Sunday, July 8, 2012

Child 44 Book Review/Future Movie

Rating 4

Hi everyone!

I am excited to begin our review for Child 44!   For new and returning readers, please comment or ask questions when you can. :)

Lubyanka--Headquarters of the MGB
More information here.

Origins and structure of the MGB here.

Moscow 1950s

NKGB/MGB dress uniform

The serial killer in Child 44, Tom Rob Smith's first novel, was suggested by the true story of Andrei Chikatilo, who murdered over 50 women and children in Russia during the 1980s. By setting his fiction three decades before Chikatilo's crimes, the author has added powerful elements of political suspense to his page-turning tale. "I moved it to the 1950s," Smith explains, "because that's when opposing the state was most dangerous. You'd lose your life in the '50s; if you did it in the '80s you'd lose your apartment." His considerable research into Stalin's Soviet Union supports the powerful human drama at his story's heart. 
More here as well as information on Andrei Chikatilo.


  1. OB,

    I hope you are sitting down. The rights have been bought by RIDLEY SCOTT!!!!!!

  2. Hi readers!

    I absolutely loved this book. At first it seemed a little slow and I didn't know where it was going. Then it picked up and by the end I felt like I was on a runaway train! I had a bit of an issue with the ending, but I'll get to that later. I give it a solid 4.5 and would recommend it to anyone who loves mystery/psychological/historical thrillers.

  3. There were some problems yesterday with signing in and leaving comments, so please email me and I will post them.

    From our reader, Openbook:
    Hi LB-

    Sorry I'm late to the discussion but I'm here.

    Wow!! I'm absolutely 100% psyched about Ridley Scott getting the rights to this book.

    I began reading C44 last week. I like the non-linear beginning. I'm half way through it and its very compelling. I'm mostly drawn to the realistic events and character in history. I like the period Smith selected as well it he raises the suspense to astronomical levels. It moves at a reasonable pace without loosing the finer details. Ah!! But please don't tell me the ending stinks. Perhaps RS can work on the not so hot ending when its adapted..:0)

    1. Yes, I agree about the beginning. The author did a great job of keeping you on your toes, trying to figure out what is happening and piecing things together without it getting completely confusing. At first I thought I was going to have to try and remember too many names, but it wasn't the case.

      What is it about Ridley Scott that makes you excited? Yes I am a fan as well but would love to know what you think he would be able to bring to the film.

      I will be back later this morning/afternoon to give more of my review. :)

  4. One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the attention to communist detail. Communist law put the fear of God in people and the principals taught to the officers of the government: wow. Cruelty is for your protection! Ok! Geez if you looked at someone wrong or didn't say "God bless you" after a sneeze you could be imprisoned for treason or executed!

    I wonder how many women, like Raisa, married MGB out of fear and safety.

    I liked Leo. It was nice to see him evolve and become more humane towards families who were losing their loved ones to such horrific murders. And yet would he still have gravitated toward this type of person if he had not been stripped of his rank? I like that he and Raisa finally became equals. That's how marriages and partnerships should be.

    Ok, so I did NOT see who the murderer was coming. AT ALL! As soon as I read the name, I was like, "Nu-uh! No way! no . WAY!!!!" and then I was scrambling and back pedaling in the book. And then when I re-read a section, my inner southern California girl came out and I looked at my husband, and said, "duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude!!!" Of course I got the weirdest side eye. hahaha!!!!

  5. Sony,

    I think this is your second read through on the book. What did you enjoy about this book? Not enjoy?

    You mentioned your husband read it as well. What did he think?

  6. OB said:Hi LB-

    I will try to contain myself and not go on forever about RS. RS is a master of creating atmosphere on a massive scale that it enhances the character and narrative. Also, if I may add. He just gets it!! LOL!! Meaning he thinks about the motivations of the characters as well as the environment they exist within. Its like he writes an additional book just to explain how they came to be? I LOVE IT!! U really see this happening in all the Prometheus trailers I so love. But for Child 44 the atmosphere is a living breathing character on its own and its so much apart of the characters arsenal he uses to elude everyone. O.k. I think I'm done for now. How did I do?

  7. hahaha!!! Excellent! Yes, when you look at RS's resume (Alien, Thelma & Louise, Blackhawk Down, American Gangster), I mean Jiminey Cricket! This man will turn this book into a beautiful film masterpiece. Honestly, this book has so much film potential.

    I have mentioned this before, but there are some books, like TBH trilogy, that are so fleshed out and extremely well written, a film would lose so much of the emotions and storyline. Child 44 isn't as fleshed out as far as needing 3 books to tell the story. There is a little more leeway to interpret and expand scenes. Ok, hang on, I have to go look for my son's scooter.

    1. Continued...

      Little did I know how poignant that first chapter of the book would be...MWAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!

      Ok, so since this is a review, I'm writing out spoilers. I was not expecting to read how Leo's parents came about having him. As I read about the cannibalism, it reminded me of Russia during the war in TBH and how people were eating animals and dead people to survive. I cannot even fathom wheat it must be like to be so devastatingly hungry that desperate for food, that you are willing to kill domestic animals and even a person to eat.

