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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillient writing
It's not often that I give a book 5 stars but this one thoroughly deserved it. It is hard to believe that this is a first novel. Others have covered the synopsis so I shan't repeat it here, however, it does give a very good idea of what people had to endure under Stalin. This book was bought for me as a present and its genre isn't what I would normally go for as it is...
Published 23 months ago by Ralf

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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Thriller
The book begins very promisingly with the first chapter detailing the lives of a village on the brink of starvation in 1930s Russia. Two boys from one family go out hunting for the only piece of meat seen in the village for a long time - a cat. However, only one of the boys returned. The other has been killed.

The rest of the book is set in post-Second World...
Published on 20 April 2009 by J. Milton


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillient writing, 20 Jan 2013
It's not often that I give a book 5 stars but this one thoroughly deserved it. It is hard to believe that this is a first novel. Others have covered the synopsis so I shan't repeat it here, however, it does give a very good idea of what people had to endure under Stalin. This book was bought for me as a present and its genre isn't what I would normally go for as it is labelled as a political thriller, however, I was gripped right from the start. Once i had finished reading it I immediately went out and got the other two in the series, 'The Secret Speech', which brings us in to the 60's, and ending with 'Agent 6' which is in the 70's. The main character Leo, who works for the MGB (former KGB) and totally believes in the State, undergoes a transformation as the series continues. All the characters are very believable and you quickly feel empathy with them. I can't recommend the books enough.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Non stop reality, 20 Feb 2012
By 
Amazon Customer "mnk303" (Horsham West Sussex UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Child 44 (Kindle Edition)
I have just read the most fantastic book of my life, I found myself kept stealing a few minutes reading on my phone kndle ap when ever I had forgotten my iPad or kindle , I could not sleep for the need to want to read more. It seemed so real, and, yet provided so much excitement. Being a son of a father from eastern europe (Hungarian) I knew very little of fathers life when the Russians invaded, only a bit about what he said, this book brought to life so many things he said about life back then, the hunger, the disregard for human life, the killing, the way humans were less thought of than a dog. Humans were just there to feed the big Starlin war machine. I am not a verynintelligent man, my Engilsh is poor because I am dyslexic, but I am so happy it is not so bad hat it stops me reading lovely books like this! for me inwishnonly that the story never ended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Approaching Greatness, 3 Mar 2010
This review is from: Child 44 (Paperback)
It's very hard to fault Child 44 but I'll give it a go. Firstly, the novel is too long and occasionally lacks pace - not because the story isn't gripping (it is) but because Smith seems intent on cramming as much conventional action into his plot as possible. Smith is at his best when the danger is implicit rather than explicit. Stalinist Russia is as much a character in this book as Leo, Raisa and Vasili, and it is the State's inherent power and menace that gives the book so much of its identity. When Smith writes action (chases and fights), he loses control and his novel descends into the ordinary. These scenes appear rather silly in the context of such a measured and mature work. Thirdly, as other reviewers have noted, the denouement is just a little TOO neat, a bit TOO full-circle to really satisfy. The plotting is far too accomplished for the ending to appear wholly contrived but I'm not convinced that the killer's motive is sufficiently plausible. Finally, the epilogue contained far too much saccharine for my tastes: it's a big spoonful of sugar that makes you gag rather than leaving a smile on your face. And now for the good news. Overall, Child 44 is an absolute triumph. My criticisms are afterthoughts and did not interfere with my enjoyment of the story. Given how well-written, how well-researched and how exquisitely plotted this book is, ANY criticism borders on the churlish. The characterisation is strong, the scale impressive. But it is Smith's timing that really catches the eye. The manner in which he allows the story to leak out, little by little, is phenomenal. The relationship between Leo and Raisa is as gripping as the mystery itself. Their exchange of secrets towards the end of the novel is an unexpected gem in a hitherto bleak landscape. I won't hurry to read The Secret Speech - but only because it is going to take a while to digest the full brilliance of Child 44. This is not the perfect thriller but it's as good as anything I've read in the last five years.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book., 20 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Child 44 (Kindle Edition)
One of the best spy thrillers I have ever read. Do not pass this one up. I've already spread the word amongst my friends.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Thriller, 20 April 2009
By 
J. Milton - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Child 44 (Paperback)
The book begins very promisingly with the first chapter detailing the lives of a village on the brink of starvation in 1930s Russia. Two boys from one family go out hunting for the only piece of meat seen in the village for a long time - a cat. However, only one of the boys returned. The other has been killed.

