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.)