Child 44 by

Since Maria had decided to die, her cat would have to fend for itself.
–Tom Rob Smith - Child 44 - c.2008

A Leo Demidov story.

When a young boy’s body is found on the train tracks in Moscow Leo Demidov’s job is to make sure everyone knows that it wasn’t murder. After all, in Soviet Russia crimes like that do not happen. If they did it would mean that the system wasn’t working. And that thought can never even be entertained.

Demidov is a believer. As an officer in the MGB he is the one who hunts down dissidents, he understands that if someone is accused of a wrong doing then they are guilty. Sometimes it is cruel, but it is all for the greater good.

But now that core belief of his is about to be threatened. Everything he thinks he know about his life is in danger. His life, that of his wife, his parents. Everyone is both a threat and at risk. How can he hope to investigate any case under such circumstances.

I picked up this book because the film adaptation starring Tom Hardy is due out soon. It got a mention in some article I read last year and it sounded like an interesting story. It is loosely inspired by the true story of Andrei Chikatilo, a serial murderer in Soviet Russia who killed at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990. There was also a film starring Stephen Rea based on his murders called Citizen X, I caught it on telly years ago and thought it was excellent, although I don’t remember much now.

Child 44 is a well written, fast paced book. I don’t read a whole of of thriller/detective stories, especially ones written recently. They tend to focus more on the horrible crimes the murderers commit rather than the catching. And often with pretty gruesome descriptions. This book has a few horrible moments, but there is no torture porn here, it is more the story of Demidov as he realises all the wrong he has done in his life.

I also liked the way Raisa, Leo’s wife, gets to let him know exactly how uneven their relationship has been due to the power imbalance in it.

The one criticism I would have of the book is that there is a lot of point-of-view switches, often from one paragraph to the next the pov character switches. It is rarely confusing, but it isn’t a style that I am overly found of. Still, I think I’ll put up with it if the library has the next in the Leo Demidov series.

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4 Responses

  1. anne says:

    So glad i finally have an “outside” opinion on this, as it were. It got massive publicity on the subway here, but that’s never a good sign for me, even though i *am* a fan of thrillers old and new.
    With your review, i feel i can safely buy it (and read it in 10 years, let’s not pretend i do any sort of reading these days).

    • Fence says:

      In ten years you won’t remember to blame me when you find you dislike it, right :)

      I don’t read many thrillers, so maybe I’m not the best person to get recommendations from on them. I enjoyed it, but it is far from perfect. *here ends the disclaimer*

      I’ll certainly be going to the film adaptation though.

  2. anne says:

    Well, i do have an EXCELLENT memory, but… Deal. ;)