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Child 44 (Leo Demidov, #1)
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Child 44 (Leo Demidov #1)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  29,404 ratings  ·  3,067 reviews

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...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Zinta
If it weren't for the Soviet Union and the blood lust of the Russian communists, I would not exist. My parents were World War II refugees, on the run for their lives from Soviet-occupied Latvia. They arrived in the United States at about the same time, immigrants with nothing but what they wore on their backs, with the most skeletal English language skills. Had they not spotted each other across the room of immigrants and felt drawn one to the other, well, that would have been an entirely differ...more
sckenda
“Trust but check. Check on those we trust.”

Child 44 describes the journey of a man who surrenders his dogmatic belief in the State and suffers his way back into faith in the individual. Leo Demidov thought his feeling for individuals was dead even though some doubt “sat dormant in the pit of his stomach like an undigested seed pod.” Leo undergoes a re-education about people along with his wife, Raisa.

As a reward for his service to the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War, Leo is a rankin...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Report: In the Socialist Worker's Paradise that is Stalin's 1953 Russia, There Is No Crime. (Sorry, I know that all the caps are like having your lashes tweezed, but this is the Soviet Union we're talking about, and everything is A Slogan.) The proletariat is blissfully free of the Capitalist Curse Called Crime.

They're more afraid of the State than they are each other. With good reason. There are traitors, informants, everywhere. Even in your own bed, you are never saf...more
Michael
Child 44 is a novel that's hard to figure out where to place on the bookshelf. It's a political thriller, a murder mystery and a horror story all in one. Combining those elements alone would have been enough, but first-time novelist Tom Rob Smith takes is further, setting his story around the time of the death of Stalin in the former Soviet Union. Smith recreates the atmosphere of paranoia, doubt and suspicion of the time and place with ease, adding an extra layer of tension to his story.

On the...more
Willow
Child 44 is one of the best books I’ve read all year. So of course while I was reading, I wanted to tell everybody about it, shout it to the rooftops, fighting the urge to send a recommendation to all my good GR buddies. One of the reasons I didn’t was because I realized that while I was riveted, this book is definitely not for everyone. It’s grim and gristly, and there are a couple of scenes that are like a punch to the gut. In fact, the beginning almost reads like a horror novel. It’s a thrill...more
Dem
Child 44 is one of those books that only come along once in awhile and when it does it makes you exclaim out loud. This novel draws you into the story, the characters are very well drawn and the plot is excellent, one of those book that you just cant put down, I loved this thriller/murder mystery book, it is set in the Soviet Union during Stalin's rule and is loosely based on real life killer Andrei Chikatilo and follows the story through the eyes of Leo Dimidov, the government agent who is tryi...more
Judy
The culture and history of Stalin-ist Russia enticed me to read this book and they were what kept me reading in spite of a gruesome first chapter and other instances of torture and brutality. The snapshot of the lives of everyday Russian citizens living in fear of the MGB and Soviet government offers some explanation of why most will turn traitor on their own neighbors and even family. Explanation of how miltiamen such as the hero of this book, Leo Demidov, can torture and brutalize his own neig...more
La Petite Américaine
Well, well, well. Now here's a thriller with a nice twist: a serial killer is on the loose in Stalinist Russia. Except that in Stalinist Russia there is no such thing as crime. Well, except for political crimes like reading banned litterature, looking at someone the wrong way, "plotting" against the state by working too close to a Western embassy, making a drunken joke about Stalin, etc. But murder? No, comrade. Not unless Siberia suddenly sounds good to you.

What you end up with is a fast-paced...more
Will Byrnes
Smith offers a look into the Soviet Union of 1953, a dark, desperate place in which the state had become a manifestation of Stalin’s paranoia. The ideological need of the state to present the communist ideal as an actualized reality impaired its ability, its willingness to address bad things when they happened, for surely, in this workers’ paradise, such things would never happen. Things like serial killers, things like crime of any sort. Thus all crime is ideological and all criminals are enemi...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Quite an impressive first novel. Contains elements of a lot of different genres. A little historical, a mystery, a little horror, and some suspense/thriller.

