Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

1 minute read

Tl/DR: If you liked Gorky Park or anything by Martin Cruz Smith, read Child 44.

Leo Demidov is an idealistic state security officer in 1950s Stalinist Russia. He dotes on his wife, (mostly) believes his work supporting the State is really in the best interests of everyone. His job investigating crimes is really only complicated by the State’s insistence that because they live in the worker’s paradise, there aren’t any crimes. When Leo continues to investigate what appears to be a serial killing, when his superiors have declared the case closed, everything he believes will be challenged.

What I found most compelling about Child 44, and what made it more than simply a run of the mill thriller set in communist Russia, was the way Smith evoked the uncertainty and terror of living in a world where every friend would betray you to the state because they had to, to save their loved ones, or a world in which to simply be charged was to be proven guilty and sent to a camp or Gulag, most likely to die.

Leo is no Arkady Renko, able to deduce the most difficult conclusions from the faintest of evidence - he’s more of a plodding, not-giving-up-til-I-get it kind of detective. But there are sufficient similarities to Cruz’s works, that if you like them, you’ll enjoy this.