Tom Rob Smith – Child 44

Once again sorry for the movie tie in cover but I bought this book at a sale

I am surprised how this novel was actually longlisted for the 2008 Booker! On one hand although I do admire Tom Rob Smith for avoiding the cliches that come with crime novels, I also think this is the book’s undoing as well because although Child 44 is advertised as a thriller it is something else entirely.

Child 44 deals with a detective, Leo Demidov, in post Stalinist Russia, investigating a series of murdered children. However what is stopping him from carrying out his investigation is Russian politics.

There’s no need to go into the murders. They aren’t important. In fact the everything can be solved within 250 pages. The crux is how the Stalinist police force dealt with people who were accused of betraying the state. The first 200 pages of this book are like some form of training manual as it is stuffed with interrogation techniques, tortures, faked confessions , betrayal and so on. When the actual mystery starts the reader knows who committed what and the book descends into Russian politics again.

To be fair, Child 44 is a gripping read and I do like the way Smith writes about the paranoia that people suffered from but I was not in the mood for a 470 page guide on MGB during Stalin’s reign and it’s evolution after his death (no huge changes at this point) I wanted a proper mystery where I would have to figure out who the killer is so I could slowly solve the crime.

Child 44 itself is not a bad book after all, it is clever in how politics are pushed to the front but I would have preferred something else. Plus I did not like the fact that an animal is killed early on in the book, despite the fact that the killing forms an important part of the novel and is what helps solve the mystery..

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