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Child 44

(Leo Demidov #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  86,044 ratings  ·  6,529 reviews
MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line. He arrests whomever he is told to arrest. He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia. Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime. But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 509 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published March 3rd 2008)
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Marina Trocin
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Melissa Aubuchon I thought the movie did a good job relaying the primary points of the book, but the book immersed you in a way the movie just could not (despite great…moreI thought the movie did a good job relaying the primary points of the book, but the book immersed you in a way the movie just could not (despite great actors). It got you close, but the book really drew you into a world we see in documentaries and made you feel like you were there. Akin to Ayn Rand and "We the living". (less)

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(B+) 78% | Good
Notes: Nothing special and a bit bland and repetitive, but a real page-turner with loads of atmosphere and a chilling ending.
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Amalia Gkavea
‘’Brother, if you were a playing card what card would you be? Would you be an ace or a king, a spade or a heart?’’

What a month this has been so far… Gearing up the scheduled readings for the coming Holy Week and the much-needed Easter holidays, I’ve spent March with a number of strange, memorable books that proved to be a rather demanding company. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that Child 44 was the finest, darkest, most emotionally draining reading experience. This isn’t
Ahmad Sharabiani
Child 44 (Leo Demidov, #1), Tom Rob Smith

Child 44 (first published in 2008) is a thriller novel by British writer Tom Rob Smith. This is the first novel in a trilogy featuring former MGB Agent Leo Demidov, who investigates a series of gruesome child murders in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.

This novel, the first in a trilogy, takes inspiration from the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo, also known as the Rostov Ripper, the Butcher of Rostov, and the Red Ripper.

Chikatilo was convicted of and executed fo
Will Byrnes
Oct 03, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Mar 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Shelby *trains 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
Richard Derus
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
4+ Stars Right from the start, Tom Rob Smith introduces us to an inhumane existence of starvation and brutality under Stalin's rule. You can trust no one. Life is Fear. Life is Torture. Innocence does not matter. Life is a matter of Efficiency, more important than Truth.

And while living the unimaginable, there is a mysterious child killer on the loose that Security Officer, Leo Demidov is determined to stop, even after his demotion, even after mind altering drugs, even when he is on t

Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, russia, favorites
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
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
A very long time ago and far away, I used to starve myself. On purpose. I had this idea I would transform into a super model. Instead, one day I scratched my arm and tore my skin off. Taking a deep breath, I almost broke ribs, but as it turned out, I simply pulled rib muscles. True story.

Going without food is terrible. It does awful things to your body, not just to your mind.

'Child 44' opens in a small Ukraine village in 1933. The entire Soviet Union, but mostly the Ukraine, under the dictator
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[Updating my rating to 5 stars]

“Isn’t this how it starts? You have a cause you believe in, a cause worth dying for. Soon, it’s a cause worth killing for. Soon, it’s a cause worth killing innocent people for.”

This book was all kinds of awesomeness. Set with the backdrop of the Soviet Union and the Russian communists, this brutal story follows our main character, Leo, who works as a detective, chasing a real-life murderer which this story is based on. The research that went into this story is pr
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, favorites
I would like to rate it 4.5 but alas I don't have that option.

Let me begin by saying that this book has exceeded my expectations. Personally, I would say that it is a tad better than Gorky Park - an excellent book about a Soviet policeman.

The atmosphere of fear, desperation, tension, suspense has been used so effectively by the author. The start itself is so chilling - it is 1933 and we visit the village of Chervoy, Ukraine - then a part of the Soviet Union. Lack of food has reduced humans to ea
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an expertly rendered and well-executed thriller set in the Stalinist-era Soviet Union. The plot machinations are done just right, and there is enough grim local color--including some harrowing scenes of starvation at the very beginning and the wonderfully iron-clad certainty among the Soviets that a serial killer would be impossible in their country--to lend heft to the proceedings. It's a real page-turner for those who enjoy the cat-and-mouse guessing game of thrillers. ...more
Jun 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, read-in-2008
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
Ms. Smartarse
To survive as a detective in 1950s communist Russia, you have to put your country above all. Anything less is tantamount to high treason.

