Child 44, the first fiction thriller starring Leo Stepanovich Demidov by Tom Rob Smith is both thrilling and disturbing. Based in Russia during the period surrounding the death of Stalin, Smith takes a look into the conditions wrought upon the people of the nation during harsh winters with no food and, at best, terrible living conditions. Bred from these circumstances, the citizens become tougher to survive while living in fear of their government.
Fast forwarding a few years, Leo is happily married with a great career in the MGB and is quickly rising through the ranks, allowing him to provide his family with comforts that most families don’t dare dream of. Through one tough investigation Leo begins to question his beliefs and not only the actions of the state, but the actions of himself in the name of the state. During a period when ‘crime does not happen’ Leo begins to suspect that something is amiss and the possibility of blatant murder is not something he can turn a blind eye to.
Tom Rob Smith does an excellent job of keeping the reader of the edge of their seat while following Leo through his discoveries of reality and a battle with his own conscience. Child 44 is the perfect fiction thriller with a bit of historical knowledge thrown in to add to the mystique.
Also be sure to check out The Secret Speech, another Leo Demidov novel.