The rest of the book is set in post-Second World War Russia where a young MGB, Leo, is hard at work doing the dirty work of the state until he is asked to deal with a colleague who suspects that his son has been murdered. There are no murders, in Soviet Russia as murders only happen in capitalist countries, so it is recorded as an accident on a railway line and Leo suggests that his colleague accepts the result. However, a series of similar child murders and a jealous rival mean that Leo's faith in the system is shattered through a series of unfortunate events. The rest of the book follows Leo's attempts to catch the murderer in a state that doesn't accept that murders can take place.

Overall, the novel is ok and deserves 4 stars. It is fast-paced and kept me engaged, without being ground breaking, from beginning to end. The ending is where I have an issue with the book. I overlooked the naivety of Leo, who as a seasoned MGB officer gets himself into some serious pickles, as it is a means to an end of keeping the story going. However, the ending is so unlikely it verges on the farcical. The series of events that combine to create the ending could and would never happen, regardless of the country that the book is set in. For this very reason, I have given the book 3 stars instead of the four I would have given it.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Child 44 Review, 20 April 2011
This review is from: Child 44 (Paperback)
Having read a considerable amount of Russian history, and it having received such good reviews, I was eager to read Child 44 .
The story itself is set at a good pace and the plot unwinds nicely. The author has clearly done considerable research and taken great pains to accurately describe the various Soviet institutions encountered in the novel. Famous agencies like the MGB and buildings like Lubyanka are vividly drawn with confidence and the reader is given enough information to understand their importance in the world his characters inhabit. The comments on Soviet history occasionally feel forced and do not always flow from the narrative - on one occasion I felt as if I was reading a student's history exercise book rather than a novel - but on the whole it is done well. I give great credit to the author for conveying the paranoia and fear of Soviet life, the danger each person faced on a every day basis, and the cruel logic that the society used to torture an entire generation. Several ethical dilemmas are created which, though tragic and difficult for a modern western reader to understand, are interesting and extremely thought provoking. I liked the fact the author did not shy away from describing the dark - and rarely discussed by the West - events that happened during the Soviet period (like the great famine) and it is commendable that a novelist in the West writes about them with such honesty. The main characters, whilst believable, are not drawn well enough from the start, and I found myself unconcerned about their plight and uninterested by them towards the end. Scenes at the end comes across as mawkish and at odds with the dark subject matter. Where I feel the novel really lets itself down is the plot and the final twist. I found certain aspects of the plot to be improbable and the twist unnecessary. For this reason I found myself increasingly disinterested with the novel. Having read a considerable amount of Russian history from this period I was not convinced that the end would happen as it does. Also the novel ends abruptly and unsatisfactory - after the long build up it did not deliver the end promised.
I believe this novel would be enjoyed by people with a limited knowledge of Soviet history and its literature. I felt the novel did not live up to the good reviews it received, but it is still an enjoyable, thought provoking read, and a good starting place for anyone who wishes to learn more about this period of twentieth century history. For a first novel this is very good and I will be interested in what the young writer will produce in the future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It grows on you!, 12 April 2012
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This review is from: Child 44 (Kindle Edition)
I really struggled with the first 80-ish pages of this book. I almost gave up but suddenly it 'turned' and became absolutely FANTASTIC! I am onto the third book now!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How do you stop a serial killer in a society where according to the government crime doesn't exist?, 11 Jan 2010
This review is from: Child 44 (Paperback)
Taking place in the 1950's amongst the terrors of Stalinist Russia, Child 44 unravels the story of Leo Demidov, a state security agent who is determined to go against the system risking both his life and the life of everyone he loves in order to gain justice and catch a child serial killer.

The novel extracts feelings of anger and aggravation reflecting on the true story of Andrei Chikatilo who murdered more than sixty children in the 1980's. Smith identified that Chikatilo continued to escape being caught due to the state refusing to admit he existed. Inspired by these events Tom Rob Smith created his debut novel, only moving the scenario back in time to the 1950's when the consequences for going against Stalinist ideals were much higher.

