Child 44

Child 44.jpg




MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line. He arrests whomever he is told to arrest. He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia. Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime. But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is shaken. He is forced to watch a man he knows to be innocent be brutally tortured. And then he is told to arrest his own wife. Leo understands how the State works: Trust and check, but check particularly on those we trust. He faces a stark choice: his wife or his life. And still the killings of children continue...


My review:


“—Isn’t this how it starts? You have a cause you believe in, a cause worth dying for. Soon, it’s a cause worth killing for. Soon, it’s a cause worth killing innocent people for.” 
― Tom Rob Smith, Child 44

This novel starts of grippingly grim: "'This morning in a feverish delirium she'd gnawed the leg of her kitchen stool, chewed and chewed until there were splinters jutting out of her gums." -page 2. Almost squinting I wanted to know what would happen next. It was definitely the hook for me. 

The bleak time under Stalin’s rule was greatly presented in this atmospheric, cold and gritty novel. Under terror and oppressed, citizens try to deflect any kind of attention not to be denounced or sent to the Gulag. It makes them immobile with fear. 

“For decades no one had taken action according to what they believed was right or wrong but by what they thought would please their Leader. People” 
― Tom Rob Smith, Child 44

The storyline in this novel goes two-fold. Throughout the area, children have been found killed and their mouths stuffed with dirt. These murders start of parallel to the introduction to Leo Demidov, an idealistic, successful MGB officer, as the main character with his wife Raisa. 

Leo is great at what he does and there are those, who don’t want to afford him his fame. Throughout fast paced events he is set up and the impossible happens. He is denounced and sent out of Moscow. While trying to survive, and focus on a purpose, he sets his mind to finding out who has been killing these children in the area. His leads take him over many towns and areas, coming very “close to home” for him. He is now not only close to solving this case on his own, but also a fugitive. 

“His hate wasn't professional; it was an obsession, a fixation, as if unrequited love had grown awful, twisted into something ugly.” 
― Tom Rob Smith, Child 44

There are many elements that go along with the characters and the story line. The relationship with Raisa is not what it seemed to be. Leo’s parents have an important role in his life and it took me till the last part of the book to figure it out. The random characters, like the citizens that Leo meets along the way, are coward and or heroic, bitter or mute, afraid or strong. It gives the reader a small glimpse of what had become of humanity under these starving and deprived conditions. 

“The price of this story was the audience's innocence.” 
― Tom Rob Smith, Child 44

This was very cleverly written. I enjoyed the thriller elements as well as the raw human emotions. The voice of the narrator switched between the characters and as the pedophile / murderer, you were present in the killings of the children. It was disturbing at moments (not like in a horror massacre kind of way…but things are implied!), so be aware. I could not put this book down without finding out what had happened in the end. And it was a twist! I believe there is a sequel and it is on my tbr. I have read there is a movie too, but it has very mixed reviews. This book however is a keeper!