Review: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Description (from cover):

‘A surprising, unexpected story of love and family, of hope and resilience. Child 44 is a thriller unlike any you have ever read.

There is no crime.

Stalin’s Soviet Union strives to be a paradise for its workers, providing for all of their needs. One of its fundamental pillars is that its citizens live free from the fear of ordinary crime and criminals.

But in this society, millions do live in fear…of the State. Death is a whisper away. The mere suspicion of ideological disloyalty–owning a book from the decadent West, the wrong word at the wrong time–sends millions of innocents into the Gulags or to their executions. Defending the system from its citizens is the MGB, the State Security Force. And no MGB officer is more courageous, conscientious, or idealistic than Leo Demidov.

A war hero with a beautiful wife, Leo lives in relative luxury in Moscow, even providing a decent apartment for his parents. His only ambition has been to serve his country. For this greater good, he has arrested and interrogated.

Then the impossible happens. A different kind of criminal–a murderer–is on the loose, killing at will. At the same time, Leo finds himself demoted and denounced by his enemies, his world turned upside down, and every belief he’s ever held shattered. The only way to save his life and the lives of his family is to uncover this criminal. But in a society that is officially paradise, it’s a crime against the State to suggest that a murderer–much less a serial killer–is in their midst. Exiled from his home, with only his wife, Raisa, remaining at his side, Leo must confront the vast resources and reach of the MGB to find and stop a criminal that the State won’t admit even exists.’

My thoughts:

This is not a book that I would normally pick up and go ‘I have to read this’. I was given this book through the Librarything Santathing program this year and I am so glad that my secret santa got me this book. I would have never picked this book up otherwise and I am so glad that I got to read this because it was simply amazing! The story takes place in Stalinist Russia and features a serial killer who murders young children. The Russian government doesn’t believe these crimes are occurring because that would mean that they were failing their idealistic society. They pin the murders on whoever seems to be the most convenient scapegoat at the time and think nothing of executing innocent people. Leo Demidov must use his skills as a secret agent and find out who is killing these children before Russia sweeps the murders under the rug. His life is in danger at every turn and he must stay one step ahead or he might just find himself dead.

This book opens the doors to Stalinist Russia and how life was truly like at that time in history. People were in fear of the government because the government executed anyone who opposed their views. It was a very scary time to be a Russian citizen and the author does a fabulous job of creating the scene and making the story come to life. I can’t imagine living my life everyday and being in fear for my life for every little thing. These people actually lived like this and it is appalling for someone coming from a capitalist society. I cannot fathom what it would be like to not have my own views and not be able to express them in any way that I feel. It was truly horrible.

There are many plot twists and turns and this book can be correctly labeled as a thriller. I was immediately sucked into the story from page one and could not put this one down. This book is the winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award and the ITW Thriller Award for Best First Novel and was long-listed for the Man Booker prize. That in itself is truly amazing. I’ve noticed that there are two other books in this series, The Secret Speech and Agent 6, and I most definitely will be reading those as soon as I get the chance. I am so glad that I stepped outside the box and read something different, because I really loved this one. Thanks so much secret santa for picking this one. You hit just the right spot with the murder mystery and my love of all things Russian.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Child 44
Author:  Tom Rob Smith
Series:  Leo Demidov #1
Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date:  December 13, 2011 (Reprint)
Pages:  480
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected by my secret santa for the Librarything Santathing 2012 and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

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