Child 44 fits into the thriller genre perfectly from the raised blood red font on the cover to the shocking twist at the end. The book is a frustrating yet gripping read leaving the reader eager for the criminal to be brought to justice. Unsurprisingly, the books originality resulted in it being shortlisted for the Costa book awards, in 2008. It failed to scoop the award, possibly due to Tom Rob Smith's desire to explore every element of life in Stalinist Russia, this overrides the plot, leaving complicated adjacent story lines and characters which fail to be revealed in a great depth. The book overall is a real triumph, only a limited number of books can explore the morals of the Soviet Union in such depth as well as whisking its readers to a world of suspense and emotion.
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107 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb thriller debut, 4 Mar 2008
By 
George Rodger - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Child 44 (Hardcover)
I was amazed to see that this is the author's debut novel - the writing is very assured, and you know you're in the hands of a craftsman from the start.
The paranoid, shabby setting of the Soviet Union in the 1950s, still under Stalin's rule and still shadowed by the war, is beautifully done - as is the characterisation, the plotting, the sheer grip of the story.
Secret policeman and war hero Leo Demidov is Soviet Man incarnate - unswervingly loyal and unquestioning in his pursuit of the State's enemies - until a powerplay by a jealous subordinate threatens his life, and that of Raisa, his wife.
Thrown out of the MGB in disgrace and exiled to a bleak factory city in the Urals, Leo's world and beliefs are turned upside down. Then he discovers that in the Communist paradise that denies that crime is possible, there exists the worst criminal of all - a serial killer of children. He and Raisa must risk everything to pursue a terrifying killer, even if doing so makes them enemies of the State...

I understand that the author has written screenplays, and this thriller has a cinematic edge and suspense, wrapped up in very fine writing - it's one of the best I've read, and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you love thrillers, you won't be disappointed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Russian Chiller, 15 Mar 2010
This review is from: Child 44 (Paperback)
It is a question that continues to be asked, just how deprived and repressed were Russia's citizens during Stalin's period? Tom Rob Smith paints a particularly harrowing picture, one where whole villages failed to survive a severe winter, where mass starvation, the state's use of terror to subjugate its people and the corruption of the individual in order that he or she may survive at the expense of others forms the backdrop to Tom Rob Smith's debut novel.

Child 44 opens with the hunting of a domestic cat for food by two starving children, a remarkable yet necessary accomplishment for ones so young. Such is the state of starvation in their village that they must alert no-one else that a cat might be in the vicinity for fear others may get to it first. Even then they risk their own lives if they are discovered because cannabilism might be on the menu. So the local social structures have disintegrated, it is every man for him or her self.

On a national scale the criminal justice system itself has been overtaken by state control to the point where certain crimes no longer exist because, if they did, then they would be an inadmissable stain upon the state's character, Stalin's character. In support of this certain people have been categorised as non-citizens so any crime they commit is simply a non-crime; whilst their deeds are still punishable by shipment to the gulags they are not recordable statistics and so cannot sully the country's reputation, Stalin's reputation. Right at the very end of this story our questionable hero Leo Demidov requests the inauguration of a homicide department within Moscow's police force, it is a strange idea, difficult to take on board since homicide simply does not exist on Russia's list of possible crimes.

Tom Rob Smith was persuaded by watching the TV series 24 to write a fast-paced, episode-driven crime thriller that follows the fortunes of a central figure from a high-ranking start, through intrigue and animosity into a downward spiral of suspicion and demotion to rock-bottom, where things cannot possibly get any worse but do just that. Leo Demidov is our difficult-to-sympathise-with hero; cruel, state-produced MGB officer Leo upholds Stalin's inexplicable values and enforces them upon a terrified, subdued population. He enjoys priviledges ranging from superior housing for himself and his family to access to food and clothing way beyond the reach of the population at large. When he falls, he and those close to him fall a long way. His convenience wife Riasa, the beautiful Raisa, is caught up and has to decide, as does Leo, just where her future best interests lie.

The depiction of life in Stalin's Russia is haltingly cruel and impossible to imagine; even the ability of one family member to denounce another, thereby signing their death warrant, pales against the state's treatment of the thousands of children orphaned by Stalin's purges who are simply an unwanted by-product of the persecution mania and, reluctantly, consigned to live in the most awful orphanages.

Child 44 is a ripping yarn, it does conjure up beleivable characters in extreme circumstances, it does stretch credibility with the ending but you will not want to put it down once you start.

An excellent first from and exciting new author.
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Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
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