Series: Leo Demidov #1
Release Date: 2008
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Add it: Goodreads
In Stalin’s Soviet Union, crime does not exist. But still millions live in fear. The mere suspicion to the State, the wrong word at the time, can send an innocent person to his execution.
Officer Leo Demidov, an idealistic war hero, believes he’s building a perfect society. But after witnessing the interrogation of an innocent man, his loyalty begins to waver, and when ordered to investigate his own wife, Raisa, Leo is forced to choose where his heart truly lies.
Then the impossible happens. A murder is on the loose, killing at will, and every belief Leo has ever held is shattered. Denounced by his enemies and exiled from home, with only Raisa by his side, he must risk everything to find criminal that the State won’t admit even exist.
On the run, Leo soon discovers the danger isn’t from the killer he is trying to catch, but from the country he is trying to protect.
Child 44 had been on my shelf for the longest time because I found it for 50p in a charity shop and I thought it sounded good. I had been meaning to pick it up for ages, as I love thrillers and this one came highly recommended by pretty much every single critic that mattered. However, I only picked it up last month because Tom Hardy was in the movie. Yeah.
So I’m going through a Tom Hardy phase and it’s epic, and what’s even more epic is imagining Tom Hardy as Leo Demidov, the badass yet slightly confused officer from Soviet Russia. Leo is pretty awesome, but not because he can fight and take out the bad guys. He’s just a great character to read about because he has this mindset ingrained into him and suddenly something clicks and he suddenly starts to question whether he’s a good man, if his government is made up of the right people, and if his leaders are doing the right thing.
Does that sound like a dystopian novel? Yeah, I thought so too. The scary thing is that Child 44 is set in 1950’s Russia, after WWII, and this stuff actually happened. Stalin created a government that seemed to be inspired by 1984, straight out of a dystopian novel, and it’s fucking terrifying. Seriously. It gave me goosebumps because people were (and still are, in some countries) really treated this way IN REAL LIFE, and yet we tend to associate this stuff with fiction rather than real life. We’re really quite ignorant in the West.
And the setting was just the start of it. Due to when and where Child 44 is set, Tom Rob Smith was able to create a rather good murder mystery that kept you guessing. The killer is terrifying, and following along with Leo’s hunt for the killer was a thrill ride. Somehow, though, the murder mystery takes a backseat to the rest of the novel, which was basically Leo and others starting to question their government and especially themselves.
What I didn’t like, though, was Leo’s backstory. I thought it was unnecessary, and it seemed to be very contrived. But whatever, I can get over that, because Child 44 was an intense read that completely took me out of the present and left me very little to critique.
I was very surprised to find that Child 44 is the first in a trilogy. I think it ends well enough to be a standalone, so if you wanted to only read this first book then you can do so comfortably. I will be reading the second book, though, because I need more Leo Demidov in my life (especially as he looks like Tom Hardy in my head. Hnnnnnnng.)