Apparently there really was a serial killer in Russia in the 1980s that was similar to this fictional one. The author placed the story back in the 1950s instead, right around the time of Stalin's death. Early in the book I thought the author gave an excellent feel for the way it is to live in a closed society. People in Stalinist Russia co...more
Shea
Absolutely amazing for both a debut novel and a mystery/thriller type novel. I find that novels written in this genre (especially the big hitters like James Patterson, Vince Flynn, and sometimes John Grisham...none of which I read on a regular basis) are thrown together haphazardly without any real attention to detail or the basic necessities for putting together a really good story. When I initially started reading Child 44, I did not expect to find what I did. Since this was an Advanced Reader...more
Maggie
How do you stop a serial killer operating in a State where one of the fundamental pillars is that crime does not exist? Set in Stalin's Soviet Union, Child 44 - part political thriller, part murder mystery, and part horror story - is the gripping exploration of that very question.

Leo Demidov is a high-ranking MGB officer who has dedicated his adult life to rooting out enemies of the State, and in the process is responsible for sending innumerable innocent citizens to the Gulags or marking them f...more
Kemper
Jul 06, 2008 Kemper rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Gorky Park or the movie Citizen X.
This well-written book reminded me of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series, and a movie based on the true story of a Soviet era serial killer called Citizen X.

The detail about living in the 1950's Soviet Union is very convincing, and characters nicely developed. The book's sole flaw is the reveal of the killer's motives and the ending, which come across as something you'd see in a bad Hollywood thriller, but overall this was a fascinating story.

Tania
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tania by: riaan
For decades no one had taken action according to what they believed was right or wrong but by what they thought would please the leader.

I thought this book was riveting. I couldn't believe it was Tom Rob Smith's debut novel. I especially appreciated how the he combined two genre's (historical fiction and mystery)seamlessly. He painted such an incredibly vivid picture of Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1950's you could really feel the terror, fear and cruelty of a whole country. Friends and family d...more
Emma
Child 44 is the tale of Leo Demidov, a top official working under Stalin's Russian Soviet regime in the 1950s. All is well in his career, until the day the body of a murdered child is found on the railway tracks- and Leo is asked to cover it up...

This is literally the best book I've read all year. Absolutely phenomenal. I couldn't put it down. I don't usually wax this lyrical about a book, but until this book I had never really read crime, and this got me into it big-time. You see, after readin...more
Laura
This book grabs you by the throat and won't let go. It's brutal at times, so be warned. It reads extremely fast, and you'll learn a lot about Stalinist Russia (but keep in mind that part comes from a history dolt). I enjoyed it, but not sure I'll continue with the series due to the (at times) graphic violence.
Amy
It was decently written, and a compelling story, but I got the feeling I was reading a screenplay. It was as if the author couldn't be bothered to fully flesh-out a scene, so he's just say "and then they all started shooting and people got killed." Seemed sort of lazy.....
Josh Bratton
3 syllables. Tom Rob Smith.

Being and living in the US South all of my life, this name could easily be perceived as a stereotypical, blindly ignorant, backwoods boy with barely a 6th grade education. Perhaps, a character in one of Cormac McCarthy’s novels about modern day Appalachia.

As I said, “perceived”. He is far from it. Being educated at University of Cambridge, he not only went to a very prestigious school, but shows great skill in writing technique and has the knack for keeping the read...more
David
Mar 13, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: MGB Agents and other Russians
The first chapter starts with a pair of starving children in a Russian village in the 1930s, hunting a scrawny, skeletal cat, possibly the last surviving creature on four legs in the region. Catching it may be life or death for them, and I was hooked right from the start. Child 44 is a brutal book, despite a relative lack of gore. It's actually not the rampant starvation and devastation of World War II framing the hard early lives of the characters that make the book most brutal, nor is it the c...more
Michael
I was captivated by the setting of this tale and its psychological chills and atmospherics, but ultimately the characters came off rather wooden to me. The story concerns a prolonged search for a serial killer in post-war Stalinist Russia by state security agent Leo Demidov. The killings of children are brutal with ritualistic mutilation. Because such crime is not supposed to exist in a happy communist society, Leo is handicapped in linking the cases together and is led to pursue the case on the...more
Nancy Oakes
Set at the end of Stalin's regime in the Soviet Union, Child 44 is one of the most compelling mysteries I've ever read. Other writers should take note: this is the way a good mystery should be written. You're given enough clues, and you even find out later who the killer is, BUT -- you are still riveted and on the edge of your chair because of the atmosphere of suspense that the author has created. I listened to it on an audio CD, but am buying a hard copy for my husband to read and probably to...more
Sonja Arlow
4 1/2 stars

The opening scene starts with such an eerie feeling that you would be forgiven thinking that you are reading the latest Stephen King novel.

