberg began his printing press.
I don’t know where the line is drawn between fiction and historical fiction. The author moved the events that truly took place in the 1980’s to Stalin’s 1950’s “when the stakes were much higher for someone who dared to risk opposing the State”. That may be an understatement as Stalin presided over one of the most murderous, repressive cults of personality in History.
The story required a primary character that went through an about face in his beliefs and personal conduct. I found this to be a stretch based on the events in the book. As part of The MGB Leo Demidov zealously and actively engaged in horrific behavior based upon his State-Based conditioning. I found his change as a character too extreme to accept as a reader even though the author used Khrushchev’s arrival to buttress the closing events of the book. I thought it made for an ending that was a bit too bright for 1950’s Russia.
I really did enjoy the unwinding of the motivation for the serial killer. I cannot say much as it would spoil the tale for readers to come. I found it unique among the stories of its type. And unlike others I did not find there were any contrived gotcha moments or gratuitous twists in the book.
The book is an enjoyable read. It is also the author’s first book. He is likely to write and grow and give readers finer work as he develops his talent. Talking of any author’s first work in superlatives is unfair and unrealistic.
Set just before Stalin's death, it covers the downfall of KGB officer Leo Demidov who is unjustly demoted for not wanting to denounce the wife who doesn't love him. There is an element of Les Miserables in it as Leo's nemesis Vassili will stop at nothing to ruin Leo's life. The downfall is set against the backdrop of a series of grizzly murders in a country where crime officially does not exist and those who say it does are either sent to the Gulags to die a slow death or simply executed.
Leo has an epiphany as he hits rock bottom after his demotion and decides come hell or high water he will solve the murders and kill the killer. The twist is both gripping and chilling. As I got to the last 200 pages of the book, I simply could not put it down.
I highly recommend it.
Most recent customer reviews
Well written book, I look forward to reading more of the authors work.Published 3 months ago by Suzanne Bahr
This was a really good mystery set in a historical setting. The twists were great and the end was satisfying to say the least. It kept me busy every free minute I had. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Michal