Rating: 5 / 5
Have you ever randomly picked up a book you normally wouldn’t read and just loved it? That’s what happened with Child 44. The cover looks somewhat austere and has an old Soviet Union feel. Not to say that that is good or bad, just to say that it’s not what I would gravitate towards. And to be totally honest, the only reason why I even picked this book up was because my local library had 6 copies on the shelves. Call me crazy, but sometimes, I will pick up a book thinking it must be good if a library has bought more than 5 copies.
Child 44 is based on the true story of Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian murderer responsible for the deaths of over 50 women and children during the three decades ago. The time period is different but the premise is the same. Leo Demidov is a ranking MGB (Soviet State security service) officer responsible for rooting out anti-Stalinism sentiment. A heinous crime against a child is committed, and Demidov realizes that he is dealing with a serial killer who has likely killed in the past and will continue to kill unless stopped. By trying to uncover the truth, Demidov puts himself, his wife, and his parents’ lives in danger.
I enjoyed Child 44 so much because it was multi-dimensional. It is a thriller, full of suspense and intrigue. It is also a great period piece about the paranoia that was ingrained in every citizen of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s reign. I couldn’t get enough of Smith’s depiction of the communist society, the pervasive presumption of guilt, and the means the Soviet Union went to in its ideal of a society with no crime. The development of Demidov’s character was handled very well. His whole career, Demidov has always toed the party line, but when his wife is accused of being a spy, Demodivo’s loyalty is tested. He has the option of denouncing his wife and in the process save himself and his parents, or defending his wife, putting everyone’s lives at stake.
Child 44 is an excellent book, made more so by the fact that is Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel. While some scenes could only be described as horrendous and gruesome, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something that is just plain good. I cannot wait to read The Secret Speech and Agent 6 (the remaining books in this trilogy).