Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
This book is about Leo, an MGB (Security Police) officer in Stalinist Russia. The principal action takes place in 1953. While the story is excellent-a thriller about trying to stop a serial killer-what I liked the most was the glimpse this book offers into life in the USSR. As a child of the Cold War, Russia and China were the great, mysterious enemies of my developmental years, so I've always been curious about what it was really like for every day Communists. The writing here is spare and matter of fact, which is exactly how I pictured life under Communism-emotions are subordinate to the requirements of survival. The layout of the book has all the dialog in italics preceeded by a dash and this atypical way of setting off people's words makes them seem somehow whispered, just in case someone is listening.
If you like police-type dramas, you'll probably like this one no matter what. If you don't like thrillers but might want to have your horizons widened about how the limitations and horrors of the Soviet system affected individuals just trying to live their lives, then check this one out. I don't usually reach for books of this type because frankly, I hate suspense, but this story had me captivated from the beginning. It is significant for me that I did not read the end first-I was that engaged.
There is violence and several descriptions of crime scenes and the brutality of the MGB's methods (including torture), but I did not find them gratuitous, instead they helped evoke the needed emotions for the story to have its full impact.
Posted by Kellie on Tuesday, November 11, 2008