Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith Simon & Schuster HK$104 Child 44 made a big splash even before it was published. A literate, even literary thriller, it inspired a bidding war. On publication it earned favourable reviews and then - horror of horrors - it crashed onto the Man Booker Prize long list. You could almost hear the gasps. So is Child 44 worth the hype? The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes, but with reservations. The story is largely set in Stalin's Soviet Union during 1953. Leo Demidov is the Sherlock Holmes of the Ministry of State Security: a decorated soldier, he hunts criminals even as he tells himself that crime is impossible in Stalin's winter wonderland - only decadent capitalists need to swindle, rape and kill. His faith is tested when his wife is accused of conspiracy and the bodies of two seemingly murdered children are found. Tom Rob Smith is probably sick of hearing comparisons to Martin Cruz Smith (no relation) although some are justified: both are excellent on period detail; both have an eye for a sentence; and both are smart at sweeping the past straight into present. Whether this applies to T.R. Smith's final twist in the tale I'm still not entirely sure. You, of course, might be.