Book Review: Child 44
Author: Tom Rob Smith
Series : Leo Demidov (Book #1)
Length: 500 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Thriller / Mystery
My Rating: ★★★★★
Initially, my plan for this post was to compare the book to the movie adaptation of Child 44. After seeing the movie yesterday afternoon, I decided to talk about about them separately, because the movie did not even come close to doing justice to the novel. I'll have a separate spoiler filled post where I compare the book and movie. For now, let's just discuss the novel.
Leo Demidov is an officer during the time of Stalin's Soviet Union. He follows the law to a T and he has pride in his country. He was a war hero. He's basically the perfect citizen, until he starts to notice a string of murders, involving small boys who have been tortured and mutilated. But, how can there be a murderer running rampant when there is no crime in this paradise? Rather than letting his commanding officers suppress him, he decides this crime must be solved and goes rogue with his wife Raisa.
That synopsis is all that I knew going into this story, but my friends, this book is so much more than that. It is rich with accurate history. The book opens on a scene during the Holomodor, a real event in history where Stalin enforced purposeful starvation on Ukrainians with deaths on par with the Holocaust. The headquarters of the KGB, called the Lubyanka is where Leo goes to report for work. Most chilling of all, the murderer is based on a real guy whom was nicknamed the Butcher of Rostov (enter that wiki article with caution, this guy did some really gruesome stuff). This book was incredibly well-researched and the tone of the novel matches what you can imagine life would be like in this society. The fear and frantic way that people fight to survive is a prevalent theme throughout.
Be warned, this novel is not for the feint of heart. It is stressful and graphic for one, but the overall tone is just really dark. It is not a happy book. That said, I had no trouble being completely overtaken by the story. I listened to the audiobook, which normally I only listen on my commute to and from work, but with Child 44 I had to keep listening. The story is extremely fast-paced and events keep happening one after the other, shit was constantly going down.
One thing that I loved about this book was the fact that Raisa, Leo's wife was such a strong female character. In fact, she's kind of a badass. For a long time, you think that she is just a meek housewife, but then you start to learn her backstory with Leo. She also has some clutch moments when she is on the run with Leo, that you're just like DAMN GIRL, YOU GO! He actually really needed her strength and intelligence to get some key things done.
Another thing that was really well-done was Leo's character development. You can tell that he is struggling with how he really believed in the government and thought that he was doing the right things as an officer. But as things progress, he is forced to re-evaluate. Leo begins to see similarities between himself and the murderer, with all the awful things that he has done, was he really any less of a monster?
As you can tell, I loved this novel and gave it 5 out of 5 stars. I was incredibly excited to see the movie and I'm sad to say, as many book to movie adaptations, it did NOT live up to the book. More to come on that in an upcoming post.
Let me know, have you read this book? What did you think?