In his debut novel Smith has painted a bleak picture of Stalin's Russia where blind faith in the State, or pretence of it, is the norm. Across the dis..Show More »parate parts of this story people's actions and decisions are fuelled by paranoia, desperation and vengeance. Many people abuse whatever power they have and many others live in constant fear of that abuse. The few acts motivated by love, friendship or hope are memorable for their rarity. In some ways this is a familiar picture of Russia during this era but I thought Smith did a better job than many writers in demonstrating the subtle differences in people's behaviour and exploring the reasons behind that behaviour rather than portraying everyone in as stereotypical good and evil as is often the case.
Few of the characters are likable however understandable their actions may be. But they're very credible in the context of the world Smith has depicted. The writing is breathtaking in the way it depicts scenes so vividly that you're transported to the places where action takes place and can feel the emotions of those involved. My main criticism of an otherwise terrific book is that in the last third the plot moved from credible to 'Hollywood' with the number of in-the-nick-of-time escapes and coincidences used to get to the ending.
It's an evocative portrayal of a time and place that's been demonised many times in literature and movies but rarely explored in such a thoughtful and thought-provoking way.
One amazing aspect I found in Smiths first novel is his ability to draw the reader into the personal lives of its many differing characters,to draw ou..Show More »t empathy from the reader for the main actors situation,and feel the paranoia and fear
of living under a Stalinist regime which is just as frightening as having a serial killer roaming at will.
The characters on its surface might seem stock;each one in place, each doing what's expected in such a novel,but on deeper reading a whole other world of resourceful people come together to try to protect themselves and each other against a killer and their government that says he couldn't exist.
Dennis Boutsikaris is the perfect reader for this novel. Usually I'm distracted by a narrator affecting a foreign accent,but Boutsikaris has an evenhanded way of telling this story.His accent conveys a sense of fatalism in the characters lives,but also ,extremely(to me),the love for and between parent and children,as well as conflict between husband and wife.
This is a great book.Tom Rob Smiths experience as a script writer shows through,for good or ill.
This would be a great movie if the right director and actors could be found;or maybe we should just leave well enough alone.
I didn't quite feel this one as much as I did Child 44. The stakes weren't quite as high and it dragged a bit in the middle. But it was good to sp..Show More »end more time with Leo. But I enjoyed the book both as a thrill ride and as a look at the immediate post Stalin Russia. But I hope Smith's next novel has a case that feels more urgent.
What a thrilling ride with unexpected twists and new characters all along--well developed. Couldn't wait to finish this book. Highly recommend the f..Show More »irst two books in this "series". Well written and researched. A good look into the KGB, their ruthlessness and the change possible in some. Near the end, however, the author has a character watching the sun go down from "Brighton Beach."-- did the author forget that the Atlantic is facing east from this area? Perhaps I misunderstood. Highly recommend this book.