Child 44 review

I’m not typically drawn to thrillers, with their implausible twists and too convenient coincidences, but Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith has something going for it besides publicity: it’s set in Stalin’s Soviet Union. As an American author who has studied Russian and plans to write a novel about the siege of Stalingrad, I was curious to see how Smith, a British screenwriter close to my age, handled a story with a similar setting. Loosely based on the actual serial killings committed by Andrei Chikatilo, Child 44 reads like a punch to the gut. It begins with the inhumane conditions inflicted by the famine that ravaged Ukraine, the Soviet Union’s bread basket, in the 1930’s, and doesn’t let up from there. This is a relentless book. The climate is relentless, the system is relentless, the killer and his pursuer are relentless, as is the pursuit of the pursuer, a man who becomes a target of the state security force he once served. Smith’s depictions of the treatment of the victims of the system and the victims of the murderer are also relentless. As I read I was waiting for Smith to address Stalin’s death in March, 1953, and he did not disappoint in that aspect, but I did find his occasional use of Russian words in the text to be a distraction rather than an addition. True to the thriller form, this book does have its coincidences which allow for a tidy finish to the story, but it is a satisfying conclusion nonetheless. I recommend reading the book before the Ridley Scott film comes out!


One Response to “Child 44 review”

  1. […] Demidov, the persecutor-turned-protector from Smith’s first novel Child 44 (see review posted 6/17/08), returns in the role of surrogate father to a pair of orphaned girls. Leo was responsible for the […]

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