Review Blog

Aug 19 2009

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

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Pocket Books, 2009. ISBN 9781847391599.
(Age 15+) Recommended. One of the best mystery thrillers that I have read in a long time, Child 44 took me on a roller coaster ride to Stalinist Russia, where children are being killed and mutilated by a serial killer. The Soviet system refuses to acknowledge that there is such a crime in its perfect society, and the deaths are blamed on deviants, homosexuals or intellectually disabled people. One detective, Leo Demidov, called to cover up the death of one of his men's children, gradually begins to realise that there is more than one child brutally killed and decides to atone for all the innocent victims that he himself has arrested. This leads to demotion and exile from his home.
What makes this story so engrossing is the combination of a good murder mystery with an in depth look at what it was like to live in Stalinist Russia. The emotions of the main characters play a leading role and Leo's feelings about his work in the secret police and his marriage are explored in detail. Fear pervades the society and Smith tackles the impact that fear has. Child 44 was on the Man Booker Prize long list, deservedly so - this is a well written, well researched and riveting thriller not to be missed.
Pat Pledger

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