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Child 44 Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 29, 2008

1,100 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Child 44 Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

If all that Tom Rob Smith had done was to re-create Stalinist Russia, with all its double-speak hypocrisy, he would have written a worthwhile novel. He did so much more than that in Child 44, a frightening, chilling, almost unbelievable horror story about the very worst that Stalin's henchmen could manage. In this worker's paradise, superior in every way to the decadent West, the citizen's needs are met: health care, food, shelter, security. All one must offer in exchange are work and loyalty to the State. Leo Demidov is a believer, a former war hero who loves his country and wants only to serve it well. He puts contradictions out of his mind and carries on. Until something happens that he cannot ignore. A serial killer of children is on the loose, and the State cannot admit it.

To admit that such a murderer is committing these crimes is itself a crime against the State. Instead of coming to terms with it, the State's official position is that it is merely coincidental that children have been found dead, perhaps from accidents near the railroad tracks, perhaps from a person deemed insane, or, worse still, homosexual. But why does each victim have his or her stomach excised, a string around the ankle, and a mouth full of dirt? Coincidence? Leo, in disgrace and exiled to a country village, doesn't think so. How can he prove it when he is being pursued like a common criminal himself? He and his wife, Raisa, set out to find the killer. The revelations that follow are jaw-dropping and the suspense doesn't let up. This is a debut novel worth reading. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446509256
  • ASIN: B003F76F3Q
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,227,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Rob Smith graduated from Cambridge University in 2001 and lives in London. His first novel, Child 44, was a New York Times bestseller and an international publishing sensation. Among its many honors, Child 44 won the ITW 2009 Thriller Award for Best First Novel, The Strand Magazine 2008 Critics Award for Best First Novel, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Tom invites you to visit his website and follow @tomrobsmith on Twitter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

230 of 245 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I generally don't care for serial killer stories, I find that everyday "regular" crime holds plenty of drama and is much easier to connect with. However, the Soviet setting of this debut thriller intrigued me enough to dip into it for a few pages, and the writing on those first few pages swept me into the story very quickly. For the first 3/4, it's an excellent grafting of the serial killer genre onto the everyday horror of the early-'50s Stalinist era Soviet Union. Unfortunately, Smith succumbs to the thriller writer's temptation of having a huge plot twist toward the end, which unnecessarily sabotages what had been a grim and realistic story to that point. It's one of those twists that comes out of nowhere, and really doesn't serve much purpose other than as a "gotcha" moment -- the story could have worked just as effectively without it.

Other than this one vastly annoying flaw, the book is excellent. After a chilling prologue in the famine-devastated Ukraine of the 1930s (a famine engineered by Stalin, it must be noted), the story opens in 1953 Moscow, where we meet Great Patriotic War hero and militia officer Leo Demidov, as he pursues the interests of the state in tracking down its enemies. Smith takes plenty of time to build up the totalitarian setting, where fear and paranoia reigned, and reason was a luxury unavailable to the state. If you were a suspect, you were guilty, since the state did not make mistakes. The story focuses on Demidov, showing the privileges his family enjoys due to his position, and the precariousness of his position as a jealous underling plots to destroy him. (This underling is the weakest element in the book, as his hatred for Demidov is a critical catalyst several times in the story, but the motivation for it is far too one-dimensional.
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81 of 90 people found the following review helpful By L. Quido VINE VOICE on July 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Warning: Some spoilers in the review below.

Long a fan of "Citizen X" the HBO film about Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who killed children at large in the Soviet Union from 1978-1990, I'd heard some buzz about "Child 44", but didn't read any reviews until I purchased the book.

The young British author, Tom Rob Smith, made my jaw drop with his version of historical fiction, because yes, Smith takes the tale of Andrei Chikatilo (who has been written about in true crime genre) and moves it BACK in time, keeping the tale somewhat intact but setting it in Stalinist Russia in the early 50's. The contrast is startling, because, by the 80's, near the end of the Cold War, the denizens of the USSR had been disillusioned by the "glory" of Communism and had spent decades poor, hungry, frightened of the state. Despite that, the hunt for Chikatilo in the 80's was funded and followed, somewhat as an afterthought, by the state.

In the 50's, with Stalin's grip on the nation--it's a worker's paradise in everything but reality. And the leader would never allow such crimes as murder to exist. And with this change of landscape, the author, with what must have been painstaking research of the times, heightens the suspense, creates a sense of absolute hopelessness, and puts the military hero tracking the killer in fear for his own life and those of his family.

Pursuing the killer, and refusing to denounce his own wife, Leo Demidov places his own career and life in jeopardy.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Kersey on June 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Having never written a review of any sort, I could not help but express my thanks to the author for this reality check describing Stalin's Russia. The atrocities of the serial killer and those experienced by the Russian general population are the same in their brutality and insanity. This is a serial killer story straight from the pages of Animal Farm. If you are a grandparent give this book to your children. They will appreciate a good fiction story and gain a better picture of what happens in a totalitarian state. Later they can share this book with your grandchildren.
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192 of 251 people found the following review helpful By Il'ja Rákoš on December 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm willing to risk the good will of - apparently - the entire internet, in order to say that I really didn't enjoy "Child 44". Perhaps, largely because I have lived 'over here' for about twenty years. Sure, it's an argument from experience, but isn't that what "Child 44" purports, at least in part, to be? An argument drawn from historical experience?

I understand the fascination with the soviet experience, the good and the bad of it. I have been dealing with that fascination almost all my life - as a son of Slav parents who were not ethnically Russian, but who knew "the Soviet thing" in a real, experiential way. It's like a disease. It's something George Orwell talks about in his outstanding essay "the Prevention of Literature" when he stresses "the poisonous effect of the Russian MYTHOS on English intellectual life." We're all suckers for it. I believe that "Child 44" fails to approach that MYTHOS with any kind of serious consideration or respect.

Books like Tom Rob Smith's (and David Benioff's even more laughable "City of Thieves") just tick me off. They unconsciously glamorize something that has no glamour. None. They legitimize it by trivializing it, if you see what I mean. A cartoon is certainly much easier to handle than a 12-part documentary on PBS. But labeling Child 44 cartoonish does a disservice to cartoons.

Let's get something straight: I understand how pop fiction is supposed to work. And I'm no prude. I love a good murder mystery, a thriller, an espionage yarn filled with liars and LeCarre's 'seedy little men'. Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter books have a delicious horror and offer moments of outstanding lyricism. Read the first few pages of "Hannibal" (I think it's the third in the series) and tell me if the prose isn't deeply moving.
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