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Child 44 [Paperback]

Tom Rob Smith
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Feb 2009
In Stalin's Soviet Union, crime does not exist. But still millions live in fear. The mere suspicion of disloyalty to the State, the wrong word at the wrong time, can send an innocent person to his execution. Officer Leo Demidov, an idealistic war hero, believes he's building a perfect society. But after witnessing the interrogation of an innocent man, his loyalty begins to waver, and when ordered to investigate his own wife, Raisa, Leo is forced to choose where his heart truly lies. Then the impossible happens. A murderer is on the loose, killing at will, and every belief Leo has ever held is shattered. Denounced by his enemies and exiled from home, with only Raisa by his side, he must risk everything to find a criminal that the State won't admit even exists. On the run, Leo soon discovers the danger isn't from the killer he is trying to catch, but from the country he is trying to protect.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (19 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847391591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847391599
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1979 to a Swedish mother and an English father, Tom Rob Smith's bestselling novels in the Child 44 trilogy were international publishing sensations. Among its many honours, Child 44 won the International Thriller Writer Award for Best First Novel, the Galaxy Book Award for Best New Writer, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the inaugural Desmond Elliot Prize. Child 44 is now a major motion picture starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman.

Product Description

Amazon Review

With so many new books in the crime and thriller field vying for our attention, alert readers need all the help they can get. In the case of Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, the numerous glowing reviews were preceded by a lively word of mouth on the book. The latter can often be misleading, but not in this case -- this is a very exciting debut. It is set in the Soviet Union and in the year 1953; Stalin's reign of terror is at its height, and those who stand up against the might of the state vanish into the labour camps – or vanish altogether. With this background, it is an audacious move on Tom Rob Smith’s part to put his hero right at the heart of this hideous regime, as an officer in no less than the brutal Ministry State Security.

Leo Demidov is, basically, an instrument of the state -- by no means a villain, but one who tries to look not too closely into the repressive work he does. His superiors remind him that there is no crime in Soviet Union, and he is somehow able to maintain its fiction in his mind even as he tracks down and punishes the miscreants. The body of a young boy is found on railway tracks in Moscow, and Demidov is quickly informed that there is nothing to the case. He quickly realises that something unpleasant is being covered over here, but is forced to obey his orders. However, things begin to quickly unravel, and this ex-hero of state suddenly finds himself in disgrace, exiled with his wife Raisa to a town in the Ural Mountains. And things will get worse for him -- not only the murder of another child, but even the life and safety of his wife.

Tom Rob Smith’s beleaguered hero is a protagonist who we know will (at some point) have to rebel against the totalitarian state he works for. But it is the suspense of waiting for this moment as much as the exigencies of the thriller plot that makes this such a compelling novel. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"One of the rare pleasures of the book-reviewing trade is first hearing all sorts of advance hype about a novel and then finding out that every word was true."-- Chicago Tribune

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Thriller 20 April 2009
The book begins very promisingly with the first chapter detailing the lives of a village on the brink of starvation in 1930s Russia. Two boys from one family go out hunting for the only piece of meat seen in the village for a long time - a cat. However, only one of the boys returned. The other has been killed.

The rest of the book is set in post-Second World War Russia where a young MGB, Leo, is hard at work doing the dirty work of the state until he is asked to deal with a colleague who suspects that his son has been murdered. There are no murders, in Soviet Russia as murders only happen in capitalist countries, so it is recorded as an accident on a railway line and Leo suggests that his colleague accepts the result. However, a series of similar child murders and a jealous rival mean that Leo's faith in the system is shattered through a series of unfortunate events. The rest of the book follows Leo's attempts to catch the murderer in a state that doesn't accept that murders can take place.

Overall, the novel is ok and deserves 4 stars. It is fast-paced and kept me engaged, without being ground breaking, from beginning to end. The ending is where I have an issue with the book. I overlooked the naivety of Leo, who as a seasoned MGB officer gets himself into some serious pickles, as it is a means to an end of keeping the story going. However, the ending is so unlikely it verges on the farcical. The series of events that combine to create the ending could and would never happen, regardless of the country that the book is set in. For this very reason, I have given the book 3 stars instead of the four I would have given it.
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106 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb thriller debut 4 Mar 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was amazed to see that this is the author's debut novel - the writing is very assured, and you know you're in the hands of a craftsman from the start.
The paranoid, shabby setting of the Soviet Union in the 1950s, still under Stalin's rule and still shadowed by the war, is beautifully done - as is the characterisation, the plotting, the sheer grip of the story.
Secret policeman and war hero Leo Demidov is Soviet Man incarnate - unswervingly loyal and unquestioning in his pursuit of the State's enemies - until a powerplay by a jealous subordinate threatens his life, and that of Raisa, his wife.
Thrown out of the MGB in disgrace and exiled to a bleak factory city in the Urals, Leo's world and beliefs are turned upside down. Then he discovers that in the Communist paradise that denies that crime is possible, there exists the worst criminal of all - a serial killer of children. He and Raisa must risk everything to pursue a terrifying killer, even if doing so makes them enemies of the State...