When your superiors tell you to investigate a possible spy, you go and apprehend him/her without stopping to think about the accuracy of the accusation: "Better let ten innocent men suffer than one spy escape."

If your subordinate thinks his son's tragic accident was in fact murder, you go and remind him of one of the fundaments of his society: "There is no crim
Originally posted on The Book Nympho

The story is set in 1953 Russia, shortly before the end of Joseph Stalin's reign of terror. There's evidence of a possible serial killer at large but one of the propaganda "truths" is that Russia is crime free. Leo Demidov, a member of the powerful and feared MGB (predecessor of the KGB), is sent to investigate one of the murders but is instructed to classify it as an accident. It sets off a chain of events that will forever change the man and his life.

I was
Abram AB
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Rating: 4.2/5

“To stand up for someone was to stitch your fate into the lining of theirs.”
“There's nothing more stubborn than a fact. That is why you hate them so much. They offend you.”
“Trust but check. Check on those we trust.”

This is a very unique novel which reminded me again and again of George Orwell's 1984 but this one, I loved. I didn't really like the characters (at the end of the book, they are likable) but they all are certainly understandable and interesting. Tom Rob Smith is de
Jul 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Desperately Hunting Child Killer With Bear's Hot Breath on Da Bum


An intense thriller that places the reader dead center into the gloom and dread of Stalin's Soviet Union. The hero police detective Leo Demidov desperately searches for a murderer (who came to be known as the Rostov Ripper, found to have committed 52 murders of children up and down a railway line), all while Demidov operates one step ahead of the breath-quickening bear jaws of the KGB that seeks to enforce as truth the propagand
Andrew Smith
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cathrine ☯️

I was in the mood for a thriller and picked this up based on GR friends reviews. It did not disappoint. A page turner perfect for a couple of cold rainy days with nothing interesting on TV. The author takes us back to the post-war 1950’s reworking the true story of a Russian serial killer. First of a trilogy that did not leave the reader hanging.Yay! It did not have quite the punch of I Am Pilgrim which I read earlier in the year, but it was not as far fetched either, more authentic with great
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-to-film
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
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
23.12.2015: Re-visit via the film

Had binned this but after such glowing reviews by trusted friends it went back on the shelves.

Read by Dennis Boutsikaris

Excellent mid three. #87 TBR Busting 2013

NEWS 15:04:2015 - Hollywood's Child 44 pulled in Russia after falling foul of culture ministry: Fears of censorship in Russia as Ridley Scott film about serial killer, starring Gary Oldman, withdrawn over ‘distortion of facts and interpretation of events’. Source
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The body of a little boy was discovered along the railway tracks in th city of Moscow, violently mutilated. Leo Demidov, a dedicated MGB officer was ordered by his superiors to tell the grieving family that their boy’s death was an unfortunate accident. The boy’s family were not convinced.

Soon after Leo’s loyalty to the MGB were tested. And as a result, he was demoted and sent off to work with the Militia in an industrial village called Voualsk where another body of a child was found. Without a
Jul 02, 2008 rated it liked it
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.

Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who likes thrillers and/or is interested in politics.
I read "Child 44" in 2012. I don't remember enough of it to write an appropriate review. But I can say wholeheartedly that it is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to get an idea of what it is like to live under a totalitarian regime. ...more
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
2.5, to be precise.

I don't know if, historically, "Child 44" is 100% accurate. Actually, I think it's far from it. I do know one thing though: it is one hell of a page-turner. I'd like to make clear that as far as I am concerned, being a page-turner doesn't make a book good. I mean Dan Brown's "Inferno" was supposedly a page-turner, but, in my humble opinion, it actually was far from good, making it really hard to turn the pages... There are a bunch of other requirements that need to be met in o
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
David Putnam
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great read. Really liked it. Second book, though couldn't get through. Loved this one highly recommend. ...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

Other books in the series

Leo Demidov (3 books)
  • The Secret Speech (Leo Demidov, #2)
  • Agent 6 (Leo Demidov, #3)

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