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Child 44 (Leo Demidov #1)

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  38,780 ratings  ·  3,969 reviews
SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE In a country ruled by fear, no one is innocent.

Stalin's Soviet Union is an official paradise, where citizens live free from crime and fear only one thing: the all-powerful state. Defending this system is idealistic security officer Leo Demidov, a war hero who believes in the iron fist of the law. But when a murderer starts to kill at will
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Published April 29th 2008 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2008)
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Mikey Inglish Being Russian (and not fond of the people in the office, including the current czar) I'd say it's hilarious to read so much bull about Russia. The…moreBeing Russian (and not fond of the people in the office, including the current czar) I'd say it's hilarious to read so much bull about Russia. The problem is not even that there was no hunger or political repression, but the fact that the author [quite cleverly, probably - in order to sell his silly book to the blissfully unaware Western audience] decided to use all 25 000 stereotypes about Russia in general. Like that MGB officer using amphetamine and washing it down with vodka. I mean, really?? On top of that, the language of the book is just pathetic. I tried to read it in English but dropped it almost immediately - it was just unbearable. Now I'm reading it in Russian so at least I won't fall asleep. I am hellbent on finishing just because it's a) about Russia and b) it's [apparently] a best-seller, but I'm not counting on it too much..(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Daniel Perhaps because they still had a living mother, who also had family in the area.
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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
Steve 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 ranki
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Shelby *wants some flying monkeys*
Apr 12, 2015 Shelby *wants some flying monkeys* rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shelby *wants some flying monkeys* by: Nick Pageant
3.5 stars

Set at the end of Stalin's reign in 1953 this book was an eye opener for me. I just had no clue.
Living in Russia at that time was when you lived in fear of that four a.m. arrest. Are you an enemy of the state? It didn't really matter if you were truly innocent, once you had been named you might as well kiss it good-bye.
Leo Demidov is a former war hero who works for the MGB or state security force and had always done his job with no questioning of authority.


There was a joke, popular am
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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
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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
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
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
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Britany
Wow! I finally broke down and added this one due to the high level of great reviews from my GR friends. I'm SO glad that I did!! This is a book that I couldn't get through fast enough. Set in the 1950s, Stalinistic Russia where friends and neighbors are turning each other into the police for ANY suspicious activity or anti-Communist sentiment. The chapters left you hanging for more. I constantly was like "Just one more chapter..." the twists were good and at one point I actually gasped out loud! ...more
☮Karen
Three words: FAB - U - LOUS! So much to love in this multi-genre book--part historical fiction and cultural; part murder mystery/psychological thriller, all my favorites and quite sensational.

It is 1953 in Stalin's Russia and there's a serial killer on the loose. Only that cannot be; Stalin's Russia boasts of being crime free. Therefore, when Leo of the MGB (later known as the KGB) is sent to a colleague's home to investigate the murder of his son, it is not to investigate at all but to sweep it
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Nick Pageant
Excellent thriller. I've been reading this very slowly because of RL, but last night I just couldn't stop myself and finished it in one go. I'm not saying anything about it. If you like thrillers, you'll like this. Great book!
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
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Kemper
Jul 06, 2008 Kemper rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.

Jennifer
I made a statement when I began this book that who needs to read future based dystopian books when one can read about Russia under Stalin. I stand by that. So we have a murder/thriller/dystopian novel all in one. At least that is how I read this. This is another book that I have had on my shelf and frankly had no understanding what the story was truly about. That seems to by my MO lately. Which so far has worked well.

I found this stressful. Stressful in that the lifestyle as stifling, it unsett
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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
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Loyda
Apr 01, 2015 Loyda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Just saw the movie is coming out on April 17th and Tom Hardy is in it...I need to read this book!! It looks so sad too like I'm going to need lots of tissues.
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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.....
Ctgt
This was a satisfying story on a couple of levels. First is the setting and timeframe. Early fifties in the Soviet Union just at the end of Stalin's life. Leo Demidov, former war hero and now member of the MGB(state security...this department has such a convoluted history-Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, NKVD again, NKGB-MGB, MGB and finally KGB) is called to the home of a colleague whose son was recently killed. It has been declared an accident by the state but the family believes it was murder. This s ...more
Josh
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
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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
Rebecca
A thrilling and interesting read, combining history with mystery. Some parts were awesome, others dragged a bit for me - I feel as though it could easily have been shorter.
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
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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
Tania
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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
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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
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Laura
Hang with this one! Would have been a 5 star but it took some time to get into. Lots and lots of things and people being introduced in a foreign country. Not that the first 100 pages are bad but I stayed dazed and confused until then. It takes off after that. Some good little surprises. Overall, I really really liked. I was Satisfied with the buildup and the ending.
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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
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More about Tom Rob Smith...

Other Books in the Series

Leo Demidov (3 books)
  • The Secret Speech (Leo Demidov, #2)
  • Agent 6 (Leo Demidov, #3)
The Farm The Secret Speech (Leo Demidov, #2) 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.” 38 likes
“There's nothing more stubborn than a fact. That is why you hate them so much. They offend you.” 30 likes
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