Book Report: Child 44

Read 03.13.2011:
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Category: Psychological Thriller
Tags: Stalin, Soviet Union, Crime Detective, Murder

So…I requested this book from on 07/20/2009. I had NO idea it has been on my TBR list that long .

Imagine living in a place where even suggesting there has been a crime is a crime. A crime against the state punishable by, at best, being sent away for a life of hard labor in a deserted frozen wilderness, and at worst, execution without a fair trial. Where your neighbors can turn on you and name you as a traitor and the police can search your home for any reason, at any moment. A life where no one, not even your own family, can be trusted.

No, this isn’t modern-day America, but 1950’s Stalinist Russia.

In the 1950’s Soviet Union, there is no crime. At least that’s what the government wants everyone to believe. But in truth, there’s a serial killer on the loose, preying on children, brutally killing them and escaping blame as the government covers up the crimes (because nothing like that could possibly happen in this country).

In Child 44 , Tom Rob Smith has weaved a page-turning, psychological thriller about the search for a killer who is based loosely on a real killer ~ Andrei Chikatilo. We don’t get to know the murderer very well throughout most of the novel because Smith follows the story through the eyes of Leo Dimidov, the government agent who is trying to uncover the truth of the murders. Leo is a determined, charming, anti-hero of sorts – a good man whose patriotism has led him to commit heinous acts against his fellow citizens “for the greater good.” Or so he tells himself.  But as he begins to realize he is nothing more than an instrument of a fundamentally flawed, deadly, and unstoppable regime, a crisis of conscience ensues.

When his wife, Raisa, becomes a victim of the system, his life begins to unravel.  When he refuses to denounce her as a traitor, he is demoted and humiliated. Even his parents are punished for his crime. He and Raisa are sent away from Moscow to the wastelands of the newly “industrialized” city of Voualsk.

It is in Voualsk that Leo discovers a true criminal.  But how does a disgraced and politically persecuted man prove there is a serial killer on the loose in a culture that doesn’t even admit they exist? 

Overall, it’s a fascinating look at the Soviet Union during Stalin’s rule, when innocent citizens were arrested and killed for crimes against the government and crimes they never committed, all so the government could uphold the appearance of a perfect society. It was actually quite disturbing to think this is how it really was at that time.


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