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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Child Thief
Leaving behind the tropical locales of his previous works, Dark Horizons and Dry Season, Dan Smith's third book, The Child Thief, is set in western Ukraine. It's a harsh winter in the 1930s with communist troops scouting the area for villages to ransack, and paranoia lurking in every near-destitute household.

The Child Thief opens with the figure of man...
Published on 26 July 2012 by Eva Dolan

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mmm
This started off well, with the discovery of the wandering man with the dead children and then just stagnated at the same plodding pace, so much so that I found myself skipping numreous pages and still being able to pick up the story. Certainly not engaging enough to make me want to find out what happened @ the end.
Published 6 months ago by Fireball 61


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Child Thief, 26 July 2012
This review is from: The Child Thief (Kindle Edition)
Leaving behind the tropical locales of his previous works, Dark Horizons and Dry Season, Dan Smith's third book, The Child Thief, is set in western Ukraine. It's a harsh winter in the 1930s with communist troops scouting the area for villages to ransack, and paranoia lurking in every near-destitute household.

The Child Thief opens with the figure of man lumbering out of the snow. Worn down and exhausted he is dragging a sledge behind him, which contains the bodies of two dead children, towards the isolated village of Vyriv. He is spotted by Luka, a Russian war veteran, now settled to the life of a farmer with a wife and children of his own. He takes the stranger into his home and tends the gunshot wound on his body, wanting to find out his story when he has recovered. The children's corpses bear terrible injuries, consistent with cannibalism, and once the other villagers become aware of this their fear drives them to mob justice, which Luka is powerless to stop. They drag the stranger out into the snow and lynch him.

Once the frenzied attack is over the ringleader Dmitri realises that his little girl is missing and the man they have killed must have been innocent. Luka is the only person in Vyriv capable of tracking the child thief across the treacherous terrain, so he strikes out with his sons and Dmitri, driven by a promise made to his daughter to bring her friend home safely.

Quickly Luka realises that the man they are hunting is no ordinary criminal. A skilled survivalist and shooting with a technique honed through warfare, he is playing with them, drawing them out into the open at will and approaching their camp unseen. The hunters become the hunted but to what purpose Luka doesn't know. As they move deeper into the frozen countryside they become aware that the child thief isn't the only threat in the snowy forests. The Bolsheviks are closing in, clearing villages and killing without mercy, creeping towards the families Luka and Dmitri left behind in Vyriv.

Dan Smith has created something special with The Child Thief. It's a crime novel with enormous narrative drive and he maintains a sense of uncertainty right up to the final, exhilarating pages. But there are big themes here too, man against nature, the responsibilities of family and the dehumanising effects of warfare on civilians and soldiers alike. The political situation of 1930s Ukraine is well handled, with the Bolsheviks operating as a more ominous threat than the man Luka is hunting; Smith's knowledge of the period shines through here and gives real weight to the story.

The Child Thief is a page-turner of the highest calibre. Atmospheric, beautifully written and thoroughly engrossing, it's a real miss-your-stop novel, and it promises great things for Smith's next offering, which is set during the Russian Civil War. If you're a fan of historical novels you'll find this several cuts above the norm and if not prepare to be converted.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Natural Born Storyteller, 12 May 2012
This review is from: The Child Thief (Kindle Edition)
Expectation fulfilled was the first phrase that sprung to mind when writing this review.This is the third novel by Dan Smith and a distinct shift into the historical thriller with all its potential pitfalls. The setting Ukraine is unusual in a period little written about in my experience and all the more intriguing for it.The necessary historical exposition is neither lengthy nor does it jar the reader out of the story, but gives sufficient meaning to the main characters actions and reactions to the growing horror both personal and political.
Whilst child abduction, murder and political torture maybe the story of this book the main theme is love of family both the need, loss and memory of it that motivates all the main characters. It may therefore be surprising and to my mind a reflection of the authors talent that a book with such a macabre, disturbing tale can leave the reader genuinely uplifted. That's quite a skill and one I thoroughly recommend you read to appreciate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-stopping drama, 28 May 2012
By 
VPeanuts (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Child Thief (Hardcover)
This, Dan Smith's third novel, is a departure from him previous two books. Usually set in hot, jungle climes, 'The Child Thief' is a historical thriller set in the Ukraine in the middle of a punishing winter.

This novel follows Luca - a war veteran - who sets out to save his niece from whoever has stolen her from their small village. Combining his determination to return his niece to her home with his skills as a sharp shooter, Luca doesn't anticipate much of a battle. However, the child thief has other plans. Set to a backdrop of political suspicion and paranoia, 'The Child Thief' is a remarkable achievement: a cross between George Orwell and 'The Road'.

The description of the landscape is beautifully detailed without being unnecessary. Smith's exposition regarding the political situation is informative without being boring. This lesser-known historical conflict has some light shed on it whilst still maintaining the pace of the primary story.

Luca's story is a demonstration of how the political and the personal merge. He is determined to bring his niece back to the village but all the while he must remain aware of the possibility that, while he is away, his village may be overrun by Soviet troops, making it impossible for any of them to return home.

'The Child Thief' is a study of guilt, family, what it is to be a hero and the psychology - and after-effects - of war.