      I'm sure Leo's adoptive parents were wonderful people as we saw how well Leo grew up and became successful. He had a great relationship with them. But to know that his father kidnapped him to feed to their son (who died shortly before he got to the family's house) was like, "Whoa. Did not see that coming." It made me question myself as a parent and what I may or may not do if my children were starving and there was no food to be had. Would I do what it took to keep them alive just like Leo's parents tried to do for their son? I would hope not and yet unless you are in certain circumstances you can't know. Is it repulsive? Yes. Such a heinous crime, but people become primal and less civilized when it comes to survival. Anyway, moving on...

    2. Well I'm dumb. This is a series. No wonder I felt the ending was kind of abrupt. If you see a person walking around with the letter "L" on their forehead, that would be me.

      "The Secret Speech" and "Agent 6" continue the story of Leo and his family. I will be checking them out tomorrow. :)

    3. Wow! Its a series? Well CR is reading C44 now. We've been taking turns. He's almost done I think. So after he finishes, I will pick it up again. So I'm trying to stay away so I don't ruin it for myself.

  8. The murders: after reading about the real Andrei and how he killed his victims (plus looking at photos), my brain just sort of short-circuited for a moment. I'm not naive to heinous crimes that happen in this world, but some are so insane and incomprehensible that you just have to stop thinking for a moment and clear your mind.

    When I read about poor Patya (I think I screwd up the name) and watching him experience the kidnapping and attempt to escape, I had to close my book. Reading the murder of a child is not an easy read. And it reminded me of "Buried" with Ryan Reynolds where you think the person is going to make it and then at the last minute you are side swiped by their demise. (Yes I just ruined that movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, but even if you haven't, don't. Seriously, I was so mind F*&@ed for days after that. )

    Um, I still don't know why book Andrei killed his victims this particular way outside of what we know about the real Andrei. I still don't know why he stuffed their mouths with chewed up tree bark or why their stomachs were taken out. Again, aside from the true life murders, I didn't see how the specific way of killing was important to Andrei trying to find his brother (Leo). Did I just somehow miss it in the book?

    Ok, I'm going to pop over to MB thread for a bit...:)

  9. Hi LB,
    I’m sorry for being absent for so long. But of course I would like to join the discussion about Child 44 – a book I would rate like you with a solid 4.5. You asked what I liked about the book, that would be a lot, from the details about every-day life in communist Russia (from the awful living conditions ordinary people had to endure up to the constant fear of being arrested for simply no reason at all), the thrilling plot (my heart nearly stopped when I read the passage where Nadya is secretely inspecting her father’s room in the basement and he turns up there, p. 428 or the one where she is meeting him in the dark and he nearly didn’t recognize her as his own child, p. 315). And, most of all, I liked Leo. And when he refused to denounce his wife I started to love him. And I loved him even more when I learned that his wife didn’t reciprocate this love at all.
    The things I didn’t like: IMO the characterization of Vasili is too one-dimensional, he’s nothing but vile and I think the real reason why he wants to bring down Leo is because in his heart of hearts he loves him and knows that Leo on the other hand despises him. I admit that it was hard work for me to learn to like Raisa a little bit. I don’t know what it was that made me dislike her so much even before I learned that she had no feelings for Leo. I felt so sorry for him when he realized that she hadn’t married him for love, that she felt nothing but contempt for him (I couldn’t believe that she would be so malicious to spit into his tea for about a week). While on the other side she is so naïve and stupid when it comes to Ivan whom she never doubted.
    You asked why Andrei killed in this particular way, LB: I think he was convinced that only his brother Pavel would hunt like that, with the string to catch the prey and the chewed up bark that was meant to subdue the permanent hunger (I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Andrei as little boy in the first chapter and how much he adored and loved his elder brother, how he wanted nothing but Pavel to be pleased with him). Andrei thought that these were signs his brother would recognize as clues from his childhood. Whereas Leo was sure everybody was taught hunting like this and tried everything to forget the past. And Andrei kept the stomachs of his victims to cook them and feed them to the cats.
    My husband really liked the book. He would agree with you that first it was a little slow but I persuaded him to go on and then he couldn’t stop, he finished it within 2 days during our holidays.

    1. Thank you Sony and welcome back!

      Thank you for refreshing my memory about Andrei's "style". Now I remember, but I think I'm still wondering why he took his victims' stomachs unless Smith was trying to tie in the vicious mutilations from real life Andrei.

      Yes the tea spitting was gross. At least she sort of redeemed herself towards the end.

      As for Vasili, he wasn't that memorable to me. Not that he wasn't a great villian-esque type character, but I was more involved with the murders as opposed to Leo's work problems.

  10. Questions:

    Why do you think Andrei was able to hide his second life from his family? Do you think his wife feared him at all or was there's a contented relationship?

    Lots of serial killers seem to live double lives. What do you think makes a person brutally murder others and yet have a group they can "pretend" to be normal with?