By Tom Rob Smith
Reviewed by Dom
Like many adults, I’ve heard about life in the old Soviet Union, and I thought I understood how grim it must’ve been. And then I read Child 44…and found myself more grateful than ever for our pampered life in the good ol’ USA.
But this is not a non-fiction book about Stalin’s world. No, this is a novel, a gripping page-turner about a serial killer on the loose in the early 1950s. And how about this for a premise: There’s a killer who is murdering children, and the state can’t even admit that he exists! And why? Because to admit such an atrocity would be an admission that life in the Soviet Union isn’t perfect…and they won’t do that.
At the core of the book we find a war hero, Leo Demidov, who now works for the MGB, the state’s security force. Although an innocent man, he is accused of crimes against the state. This usually means either death or imprisonment in a Gulag (a prison camp), but for Leo he’s (luckily) demoted and sent to a small town to work with the local police. There he becomes determined to catch the monster who is murdering children, leaving a trail of bodies across hundreds of miles.
I loved this book on several levels. For one, it faintly reminded me of Gorky Park, another terrific book set in Soviet Russia. But the writing of Smith is very unique, and I was constantly drawn into a world that my spoiled, 21st century American mind didn’t want to accept. I’m telling you, you’ll appreciate everything about your life by the time you put this book down.
Just how do you solve a crime when the state won’t let you admit that a crime has been committed? How do you survive when your relatively-comfortable lifestyle is turned upside down and you’re suddenly scraping by, constantly fighting the cold and the hunger? Who can you trust? How far would you go?
There’s an interesting twist at the end of the book. If I had to knock off points, I’d say the conclusion is almost a bit unbelievable…but Smith did such a masterful job of storytelling that I was willing to forgive the leap.
Child 44 is a fierce but compelling thriller set in a cold, brutal world. If you’re looking for a riveting tale of suspense - and one that will certainly make you think - then this is the one.
Pick it up today at all three locations of The Tattered Cover Book Store for 20 percent off. Just ask, “Hey, where’s the Dom and Jane Book Club?”