The struggle and fear people experienced in the Soviet Union is graphically brought to life with such skill in Tom Rob Smith’s novel Child 44 set in 1953 shortly before Stalin’s death. The main character Leo Demidov world is shattered, his job and relationship with his wife are thrown into turmoil following the death of a young boy the parents believe to have been murdered. Leo from being a war hero and having a successful career as an officer in the Ministry of State Security, and enjoying life’s luxuries that come with the job, suddenly becomes an enemy of the state in Stalin’s perfect communist society where there can be no crime as this plague only happens in the capitalist west.
The book follows Leo and his wife’s struggle to bring justice in pursuit of a serial killer in a world of corruption where the image and structure is more important than truth and fairness. The story based loosely on the real life crimes of Andrei Chikatilo in a later decade to what the book is set manages to capture and convey the events incomprehensible to someone who has not lived in that time and place.
A sub plot to the main story I wanted to add a note on is, the romantic element between Leo and his wife Raisa as this has not appeared much in other reviews. This is a great love story where emotions and realities of their relationship are revealed.
Child 44 is exciting, emotional and of historical interest and one I will add to my bookshelf to read again.