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Customer Review

79 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Debut novel - an author's unique twist!, July 6, 2008
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This review is from: Child 44 (Hardcover)
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. In addition to the deft way in which the author moves from Leo's childhood to his present, from the killer to Demidov and back, and into the stark conflict that is Leo's life with his wife, Raisa, Smith doesn't give up his terse, descriptive style; of the forbidding Lubyanka, he writes:

"Its façade created the impression of watchfulness: rows and rows of windows crammed together, stacked up and up, rising to a clock at the top which stared out over the city as though it were a single beady eye. An invisible borderline existed around the building. Passersby steered clear of this imaginary perimeter as if fearful they were going to be pulled in. Crossing that line meant you were either staff or condemned. There was no chance you could be found innocent inside these walls. It was an assembly line of guilt".

Brilliantly conceived, and flawlessly executed, "Child 44" is the best book I've read so far this year.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 19, 2010 2:16:03 AM PDT
happygran says:
yeah i am sorry i read your review before i read the book, you gave too much information, and spoiled it for me

Posted on Jul 17, 2010 9:21:04 PM PDT
gilly8 says:
I liked this review, it was excellent. I agree with one thing, perhaps, that he could have put in a "spoilers' " warning...but it is hard to write a review...look at some of the professionally written ed. reviews, without giving away SOMETHING.

Also, the other reviewer who said the book "plagerized "Citizen X"....I disagree. There are many books and movies which are based on historical subjects, that is not plagarism.

Having said the above, I'd recommend the book highly to anyone, even if they've read the review here...MOST people, I believe knew the basics of books plot. As it happened, I did not, and listened to it unabridged on books on CD on my commute. By doing it that way, and I've noticed this with other books: much of plot "give away" that is on the book jacket, both front, back & on the first few pages inside...are simply not there, so not seen and absorbed before you even realize it. Much preferable!

Posted on Aug 23, 2010 4:49:24 PM PDT
L. Quido says:
I really didn't view the review as having any spoilers. However, after hearing from two readers, I have added a warning at the front of the review.

quid
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