Book Review: Child 44

Child 44
Wow! Reading Child 44 can literally give you the chills. Imaginative and beautifully evoking a sense of time and place, although not quite as fantastic and mind-mending as The Farm, author Tom Rob Smith spins a dark, desolate (as bleak as the barren icy landscapes of Russia) gripping psychological drama set during Stalin's 1953 Soviet Union. More than anything, the novel's exploration of homosexuality makes for a gut-wrenching read, in addition to it being a deftly orchestrated red-herring.

On the surface, it is a case of serial murders, 44 murders in fact, all children, hence the title Child 44, referring to the first child murder that opens the book, but it's much more than that, offering a compelling historical and cultural insight into the country post World War II. And about how paranoia and fear ("Trust but check. Check on those we trust.") is fed into the minds of people to facilitate a crime-free Communist society. And also about a dogmatic war-hero who loses his belief in the all-powerful State as he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake, trying to piece together the case of the grisly murders despite the threat to his life and his family. A first-rate genre-defying literary thriller.