This novel is atmospheric and taut, many scenes had me holding my breath with nerves while willing the protagonist to stay alive. This is an absolutely thrilling, heart-stopping read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The child thief, 10 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Child Thief (Kindle Edition)
I didn't particularly want to read this book from the synopsis on the back but the reviews persuaded me otherwise - I am so glad I read it, it is brilliant, very atmospheric and builds to a climax at the end that had me on the edge of my seat! A great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not un-put-downable, 21 Sep 2013
By 
Noel (Belfast, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Child Thief (Paperback)
This is the best novel I have read this year. It is set in the 1930's in Soviet controlled Ukraine, in the winter snows, in a rural village on the brink of its enforced collectivisation. Tough lives are about to become even tougher. There is something about deep snow, frozen landscapes and leaden skies which increases the tension is almost any story and it is very well used by Dan Smith. However the battle is not just against the elements and the Soviet army, there is a personal battle afoot too.

A mysterious stranger arrives in the village and on his sledge are two children one of whom seems to have been carved like the Sunday joint. A child thief is on the loose and when one of the village children disappears Luka and his two teenage sons set out with the missing girl's father to try to track her and her abductor. Awful things follow and in the space of a few very cold days lives are changed for ever. Luka is a Russian, a former soldier in various armies who has ended up as an unwilling farmer in this remote village because it is the home place of his wife.

I got to know Luka and his twin sons Victor and Petro quickly and very well. That is why this book became the reverse of unputdownable for me. On two occasions I had to set the book aside because I could not bear to read on knowing what was inevitably going to happen to them. Just when you think things are sorting out to their advantage be ready to be felled with another blow. On the second occasion (within 40 pages or so from the end of the book), the setaside period lasted nearly a week, so painful was the story. Not since I read 'All Quiet on the Western Front' 20 years ago have I become so involved with the fate of the characters in a book. Read it! All the way to the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Gripping, 31 July 2012
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Child Thief (Paperback)
It is December 1930 and we are in Ukraine; Luka, a war veteran lives in Vyriv, a small village, with his wife, Natalia, his twin teenage sons, Viktor and Petro and his nine-year-old daughter, Lara. The Soviet Government has recently introduced collectivization, where any man who can afford to feed himself and his family is forced to hand his property over to the state. However, as Vyriv is such a small, remote village it has, for the moment, been overlooked but Luka knows that it is only a matter of time before the Soviet authorities discover his home. In the meantime, while Luka is out hunting on a bitterly cold day with his sons, he sees a stranger in the distance pulling a sled across the vast snowy steppe. When the man comes closer, Luka is prepared to shoot, but the man drops at his feet unconscious and Luka, who is a decent man, takes the man and his cargo back to his home, but when he sees what is lying under the cover on the sled, his blood runs cold.

When the rest of the villagers see what the stranger was carrying on the sled, they turn on Luka and then drag the stranger away and kill him. While all of this is happening, Luka's eight-year-old niece, Dariya, is kidnapped from the village, and when Luka searches through the stranger's possessions, he realizes that the man was trying to track down a child killer - most probably the person who has taken Dariya. Taking matters into his own hands, Luka who is a skilled tracker and a sharp-shooter, sets out with his sons and Dariya's father, to track down the child thief and to rescue his niece. However before long, Luka realizes that the kidnapper is no ordinary criminal; he is a psychopathic killer and he is using Dariya as bait for his bizarre and terrible game, and if Luka cannot outwit him, he and his sons will pay with their lives. But Luka not only has to try and stay one step ahead of the killer, he also needs to tread carefully in order not to arouse the interest of Soviet soldiers who are in the area. (Please note that I haven't included any spoilers here, this all happens early on in the book).

I borrowed this novel from my brother who warned me that I might find the content disturbing; well, he was right, I did find the content disturbing, but I also found it a very atmospheric and totally gripping read with a very strong narrative drive and I was engrossed throughout the entire length of the book. Dan Smith imparts details about the political situation of the time in an informative way, but in a way that is never heavy-handed, and looks at the situation from the personal aspect of the characters involved. His depiction of the bitingly cold conditions and of how Luka and his sons find ways to cope with the harsh territory around them is particularly good and his descriptive writing sends chills up and down the spine in more ways than one. He also builds layer upon layer of tension throughout the whole story and just when you think everything's going to be all right, he adds yet another layer. I found this novel to be a very compelling and convincing read and, although it's a cliché, I really did find this book difficult to put down.

4.5 Stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mmm, 30 April 2014
By 
Fireball 61 (Moray, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Child Thief (Kindle Edition)
This started off well, with the discovery of the wandering man with the dead children and then just stagnated at the same plodding pace, so much so that I found myself skipping numreous pages and still being able to pick up the story. Certainly not engaging enough to make me want to find out what happened @ the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and original thriller, 16 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Child Thief (Kindle Edition)
Combines history of Russia with an intriguing story set in graphically described winter of Ukraine. This is the second of his books I have enjoyed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars no cold comfort, 29 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Child Thief (Paperback)
it was a well thought out and exciting story that convincingly portrayed the depths that post revolutionary russia had sunk to and highlighted the heros battered but not lost humanity
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good to discover a new author!!!, 25 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Child Thief (Kindle Edition)
Exciting, thrilling, horrifying, what more can you ask for in a book.....genuinely a book that you just can't put down!!!
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The Child Thief
The Child Thief by Dan Smith (Paperback - 9 May 2013)
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