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MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line He arrests whomever he is told to arrest He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is shaken He is forced to watch a man he knows to be innocent be brutally tortured And then he is told to arrest his own wife Leo understands how the State works Trust and check, but check particularly on those we trust He faces a stark choice his wife or his life And still the killings of children continue Child 44 is one of those books that only come along once in awhile and when it does it makes you exclaim out loud This novel draws you into the story, the characters are very well drawn and the plot is excellent, one of those book that you just cant put down, I loved this thriller murder mystery book, it is set in the Soviet Union during Stalin s rule and is loosely based on real life killer Andrei Chikatilo and follows the story through the eyes of Leo Dimidov, the government agent who is tryi Child 44 is one of those books that only come along once in awhile and when it does it makes you exclaim out loud This novel draws you into the story, the characters are very well drawn and the plot is excellent, one of those book that you just cant put down, I loved this thriller murder mystery book, it is set in the Soviet Union during Stalin s rule and is loosely based on real life killer Andrei Chikatilo and follows the story through the eyes of Leo Dimidov, the government agent who is trying to solve the murders committed by Andrei Chikatilo Its a book not for the faint hearted but a real page turner If it weren t for the Soviet Union and the blood lust of the Russian communists, I would not exist My parents were World War II refugees, on the run for their lives from Soviet occupied Latvia They arrived in the United States at about the same time, immigrants with nothing but what they wore on their backs, with the most skeletal English language skills Had they not spotted each other across the room of immigrants and felt drawn one to the other, well, that would have been an entirely differ If it weren t for the Soviet Union and the blood lust of the Russian communists, I would not exist My parents were World War II refugees, on the run for their lives from Soviet occupied Latvia They arrived in the United States at about the same time, immigrants with nothing but what they wore on their backs, with the most skeletal English language skills Had they not spotted each other across the room of immigrants and felt drawn one to the other, well, that would have been an entirely different story, and without me in it Even so, you won t hear gratitude from me My existence does not by any measure outweigh the brutalities of Soviet power A large percentage of the Latvian population was deported, tortured and executed under the communist regime My life cannot measure up to such suffering of the multitudes In later years, I traveled several times to the Soviet Union to see for myself this world that had so often been described to me, yet nonetheless remained and remains nearly incomprehensible The experience of my travels behind the Iron Curtain is a memory that will never leave me These are the memories and impressions returned to me with the reading of Tom Rob Smith s debut novel, Child 44 Tom Rob Smith has taken his premise for Child 44 from the true story of Russian serial murderer, Andrei Chikatilo, who murdered over 50 women and children in Russia during the 1980s Although Smith has set his story in an earlier time period, the 1950s, he has not lost, but only gained levels of intrigue and suspense by choosing the worst years of Soviet oppression The difference, the author explains, is that in the latter years, someone in open rebellion against the political system might lose an apartment, while in earlier years, it would have meant the loss of life The story of Child 44 has the chill of historical and political accuracy The author is still in his twenties at this writing, yet the combination of his research and already rich life and travel experience have given him the depth of insight required to bring this tale of Soviet horror vividly to life I had to wonder, in fact, and quite often during my reading, how many readers less aware of Soviet history might construe this as mere fantasy In too many ways, it is not The sense of unraveling sanity and logic threaded throughout daily Soviet life is all too real Black is declared white and white, black What you see, you are told, is not what you see What you know is not to be known Deny everything And in saving your own life, choose who will die among your loved ones Leo Demidov is a key character, the communist detective pursuing the killer who cannot be named The first insanity is that the Soviet government denies the existence of crime in its so called utopian state If life is perfection, why would anyone commit a crime Crime, they claim, is an outgrowth of a capitalist society And then, a crime so gruesome as to kill a child, ripping open his belly to expose his insides, stuffing his open mouth with bark and gravel Yet such dead and tortured children s bodies appear throughout Soviet Russia, and despite the growing threat to his own safety, Demidov is determined to stop the child murderer He cannot question witnesses, however, when there is no official crime to witness He cannot conduct investigations when there is no official crime to investigate To stop these murders, Demidov must become himself a criminal against the state Such is Stalin s workers paradise The stakes grow ever higher, as Demidov s loyalty to the state is tested when his wife is accused of being