Wednesday, May 13, 2009


No, it's not a new sub-genre -- but it could be given the number of new classifications there are out there. Nope, it's the best way I can think of, other than GREAT, to describe today's book. 

I read Tom Rob Smith's debut, Child 44, and was completely blown away by it. Now I'm a little weird in that I've always been fascinated with Eastern Europe and Russia and would probably have found this one on my own anyway, but I do specifically remember reading an ad for the book that prompted me to seek it out. And I don't remember it having all that much info on the book other than that it dealt with a serial killer in communist Russia -- and that critics were raving about it. Shortly after beginning the book it was clear to me why all the hype: It was worth it! 

Well, the sequel, The Secret Speech, is due to hit shelves next Tuesday and I was lucky enough to snag a review copy, which I finished in one day over the weekend. So yes, it is very much time for me to get the word out to any stragglers out there who haven't had a chance to read the fabulousness that is Child 44, I mean it's kind of my civic duty, right? That way you  will be ready when The Secret Speech is released. All that said, here's my review of Child 44 from the BB archives:

In Stalinist Russia, the government would have you believe that Communism is the only way to live, that their system is the best, that they’ve eliminated crime and jealousy. To attempt to speak out and disprove the government means years of hard labor and even death. Everyone lives on edge wondering if they will be the next ones on the militia’s hit list. Leo Demidov, a war hero and well-respected member of the elite militia, has never questioned authority until now. His wife is accused of being a spy and Leo must show where his loyalties lie – with his superiors, or with his family. The wrong decision results in his exile and demotion. Then, a body is discovered. The accused is a mentally challenged teen from a local asylum. Leo knows that the boy can’t be responsible. In fact, Leo knows that this is not the first murder of its kind. But how do you prove there is a serial killer on the loose in a country that disavows even the possibility of crime. On his own, Leo discovers a second body in the area and, believing that he has proven the boy’s innocence, turns it over to authorities. Instead, the boy is killed for the first murder and a witch-hunt begins for a second killer, the government’s way of eliminating undesirables amongst their perfect society. A search through local records reveals over forty bodies and Leo will literally risk everything to find the real killer. This is one of the most talked about books of the year, and I’ve got to tell you, it definitely lives up to the hype. It’s a brilliant debut based on painstaking research. Smith’s attention, not only to the physical details of his setting, but to the emotional strain and motivations of his characters amidst this environment, are impeccable. This will be one of the best books you read all year.

Child 44 made my best of list last year hands down. And The Secret Speech is definitely a contender this year. Smith's debut earned him the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award for Best Thriller of 2008. 

Readers who enjoy smart thrillers in a slightly historical setting (post-WWII Russia) will love Smith's work. HIs research is impeccable (I've read articles where he claimed he was very careful not to write what's called a cranberry -- mistakes made by non-Russian writers), his setting is unbelievably perfect for this kind of thriller, and I love his characters. I really do. I hope there's another of these in the works, but I really don't know what Smith's got in store next. We'll all just have to wait and see. 


Vickie said...

I was waiting for it to be released in MPB and now I can go get it. Thanks for the reminder and review.

Icedream said...

On of my top fav's from last year too! I think you were the one who clued me in with your review. I thought it was so original and I am looking forward to Secret Speech.