The story follows Leo Demitov a high-ranking MGB official never questioning his duties or his loyalty to the State. Until an interrogation goes wrong making him question everything - his purpose, his blind faith in the government, even his marriage.

The book does a fantastic job of describing life of ordinary citizens in the Soviet Union under Stal...more
Brian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
One of the first articles on my Ana the Imp blog was headed A Forgotten Serial Killer, a brief account of the career of Paul Ogorzow, executed for the murder of a number of women in wartime Berlin. I introduced it as follows:

There are certain periods of history, and certain societies, that are, it might be said, defined by criminality. Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany are good examples of systems of governance where law, as it is commonly understood, only serves to demonstrate how little pro...more
Sera
What an outstanding debut novel. Other first time novelists should take note of how Smith avoids using gimmicks, other "look how clever and unique I am" techniques, and cobbling together a bunch of writings that were scribbled when the author was working on her MFA. One of the keys to successful writing (in my opinion) is to tell a compelling story! It's that simple, people, and wow, what a compelling story Smith weaves in this book.

Based upon a true story, the underlying premise is about a chil...more
Kathleen
Jun 06, 2008 Kathleen added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: can I work a Yakov Smirnoff joke in here?
Shelves: abandoned
I think I made it to child 4 or 5.

No, not really. As they used to say in Soviet Russia, I keed, I keed.

I was mostly just unhooked here, not gripped by context, protagonist, or plot. It was all fine enough, but.... meh. It did irritate me a little that the conceit (the hero is an investigator in '50s-era Russia who is faced with a serial killer, even though party doctrine has it that Russia does not have crime let alone serial killers) was intriguing but so quickly, conventionally worked through....more
Eyehavenofilter
One if the best and most disturbing books I've ever read. Leo Demidov is our intrepid hero de jour, existing during the Stalinist era in Russia. Doing his due diligence as an officer of the government, and troupe believer, that if some hapless human is arrested its because he is guilty, for only the guilty would put them selves in the situation to be arrested.
But his world is turned upside down when he is sent to close the case of the death of the son of a friend of his, due to an " accident",...more
Annalisa
Aug 15, 2008 Annalisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: guys
What I enjoyed most about this book was the picture of Stalin's Russia. The sense that the community, the State, is the most important aspect of life and keeping up its image was of upmost importance for citizens. Families, jobs, housing, are all not products of love and enjoyment, but carefully selected accessories in the picture of a perfect life. The success of this utopian socialist society waring against greedy capitalist individuals is more important than individual life. This creates a ne...more
Mike
So many excellent reviews, I have little to add except...how do these English writers do it? Mr Smith writes like he was there in Moscow in the '50s (Lee Child, another English author, writes as if he grew up in the American South and served in the US Army). The first 200 pages were absolutely brilliant, a chilling picture of the USSR at the height of the "perfect socialist society". The rest of the story becomes a bit unrealistic as Leo and his wife are first banished to a small village and lat...more
Rade
A man who up to certain point in his life has been a perfect model of a Russian society is forced to shed his strict discipline in exchange for a much more rational human being once he finds out that there is not so much a world without crime as one where crime is swept under rug, forgotten and erased from existence. That basically sums up the plot of this book. Simplified but it touches upon the basic themes of the novel.

Anyway, imagine a world where people need to uphold all moral codes, have...more
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Tom Rob Smith (born 1979) is an English writer. The son of a Swedish mother and an English father, Smith was raised in London where he lives today. After graduating from Cambridge University in 2001, he completed his studies in Italy, studying creative writing for a year. After these studies, he worked as a scriptwriter.

His first novel, Child 44, about a series of child murders in Stalinist Russia...more
More about Tom Rob Smith...
The Secret Speech (Leo Demidov, #2) The Farm Agent 6 (Leo Demidov, #3) Tom Rob Smith Trilogy Child 44 and The Secret Speech: Digital Omnibus Edition

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“To stand up for someone was to stitch your fate into the lining of theirs.” 25 likes
“There's nothing more stubborn than a fact. That is why you hate them so much. They offend you.” 16 likes
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