Book Review - Child 44
When is a murder not a murder? When it is committed in Stalin’s Soviet Russia. Murder, along with many other crimes have been banned, the Soviet propaganda machine insisting they are a consequence of the capitalist system embraced by the West and therefore could only occur on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
Child 44, written by Tom Robb-Smith, is set against this backdrop - a crime that can’t officially be investigated because it didn’t officially take place.
Despite an omnipresent secret police force knowing everything about everyone, they are not equipped to handle a serial killer. Children are killed and mutilated across the country, but the local authorities dare not report them as murders, so there is no way the central authorities can register what is going on. The killings are treated as the acts of "deviants", never of "normal" healthy Soviet citizens.
State Security officer Leo Demidov manages to put the pieces together and can see the trail of a serial killer, one that leads him to uncover the murder of 44 children. Of course, no one in a position of authority is interested in Leo’s accusations as they realise the danger of speaking about crimes that can’t exist.
Leo begins his own investigation, is punished as a consequence and demoted. He and his wife are exiled from their home and banished from Moscow.
These are tough conditions in which to pursue a Police investigation, but Leo’s sense of right and wrong – his moral compass and personal integrity – compel him to act with courage and do what he knows to be the right thing, regardless of the official Soviet policy.
Child 44 is the first in a trilogy, followed by Agent 6 and the Secret Speech. Through the novels the reader gains significant insight into the way of life and, most importantly, the mindset of the citizens of Soviet Russia.
Tom Rob Smith has also published two stand-alone novels – The Farm, which like the trilogy is in the Library, and London Spy, which Mrs Langley has on order.