Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Review of Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Simon and Schuster, 2008)
Child 44 is an assured and competent debut. The novel starts with a well crafted opening hook and unfolds at a steady pace. The historical contextualisation and sense of place is good throughout, with Smith depicting a paranoid and oppressed society where even the security services and family members are afraid of each other. The characterisation is solid, especially the idealistic and often naive Leo Demidov, and his more worldly-wise wife, Raisa. The prose is for the most part fairly workmanlike and the story fits the category of historical police procedural thriller, rather than a literary novel, as I’ve seen it described elsewhere. The plotting is well handled up until near the end. The twist was purely a literary device and undermined the credibility of the story. It could have been resolved in a more straightforward manner, which for me at least would have been more satisfactory. Overall, an engaging and crafted story with a contrived resolution.