I understand that the author has written screenplays, and this thriller has a cinematic edge and suspense, wrapped up in very fine writing - it's one of the best I've read, and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you love thrillers, you won't be disappointed.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Child 44 Review 20 April 2011
Having read a considerable amount of Russian history, and it having received such good reviews, I was eager to read Child 44 .
The story itself is set at a good pace and the plot unwinds nicely. The author has clearly done considerable research and taken great pains to accurately describe the various Soviet institutions encountered in the novel. Famous agencies like the MGB and buildings like Lubyanka are vividly drawn with confidence and the reader is given enough information to understand their importance in the world his characters inhabit. The comments on Soviet history occasionally feel forced and do not always flow from the narrative - on one occasion I felt as if I was reading a student's history exercise book rather than a novel - but on the whole it is done well. I give great credit to the author for conveying the paranoia and fear of Soviet life, the danger each person faced on a every day basis, and the cruel logic that the society used to torture an entire generation. Several ethical dilemmas are created which, though tragic and difficult for a modern western reader to understand, are interesting and extremely thought provoking. I liked the fact the author did not shy away from describing the dark - and rarely discussed by the West - events that happened during the Soviet period (like the great famine) and it is commendable that a novelist in the West writes about them with such honesty. The main characters, whilst believable, are not drawn well enough from the start, and I found myself unconcerned about their plight and uninterested by them towards the end. Scenes at the end comes across as mawkish and at odds with the dark subject matter. Where I feel the novel really lets itself down is the plot and the final twist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book. 20 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
One of the best spy thrillers I have ever read. Do not pass this one up. I've already spread the word amongst my friends.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillient writing 20 Jan 2013
By Ralf
It's not often that I give a book 5 stars but this one thoroughly deserved it. It is hard to believe that this is a first novel. Others have covered the synopsis so I shan't repeat it here, however, it does give a very good idea of what people had to endure under Stalin. This book was bought for me as a present and its genre isn't what I would normally go for as it is labelled as a political thriller, however, I was gripped right from the start. Once i had finished reading it I immediately went out and got the other two in the series, 'The Secret Speech', which brings us in to the 60's, and ending with 'Agent 6' which is in the 70's. The main character Leo, who works for the MGB (former KGB) and totally believes in the State, undergoes a transformation as the series continues. All the characters are very believable and you quickly feel empathy with them. I can't recommend the books enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best read for quite a while
This is the best read I've had for quite a while, although a harrowing topic it has interesting twists and turns and an insight into the social history of Russia.
Published 14 hours ago by Katrina Bradford
4.0 out of 5 stars very good
The book is very good and hard to put down. Combining the paranoid experience of living in the old Soviet Union and a strage detective story
Published 3 days ago by Shim
3.0 out of 5 stars good read
A gripping tale slow to start becoming absorbing in its twists of fact and fiction. Sadly an abrupt and yet predictable conclusion in comparison to an otherwise nail biting read. Read more
Published 8 days ago by paper girl
3.0 out of 5 stars Good holiday read
I found the book somewhat formulaic, almost feeling that I had read it before. However, not a bad holiday read.
Published 19 days ago by Peter McGrail
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
Highly recommended- usually quite picky about books but this was a winner by far. Definitely a must read this summer
Published 20 days ago by Micki
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I love this book. It's not for the faint hearted but is a gripping story about life in Russia years ago. Book 1 of a trilogy.
Published 20 days ago by cazza
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not GREAT
It's a really thrilling story with an interesting plot. I loved learning more about the Soviet Union, I always find the best way to learn about history is through novels - it... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Miss F. Ellis
5.0 out of 5 stars Child 44
You can't stop reading the book. Excellent read!!!!! I recommend the book to be read by my family and friends.
The author is just amazing.
Published 22 days ago by Cheryl
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense and unrelenting
I found Tom Rob Smith’s debut to be a tremendous novel. It has a tortuous and labyrinthine plot which twists and weaves its way through Stalinist Russia, starting in war-torn... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Ian Kirkpatrick
2.0 out of 5 stars Too brutal
I found this a most horrible read and disjointed. I was really disappoined as I had enjoyed the Farm by this author.
Published 27 days ago by Mr. B. Jones
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