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Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
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Child 44 (2008)

by Tom Rob Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Leo Demidov (1)

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English (224)  Dutch (8)  German (5)  Spanish (5)  Swedish (3)  French (2)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (2)  All (251)
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In Russia serial killer not Russian.

Child 44 follows MGP - Russian police- security officer Leo Demidov. Leo tows the party line until circumstances force him to accept that crime does actually does exist in the Soviet Union. Leo is the only person interested in bringing a prolific serial killer to justice.

I'd heard many great things about Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. It won a pile of awards, even being included on the Man Booker long list, and became a must read for crime fiction fans. You know there is a 'but' coming. I like my buts big, and I cannot lie.

But Child 44 annoyed me. The story itself is well told. The characters are interesting. The antagonist is based on the real serial killer Andrei Chikatilo. Those points didn't stop the nagging at the back of my brain. The premise is a great example of a nagging point. If the Soviet Union didn't believe there was crime, let alone murder, after the revolution, then why the hell did they keep crime statistics? And there were no serial killers in... Oh wait, there are 9 acknowledged from Russia alone in the 20th Century.

The problems don't stop there, of course. The usual Russian tropes are rolled out like an "In Russia" joke. I'm not really in a position to judge how valid any of these tropes are, nor how accurate a portrait of post-WW2 Soviet Union Tom paints. But when I've read Russian authors in the past their novels didn't give the sense of place that Tom does. This really did feel like a British author's take on what the Soviet Union was like based upon those Cold War films they watched as a kid.

Another minor problem I had with the book was the way it dragged scenes out. This was meant to be about creating tension and suspense, but all it did was annoy me. My annoyance on this point may have been driven by my heightened sense of "vodka to wash down amphetamines... really?" moments from the novel.

If you can get past the generic tropes, this is a book worth reading. I'm sure I would have rated it more highly if I hadn't read a few Russian authors and seen a few Russian films to realise how much of a Western view of the East this novel is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Chikatilo
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Russian_serial_killers ( )
  TysonAdams | Jun 20, 2017 |
E' più thriller e sconvolgente l'ambiente e la vita del popolo russo degli anni 50 che la trama del libro. Da quello che si legge alla fine è stato preso spunto da una storia vera. ( )
  Angela.Me | Jun 10, 2017 |
Stalin's Soviet Union is a paradise where everyone lives free from crime and fears one thing: the State. Leo Demidov is a war hero who believes in the iron hand of the law. When a murderer starts to kill and Leo begins to investigate, he is demoted. Now, with only his wife, Leo sets out to find the serial killer in a society where things like this don't exist. ( )
  creighley | May 6, 2017 |
Leo Demidov was an investigator for the MGB, State Security during the waning years of the Stalin era. Positions with the organization are tenuous since action or inaction which brings embarrassment to the Communist Party can result in your dismissal, transfer to a forced labor camp, or execution.

When a political prisoner escapes under Leo's watch, he is placed in an untenable position--save his position by falsely accusing Raisa, his beautiful wife of treason. When he refuses, Leo is stripped of his position and all of its privileges and the couple are sent to a small village west of the Ural Mts and Leo reassigned to an entry position with the local militia.

When Leo discovers the nude body of a young woman killed in a similar manner as a young boy in Moscow, which he originally refused to label as a murder, he believes an investigation is warranted. However, this could be difficult since any investigation would cast aspersions on the State that failed to allow a murder in an alleged Utopian society. Raisa joins Leo investigating the serial murders in Moscow and surrounding villages, an investigation which will take Leo into a past that he ran away from.

This historical thriller is the first novel I have read by Tom Rob Smith and it won't be my last. The author created a realistic depiction of life under an oppressive communistic regime. I was enthralled accompanying Leo in his investigation as he used his knowledge of state security procedures to avoid detection. Fans of Martin Cruz Smith's novels would enjoy the Child 44 trilogy. ( )
  John_Warner | Apr 26, 2017 |
Sometimes you have to give a book second chans. I started to read the book last year but never finished it but a couple of days ago I thought "what the hell" I want to know the ending and I borrowed the book from the library again to pick up where I left it. I'm glad I did it since the book actually is quite good. So, sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to read a book... ( )
  MaraBlaise | Apr 14, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 224 (next | show all)
On Page 275 of his tightly woven debut novel, “Child 44,” Tom Rob Smith reveals what the title means. The moment is a shocker — but its full effects can be felt only if you’ve read the 274 pages that precede it. This book is much too densely, ingeniously plotted for its secrets to be accessible via shortcut. ...

 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tom Rob Smithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bratbjerg Hansen, PoulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Correa, Beatriz HortaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garavaglia, AnnalisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Güneş, GülizTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karjalainen, HeikkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krogstad, ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pardoen, IrvingTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
From CD Case: "Stalin's Soviet Union strives to be a paradise for its workers, providing for all of their needs. One of its fundamental pillars is that its citizens live free from the fear of ordinary crime and criminals.

But in this society, millions do live in fear...of the State. Death is a whisper away. The mere suspicion of ideological disloyalty--owning a book from the decadent West, the wrong word at the wrong time--sends millions of innocents into the Gulags or to their executions. Defending the system for its citizens is the MGB, the State Security Force. And no MBG officer is more courageous, conscientious, or idealistic than Leo Demidov.

A war hero with a beautiful wife, Leo lives in relative luxury in Moscow, even providing a decent apartment for his parents. His only ambition has been to serve his country. For this greater good, he has arrested and interrogated.

Then the impossible happens. A different kind of criminal--a murderer--is on the loose, killing at will. At the same time, Leo finds himself demoted and denounced by his enemies, his world turned upside down, and every belief he's ever held shattered. The only way to save his life and the lives of his family is to uncover this criminal. But in a society that is officially paradise, it's a crime against the State to suggest that a murder--much less a serial killer--is in their midst. Exiled from his home, with only his wife remaining at his side, Leo must find and stop a criminal that the State won't admit even exists."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446402389, Hardcover)

If all that Tom Rob Smith had done was to re-create Stalinist Russia, with all its double-speak hypocrisy, he would have written a worthwhile novel. He did so much more than that in Child 44, a frightening, chilling, almost unbelievable horror story about the very worst that Stalin's henchmen could manage. In this worker's paradise, superior in every way to the decadent West, the citizen's needs are met: health care, food, shelter, security. All one must offer in exchange are work and loyalty to the State. Leo Demidov is a believer, a former war hero who loves his country and wants only to serve it well. He puts contradictions out of his mind and carries on. Until something happens that he cannot ignore. A serial killer of children is on the loose, and the State cannot admit it.

To admit that such a murderer is committing these crimes is itself a crime against the State. Instead of coming to terms with it, the State's official position is that it is merely coincidental that children have been found dead, perhaps from accidents near the railroad tracks, perhaps from a person deemed insane, or, worse still, homosexual. But why does each victim have his or her stomach excised, a string around the ankle, and a mouth full of dirt? Coincidence? Leo, in disgrace and exiled to a country village, doesn't think so. How can he prove it when he is being pursued like a common criminal himself? He and his wife, Raisa, set out to find the killer. The revelations that follow are jaw-dropping and the suspense doesn't let up. This is a debut novel worth reading. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:26:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Robert Harris meets Gorky Park in Child 44, Tom Rob Smith's stunning thriller--sure to be one of the most talked about debut novels of the year"--Provided by the publisher.

» see all 11 descriptions

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