Sunday, July 18, 2010

CHILD 44 should win Theakston, say Crime Watch readers

Well, the results are in. A couple of weeks ago I asked Crime Watch readers which of the eight shortlisted novels should win the 2010 Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, the winner of which will be announced on the opening night of the upcoming Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, to be held in Harrogate from 22-25 July (next weekend) - a festival which incidentally will be presided over by Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride, who I recently interviewed for 9mm.

And you (well, a small percentage of you - the voting turnout was akin to local body elections) have spoken. And in your opinion, it should be Tom Rob Smith's debut thriller CHILD 44 that should take the title.

Crime Watch readers aren't alone in their praise of CHILD 44 - last August when I commented on Tom Rob Smith's flying visit to New Zealand, I noted that CHILD 44, a serial killer thriller set in Stalinist Russia, had already been a supernova success - garnering a bidding war for the publishing rights, selling more than 1 million copies, being translated into more than 30 languages, winning the 2008 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for thriller writing, and being nominated or longlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Costa First Novel Award (formerly the Whitbread).

So I imagine it will have to be a strong contender for the Theakston barrel next weekend.

When he was in New Zealand last year, Tom Rob Smith said his inspiration for CHILD 44 was that he was intrigued by the real-life case of Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who murdered 65+ children during the 1970s-1990s, but who had been largely ignored by investigators due to a number of factors (e.g. his Communist Party membership, and the fact Soviets believed there wasn't even a serial killer, because that was an American phenomena). Rob Smith was more intrigued by what the case said about the society it occurred in, more than the serial killer himself, and how that society was different, but also familiar, to our own.

"With CHILD 44 I wanted to take a take a world that was very different, but push through the [universal] things that affect all of us, but also push through the conventions of the crime novel we are so familiar with... CHILD 44 is really about society, rather than about the serial killer... what I find interesting is how we react to serial killers, not the serial killers themselves (why they do it, how they do it)... the police investigations are like a sponge, soaking up the things about their society..."
So, what do you think of the poll results? Do you agree? Have you read CHILD 44? If not, do you intend to? What do you think of novels set against a political backdrop? Thoughts appreciated.


  1. I can't remember if I voted for this one or THE CROSSING PLACES but I did love CHILD 44. Although the story is ostensibly about a serial killer it's really about the investigator, Leo, and his growing understanding of his political environment. It would be a worthy winner of the award. You've reminded me I have the second of his books here and I really must get to it.

  2. I have read it. I enjoyed it very much. Very dark, and gripping. It was also disturbing, as is the real life story. It certainly as at the top of my reads for last year. I liked reading about what life was like after WW2 behind the Iron Curtain,and how the Communists didn't want to admit that a killer like that could exist, because everyone was supposed to be happy and crime didn't really exist in the perfect state. Well worth reading, I think.