Tom Rob Smith burst onto the scene in 2008 with his debut novel Child 44, which has gone on to sell millions of copies and win a host of awards.
Set in Stalinist Russia, Leo Demidov is a popular and loyal agent for the MGB, the State's Security Force. The state controls everything, from where you live to the food you eat and conditions are bleak. Anyone can be sent to the gulag or executed on the spot for the most trivial of infractions and many are arrested and tortured.
In performing his duties, Leo comes across the death of a boy found naked on a set of train tracks. Convinced he has been murdered, his family are desperate for the state to investigate, but Leo must convince them otherwise. Why? There's no crime in Russia. The citizens have everything they need, so there's no need to commit any crime. In fact, to suggest otherwise is a crime against the state.
Leo soon learns of similar cases across the country and becomes convinced Russia has a serial killer. Unfortunately his superiors won't listen, and Leo must decide whether to risk his life (and that of his parents and wife) to investigate or turn a blind eye and live.
The serial killer in Child 44 is based on the true crimes of Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian man convicted of 52 murders (committed between 1978-1990) and otherwise known as the Rostov Ripper.
The introduction to Child 44 takes place in a time of famine, and Smith's powers of description are impressive. The writing style is completely different compared to his latest novel The Farm (a contemporary thriller) which I've been recommending to anyone who reads.
Further evidence of its success, Child 44 is coming to the big screen next year in the hands of the legendary Ridley Scott and I can't wait.
Check out my interview with author Tom Rob Smith.
My rating = ****