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British author's thriller raises questions

A few weeks ago I was struck by Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s description (WSJ, 21 Dec) of an as yet unpublished British author, Tom Rob Smith, whose thriller, Child 44, is set in the Soviet Union in 1953. Trachtenberg was interested in the millions of dollars in publishing advances and film deals that have poured in for Smith and whether the bet placed by publishers would be won. (The book is due out in May.)

I was interested that the writer set his novel in Russia one year after Putin was born. I read Smith’s horrifying first chapter, which was set in a starving village in the Ukraine. It seemed incredible that the events he describes could have occurred, but history tells us that they did.

Smith’s book, which has been described as densely researched, reminded me of the suffering experienced in the Soviet Union. Along with the Nazis it was the Soviet leadership – their economic idiocy combined with their monstrous oppression - that created the horror.

Is that tyranny and the misery it produced connected with the Russian oligarchy in the news today with its links to the murder of journalists, property confiscations, unjust imprisonments, and corruption (see below)? I don’t know, but I think Smith’s thriller may reveal more than clever plotting.