London-born writer Tom Rob Smith just may be the go-to author for people who are ready to move on from Stieg Larsson's Millenium series. Smith's first book, Child 44, bears all the hallmarks of a great crime thriller - enduring suspense, characters who grow with the well-plotted storyline, and a relevant setting of historical authenticity, in this case, post-Stalinist Russia. His subsequent novel, The Secret Speech, and an upcoming publication, Agent 6, carry forward the story of Leo Stepanovich Demidov, former member of the MGB, as he and his family adapt to his new position in the Soviet State security system.
At the heart of Child 44 is the mystery behind a seemingly inexplicable and horrible series of child murders occurring across a wide area of the Soviet Union. A secretive, paranoid regime is unable to acknowledge that such crimes are possible, let alone that they may be connected. Innocent victims face torture, character assassination, gulags and misery, all so that the myth of a perfect political state might be perpetuated. Meanwhile the vicious child slaughters continue unabated.
One man, Leo Demidov, develops the conscience and courage to investigate these murders as crimes of a serial killer. As the author notes on his Web site, "How a crime is investigated is a very useful litmus test for larger forces within a society, the priorities and prejudices of that world. I guess with CHILD 44 I wanted to combine both those elements, the puzzle and the period in which this puzzle is unraveling." Although the novel's child murders are based on the true crimes of Ukrainian serial killer Andre Chikatilo, Tom Rob Smith fits them into his own web of cause and effect, and once again it is Leo Demidov who is at the center of it all.
Smith shares that he was always a reader, loved adventure stories and took them in whatever form they came - mythology, history, science fiction, television, drama or film. Perhaps the author's work as a storyliner for various British television shows following his graduation from Cambridge helped shape Child 44 into a story that would translate well cinematographically. Apparently Ridley Scott, director of "Alien" and "Blade Runner," thinks so too, as he has bought the rights to the book for a future film production.