Thursday, March 26, 2009

Child 44

by Tom Rob Smith.
Three words: Stalinist Russia. Bleak.
The book is essentially a murder mystery but, set as it is in 1950s Russia, is also a 1984esque story of the individual's struggle against the totalitarian state.
Both Orwell and Solzhenitsyn did it better.

There are enough twists and turns to keep the story interesting - the finaland quite significant twist did, in fact, come as something as a surprise.
However, I got fed up with Smith constantly bludgeoning me with the evils of the Stalinist state. And bludgeon he does. Endlessly.
Still, the hunt for the murderer was sufficiently well told to keep me intrigued. Leo, who works for the State Security forces, the MGB, is sent to tell his friend that their child was not murdered, it was just an unfortunate accident (it happened near a railway line). The fact that the boy's stomach had been removed and his mouth filled with dirt was seen as irrelevant somehow. There is no crime in Stalin's Russia you see.
Meanwhile, Leo's wife comes under suspicion as a spy - which she's not but that's irrelevant too. An accusation is the same as a guilty verdict. (And I wish I had a dollar for every time Smith made that point.)
Leo is demoted and they're sent to a town out in the East. While there, another child is murdered in the same way. Leo starts to investigate. He finds that there have been 44 such murders across the country - following the railway line.
What follows is Leo's attempts to hunt down the murderer - against the orders of his superiors who have already convicted various undesirables for these crimes.
That part of the story is worth reading.

One other thing that annoyed me - this is a book in dire need of a decent proof reader!

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