Beth Cato's Reviews > Child 44

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
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Apr 11, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012, thriller, historical
Read in March, 2012

I don't usually read thrillers, but something about the concept of Child 44 grabbed me. I was born in 1980. The Soviet Union was the big bad guy. I haven't read much on the subject of communist Russia, and this book seemed like a good opportunity. Wow, was it ever. I was hooked within the first page.

First of all: this is not a happy book. It's bleak. It's hopeless. At the same time, it's beautiful. Smith does a masterful job of showing how horrid things were in Russia, from the mass starvation to the ease of betrayal. People need to be reminded of the horrible things they are capable of so that we learn to never, ever do such things again. But that darkness still made this a difficult read at times.

Leo is a strong lead character. He's a decorated war hero who becomes a victim of the very system he has believed in his entire life. In the first chapters, it's easy to understand his idealism, even as he commits terrible acts as an MGB agent. There is still that sense that he's a good person beneath all of that. The mystery itself develops in layers as more bodies are found and the web of betrayal around Leo grows more intricate.

My one concern was that the end was almost too tidy, but in retrospect I can't see how it could have ended any other way.
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