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Cild 44- Review

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith
Where to start with this book? The reviews for it have been hysterically positive. And I am not going to be the lone voice of dissent.

It is a very good book that is less about the crime than the people who inhabit Soviet Russia circa 1953. And I guess this is true of great crime fiction. Great characters bring you back for more. However, my overall feeling is that the 'crime' of this fiction is just a subterfuge for Smith to delve into the grotesqueness of every day Soviet life. The who, how, and why-done-it are never nearly as important as the day in the life aspects of Soviet citizens. Child 44 is billed as serial killer novel, now that is probably too reductive, but the book is called Child 44. I don't think there are any illusions what those 44 children refer too. And while I am sure a substantial portion of the book is devoted to the 'serial killer' it certainly is not the best part of the book or at least the most memorable.

The craft is exceptional but make no mistake, Mr. Smith is more taken with exploring aspects of Soviet life. Indeed a persuasive argument could be made that the Soviet State is the more fascinating serial killer of this novel and not the child killer who is revealed at the books conclusion. Because the craft is so high I don't want to make it seem that I did not enjoy this book. I enjoyed it greatly. We just get a lot of character and not much story. Presumably given the ending of this book we are dealing with a series, some of these character details could have been teased out over the course of a few books.

So what am I really on about here. I guess if I have a criticism it is about the bait and switch aspect of the novel. I was promised one thing and got another.... which admittedly was a great read. But I guess I was hoping for a little more truth in advertising which is not really Mr. Smith's fault... or is it?


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