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Child 44 Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 29, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 1,157 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Child 44 Trilogy Series

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, April 29, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 439 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 2nd Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446402389
  • ASIN: B0029LHX1W
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,443,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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3 Comments 83 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ok, so I was born and raised in Soviet Russia, my grandparents were living their lives during the time described in this book. The author claimed that some russian lady reviewed this book but either she didn't do a good job or the author didn't listen. I am sorry, but nobody would name their son Leo in a Russian village in 1930. Leonid -yes, Lev - yes, Vladlen (Vladimir Lenin) - yes, Leo- NO. Leo is also never used as a short for Leonid. Lenya is. But I was ready to overlook this detail (the name of the main character) for the sake of the very interesting story. Which is it was at first: interesting and even believable. The author lost me at the escape from the train. People arrested in Stalin's Soviet Union would not help anyone escape because it meant death to them and their families. Then when the whole village of people decided to help Leo and Raisa (by the way, she would be called Raya by her husband and family, Raisa is too formal), I started laughing. It was not possible in 1953. By that time, all people with courage were killed or sent to Gulag. The survivors were either believers or adapters. Either way, nobody dared do, say, think, or even dream against the Party. Finally, I mean what a stupid motive for killing all these children... Don't you think, it would be easier to write a letter to his brother?
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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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