a spy In spite of her innocence, Demidov is faced with calling the authorities liars by defending his wife or handing over his innocent wife to be executed but show his loyalty to the state that does no wrong A page turner, indeed, but blood runs even colder when one knows this type of existence was all too real behind the Iron Curtain of the very real Soviet Union Tom Rob Smith has my respect and admiration for putting into words what makes so little sense to the rational mind I suggest supplemental reading in the form of Alexander Solzhenitsyn s Gulag Archipelago for the true history of this nightmarish world Zinta Aistars for The Smoking Poet, Summer 2008 Issue B 78% Good NotesNothing special and a bit bland and repetitive, but a real page turner with loads of atmosphere and a chilling ending. Brother, if you were a playing card what card would you be Would you be an ace or a king, a spade or a heart What a month this has been so far Gearing up the scheduled readings for the coming Holy Week and the much needed Easter holidays, I ve spent March with a number of strange, memorable books that proved to be a rather demanding company I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that Child 44 was the finest, darkest, most emotionally draining reading experience This isn tBrother, if you were a playing card what card would you be Would you be an ace or a king, a spade or a heart What a month this has been so far Gearing up the scheduled readings for the coming Holy Week and the much needed Easter holidays, I ve spent March with a number of strange, memorable books that proved to be a rather demanding company I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that Child 44 was the finest, darkest, most emotionally draining reading experience This isn t merely a thriller or an excellent Historical Fiction novel It is a deep dive to the rawest of emotions of the human soul The fight to preserve and survive as opposed to the inclination of some to destroy all that is good and pure Before I continue, I must say that I will not engage in any discussion regarding political commentary or historical accuracy I m sure we re all educated, open minded readers that have studied our fair share of Fiction and Non Fiction on the nightmare that was the Soviet Era Each one of us has an opinion but we re here to talk about books not international relations Any relevant comments will be promptly deleted and dealt with.And as a novel, Child 44 is brilliant, in my opinion Leo is a high ranking officer of MGB but a personal quarrel with Vassili, another member of the State, leads him to forfeit the life he knew His sole purpose becomes the discovery of the man who commits crimes beyond all reason The murders and mutilations of children in the wintry forests across the country Leo s only ally is Raisa, his wife, while both are keeping secrets from each other So, everything comes down to a race against time and people whose false ideals demand absolute silence and blind obedienceDoing nothing is no guarantee we won t be arrested anyway I ve learnt that lesson The world of Child 44 is a living nightmare and, obviously, one has only to read the basics of Stalin s reign of terror to feel that the descriptions are not only tangible They are the Boschian History of a quite recent past Tom Rob Smith writes without cheap sensationalism but with raw, razor sharp language that is beautiful in its darkness This is a time and place where anything can cause an arrest and anyone can be accused of treason People are persecuted because their clients are Westerners Others are persecuted on the basis of unheard prayers despite their age or sex You pray therefore you want Stalin dead, off with you You are guilty unless proven innocence But if you re proven innocent, someone hasn t done their job right You can t be innocent but you can be an abomination that the State has to throw up in a society where there is no crimeIs that how you re able to sleep at night, by blanking events from your mind Leo and Raisa are masterfully crafted characters They are flawed but sympathetic They are controversial and ambiguous, a couple equally strong, determined, secretive and honest As honest as they can be given the era and the circumstances Smith succeeded in creating protagonists that are the driving forces of the story They are realistic, brave and intelligent without seeming fake Even Vassili and the culprit are believable They aren t caricatures and they retain the reader s interest This is what makes the difference between a proper villain and a cardboard figure I cannot say anything about the storyline, obviously, but I can tell you that the development of the mystery, the twists and implications as well as the conclusion compose a novel that is a work of Art in its genre The references to the hardships that people had to face on a daily basis, the fate of the accused, the small details about the fight of the Russian people against the Nazis make the narration evenvivid and enrich the historical background I particularly appreciated the reference to the Night Witches, the legendary female pilots who became the terror of the Nazi monsters during the Second World War If you don t know their story, make sure to check it out.I didn t know that this was the first book in a series and although I loved it to the point of losing my stop twice during my commute to work and back, I don t think I ll read the second installment soon I need Child 44 to sink in and I doubt its follow up will stand up to its predecessorThey listened to her cries But there was nothing unusual about this kind of grief and people did not watch for long My reviews can also be found on