Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Tessa Bright Wildsmith

In Stalin’s Soviet Union there isn’t supposed to be any crime. The government strives for a utopian paradise for its people. One of it’s primary bases is that the citizens can live free from crime and fear.

The citizens live in constant fear though - fear of the State. In this society only the suspicion of ideological disloyalty - owning a book from the West or questioning the government - is enough to send millions of innocent people to the gulags or to their deaths.

Leo Demidov works for the State and has been the model citizen and employee. He was a war hero, and now he is an officer for the MGB, the State Security Force. Leo is full of ideals and truly believes in the State’s mission to make the Soviet Union a paradise. He trusts his government and would do anything for it - even arrest and interrogate the innocent. He tells himself it is all for the greater good.

When an unexpected turn of events flips Leo’s world upside down, his beliefs are shattered. The government he has always trusted has betrayed him. The ideals he based his life on were all lies. He’s demoted in his job. Leo and his beautiful wife, Raisa, are sent to live in exile in a far-out village where they are forced to live a much different life than the luxury they were accustomed to in Moscow.

In his new job as a village militia officer, Leo gets assigned to the death of a child. The death is being blamed on a mentally ill patient. Leo saw this exact same death in Moscow though. He helped explain it away as an accident. Leo now knows this child’s death is the work of a serial killer.

A murder would completely contradict and undermine the State. So what do you do when there is a serial killer on the loose? How do you stop them when no one will admit or recognize there has been a murder?

With only his wife by his side, Leo sets out to find out who is killing children all across the country. Leo’s only hope of saving himself and his family is to hunt down this killer and stop them for good.

I really enjoyed this book for the inventive story line, the gripping pace and the rich characters. Smith expertly wove together a story full of twists and turns, drama, action, love and resilience. His characters were honest and believable with many different layers. His historical research brought to life postwar Russia, and the life of a paranoid, fearful society where the people are promised paradise but live in poverty.

“Child 44” is the debut novel for Tom Rob Smith, and I expect him to have a bright future ahead of him. “Child 44” was a crime thriller that could stand next to the best of them, but it was also a story about love and family, hope and survival.

Have you read “Child 44?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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