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Child 44 [Mass Market Paperback]

Tom Rob Smith
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1 2009 The Child 44 Trilogy
A relentless page-turner.
A terrifying evocation of a paranoid world where no one can be trusted.
A surprising, unexpected story of love and family, of hope and resilience.
CHILD 44 is a thriller unlike any you have ever read.

"There is no crime."

Stalin's Soviet Union strives to be a paradise for its workers, providing for all of their needs. One of its fundamental pillars is that its citizens live free from the fear of ordinary crime and criminals.

But in this society, millions do live in fear . . . of the State. Death is a whisper away. The mere suspicion of ideological disloyalty-owning a book from the decadent West, the wrong word at the wrong time-sends millions of innocents into the Gulags or to their executions. Defending the system from its citizens is the MGB, the State Security Force. And no MGB officer is more courageous, conscientious, or idealistic than Leo Demidov.

A war hero with a beautiful wife, Leo lives in relative luxury in Moscow, even providing a decent apartment for his parents. His only ambition has been to serve his country. For this greater good, he has arrested and interrogated.

Then the impossible happens. A different kind of criminal-a murderer-is on the loose, killing at will. At the same time, Leo finds himself demoted and denounced by his enemies, his world turned upside down, and every belief he's ever held shattered. The only way to save his life and the lives of his family is to uncover this criminal. But in a society that is officially paradise, it's a crime against the State to suggest that a murderer-much less a serial killer-is in their midst. Exiled from his home, with only his wife, Raisa, remaining at his side, Leo must confront the vast resources and reach of the MBG to find and stop a criminal that the State won't admit even exists.

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Product Description

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Stellar debut...completely original and absolutely satisfying." (Starred PUBLISHERS WEEKLY)

"Smith's pacing is relentless; readers wanting to put the book down for a brief rest may find themselves persevering regardless. Expect the same kind of critical acclaim for this compelling tale that greeted the publication of Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park (1981) more than 25 years ago...a very, very good read. Don't miss it." (Starred BOOKLIST)

"A debut novel from a shockingly talented 28-year-old Brit...Nerve-wracking pace and atmosphere...Smashing." (Starred KIRKUS)

"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 Gorky Park are inevitable, but CHILD 44 is in a class of its own." (Nelson Demille)

"CHILD 44 is a remarkable debut novel-inventive, edgy, and relentlessly gripping from the first page to the last." (Scott Turow)

"Achingly suspenseful, full of feeling and of 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)

"An amazing debut--rich, different, fully-formed, mature...and thrilling." (Lee Child)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Closer to 4.5 stars Nov. 4 2009
Surprisingly good. It's tight and fast-paced and gives a glimpse into a repressed culture in a repressed era. It could have had the feel of a history or anti-soviet lesson but managed to avoid that lecture-y feel.

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?
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Give The Hype A Rest May 12 2008
The following are true; Mr. Smith is a talented young writer who has written a very good first book. He did his homework and lists as resources authors who have among them a winner of The Nobel Prize.
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.
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By Ruftara
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved the character development, the historical details and the rapid sustained pace of the story. Despite there being very little dialogue, this
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2.0 out of 5 stars Fiction? Yes. Historical. Questionable. Dec 15 2013
A page turner for sure but I question the historical accuracy of it. I suspect it's waaay overdone. I enjoy reading yes, to be entertained but also to learn something about people and different places so that I can be a better man after I finish reading it. When it sensationalizes and exaggerates history it does no one a favour.

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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Russia Under Stalin March 19 2013
By James A. Anderson TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Good book. Really enjoyed it.

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.
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