Child 44 (Leo Demidov,  #1) - Tom Rob Smith

You are thinking about reading Child 44 .. in that case, Welcome to the State-sanctioned paranoia! :)


First of all, if you think that Child 44 is a Cold War thriller – as one of the reviews on the book cover suggests – it’s not. Child 44 is a historical crime fiction, with a very strong emphasis on the fiction. As the author acknowledges in his own book Acknowledgments, “any liberties with the truth or historical inaccuracies in my novel are purely my own doing” (p. 472). And, dear oh dear, did he take those liberties! Tom Rob Smith sets the scene in 1952, uses the chaos and fear of the Great Purge of 1930s, and yet the book itself was inspired by the murders that were committed in 1970s. In the first few chapters, I found it slightly confusing at times as to what era Smith was trying to describe.


So, if you are thinking about reading serious stuff about the Soviet Russia and the awful shit that happened under the Stalin’s regime, I am sure there are many authors out there who offer their more educated opinions on the matter. Solzhenitsyn, anyone?


Having established that Child 44 must not be read as a history book, I will admit that it is the first book I’ve read up to date that comes close to portraying the Big Brother paranoia of 1984 (George Orwell). The language style is clean and fast-paced, it leaves you gasping for air as the scenes move quickly by. The storyline holds your attention well. It has a tunnel vision, makes you feel claustrophobic and constantly checking if anyone’s watching over your shoulder. There are a couple of plot twists when even I exclaimed, ‘Now, I did not expect that!’ One thing that I did not appreciate as much is Smith using characters’ thoughts to communicate with his reader how much HE himself hates the Soviet regime. In the paragraphs, where he goes on and on about the awfulness of the system, at times the reading becomes uncomfortable as it would be if you happen to read a hate entry in the diary of an adolescent boy whose love was rejected.


Overall, I liked it. And I will say to you, dear reader, ‘Go on, give it a go’.


Here’s a quick summary: Leo Demidov is a war hero and a successful MGB (secret police) officer. However, his reputation comes to question when he is ordered to investigate his wife as the potential enemy of the state. Having seen how interrogations are conducted, he begins to question the reliability of the procedure. Meanwhile, more and more cases are beginning to draw his attention where children are found dead in similar circumstances. Could they be coincidences? There is no such thing as ‘murder’ in the perfect state. However, Demidov finds his ideals and his life falling apart when he chooses to do what is right.


Child 44 is followed by the second instalment titled The Secret Speech.


Happy reading! The Big Brother is watching.