Fox 2000 has optioned screenwriter Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel “Child 44” for Ridley Scott to direct and the filmmaker’s Scott Free banner to produce.

There were at least two other bidders for the film rights to the thriller, including another major.

Smith’s yet-to-be published novel, due out in 2008, was sold at auction in the U.S. to Warner Books in a two-book deal that contemplates a sequel. Simon & Schuster will publish in the U.K.

Set in Stalinist Russia, storyline revolves around an officer in the secret police who is framed by a colleague for treason. On the run with his emotionally estranged wife, he stumbles upon a series of child killings and launches his own rogue investigation, even though it means risking his own capture.

Scott Free president Michael Costigan and senior VP of production Michael Ellenberg brought in the project. At Fox 2000, Carla Hacken helped drive the deal.

Smith, a Cambridge graduate, has written for several British television shows, including “Doctors” and “Dream Team.” He also penned the story for Cambodia’s first-ever soap opera for the BBC World Service Trust.

Scott’s next directing project is “Penetration,” a political drama about modern-day intelligence and terrorism that he begins lensing in August.

Leonardo DiCaprio is lined up to star in the pic, which is based on David Ignatius’ tome “Body of Lies.” Scribe William Monahan (“The Departed”) will adapt for the bigscreen. Scott Free is producing with Donald De Line’s De Line Pictures.

Scott is next in theaters with crime drama “American Gangster,” set for release in November.

Scott is repped by the William Morris Agency. CAA and London-based Peters Fraser and Dunlop Agency repped Smith’s book.