Child 44

Child 44

by Tom Rob Smith


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A propulsive, relentless page-turner.
A terrifying evocation of a paranoid world where no one can be trusted.
A surprising, unexpected story of love and family, of hope and resilience.
CHILD 44 is a thriller unlike any you have ever read.

"There is no crime."

Stalin's Soviet Union strives to be a paradise for its workers, providing for all of their needs. One of its fundamental pillars is that its citizens live free from the fear of ordinary crime and criminals.

But in this society, millions do live in fear . . . of the State. Death is a whisper away. The mere suspicion of ideological disloyalty-owning a book from the decadent West, the wrong word at the wrong time-sends millions of innocents into the Gulags or to their executions. Defending the system from its citizens is the MGB, the State Security Force. And no MGB officer is more courageous, conscientious, or idealistic than Leo Demidov.

A war hero with a beautiful wife, Leo lives in relative luxury in Moscow, even providing a decent apartment for his parents. His only ambition has been to serve his country. For this greater good, he has arrested and interrogated.

Then the impossible happens. A different kind of criminal-a murderer-is on the loose, killing at will. At the same time, Leo finds himself demoted and denounced by his enemies, his world turned upside down, and every belief he's ever held shattered. The only way to save his life and the lives of his family is to uncover this criminal. But in a society that is officially paradise, it's a crime against the State to suggest that a murderer-much less a serial killer-is in their midst. Exiled from his home, with only hiswife, Raisa, remaining at his side, Leo must confront the vast resources and reach of the MBG to find and stop a criminal that the State won't admit even exists.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594699408
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 03/31/2015
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 136,171
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

TOM ROB SMITH graduated from Cambridge in 2001 and lives in London. CHILD 44 is his first novel.


London, England

Date of Birth:

February 19, 1979

Place of Birth:

London, England


St. John's College, Cambridge, 2001

Read an Excerpt

His only ambition was a general one: to serve his country, a country that had defeated fascism, a country that provided free education and health care, that trumpeted the rights of workers around the world, that paid his father -- a munitions worker on an assembly line -- a salary comparable to that of a fully qualified doctor. Although his own employment in the State Security force was frequently unpleasant he understood its necessity, the necessity of guarding their revolution from enemies both foreign and domestic, from those who sought to undermine it and those determined to see it fail. To this end Leo would lay down his life. To this end he'd lay down the lives of others.

What People are Saying About This

Nelson DeMille

This is a truly remarkable debut novel. CHILD 44 is a rare blend of great insight, excellent writing, and a refreshingly original story. Favorable comparisons to Gorky Park are inevitable, but CHILD 44 is in a class of its own.

Scott Turow

CHILD 44 is a remarkable debut novel-inventive, edgy, and relentlessly gripping from the first page to the last.

Robert Towne

Achingly suspenseful, full of feeling and of the twists and turns that one expects from le Carré at his best, CHILD 44 is a tale as fierce as any Russian wolf. It grabs you by the throat and never lets you go.

Lee Child

An amazing debut—rich, different, fully-formed, mature...and thrilling.

Raymond Khoury

"CHILD 44 telegraphs the talent and class of its writer from its opening pages, transporting you back to the darkest days of postwar Soviet Russia with assured efficiency and ruthlessly drawing you into its richly atmospheric and engrossing tale."--(Raymond Khoury, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Templar and Sanctuary)

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion
1. Leo's character evolves over the course of the book. What do you see as the most significant catalyst for change?

2. What propels Leo to go forward in his quest for the murderer: fear, compassion, or a sense of justice?

3. The relationship between Vasili and Leo is contentious from the beginning. Does Vasili feel pure hate, contempt, or jealousy for Leo? Why?

4. When Raisa reveals the truth of their marriage to Leo, were you surprised at his reaction? Would you have made similar choices under the circumstances? When does personal conviction trump duty and loyalty?

5. Who do you think was ultimately responsible for incriminating Raisa. What would it be like to live in a society in which everyone is under suspicion of crimes against the state?

6. Does the book's portrayal of life in a totalitarian state remind you of any other books?

7. In 1953, the year of Stalin's death, there were 2,468,524 prisoners in the Gulag system. Do you think that legacy affects Russian culture today?

8. Which character's duplicity or innocence did you find most surprising, and why?

Further Reading
Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum
I Want to Live: The Diary of a Young Girl in Stalinist Russia by Nina Lugovskaya
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
A Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine by Robert Conquest
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Montefiore
Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times -- Soviet Russia in the 1930s by Sheila Fitzpatrick

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Child 44 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1371 reviews.
Janus More than 1 year ago
Tom Rob Smith's debut is an excellent book. If I was able to, I'd give it 4.5 stars. Smith's plotting is dynamically executed and his prose is phenomenal. Not only did I find myself devouring the book, but I found that it has created a strong interest in literature of similar topics (specifically Stalinist Russia). Having studied the case which the novel is based off of, I can say that Smith did a good job tying the fictional to the facts. Now for my few gripes, and believe me, they are small. Despite the uniqueness of the characters and Smith's excellent portrayal of them, I never really connected to anyone. I really liked Leo, but it's challenging to relate to the types of characters that are in this book. Second, at times I felt like Smith was beating the whole 'see how tense it was in Stalinist Russia' thing to death. He kept reminding us of the things that did or didn't happen in such a paranoid state, and sometimes it was just too much. Lastly, the twist was a bit cliche. I believe it is Jasper Fforde who makes fun of the various stereotypical plot devices used by giving them numbers (i.e. "looks like a plot device 27 to me sir"). Smith's twist was definitely a plot device number whatever, but by the time you find out, you don't care because the rest of the book is so enjoyable.
Peej More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because it was on Barnes & Noble recommends and for members was a really cheap price. The summary on the inside cover also intrigued me.

This is one of the best books I have read recently. The plot is tight and intriguing. The first little bit was a little slow, but once I got going, I couldn't stop reading.

I also loved the characters. Though they are strong, they have definite flaws, but you don't resent them because of those flaws. This is a fantastic book that I widely recommend. Can't wait for more by Mr. Smith.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I hadn't realized when I picked this book up that it had so many graphic torture scenes. The dust cover promised a story about the search for a serial killer. After 150 pages there was only a hint of this storyline so I gave up. Not what I expected.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I must say goimg into this book I wasn't sure I would enjoy it considering I'm not a big fan of mystery books but by the end of the book all doubts were gone. Tom Rob Smith did an amazing job of capturing the paranoia of Stalin's Soviet Union. The Story follows Leo Demidov, a veteren of the Great Patriotic War and a high ranking official in the Soviet secret police. He and his wife set out to investigate the murders of several young children throughout the Soviet Union, that have been denied by the police in an effort to establish the feeling of a perfect society. Truth that he finds proves to be more shocking than he could have ever imagined. Child 44 is one of the best books I have read and highly suggest. Thanks for reading another D.Z. review.
eurekatpt More than 1 year ago
I read this ebook from my library so I can't attest to the quality of the B&N download. However, pertaining to the book itself: At first I felt this was a little haphazard - it seemed the author had several different agendas for the plot & theme. The more I got into it, though, things tied together very nicely. By the end, I couldn't put it down because everything was tying together. There are several "Wait, what?! Oh!" moments that totally got me. The murder mystery/thriller side was fun, but I also really appreciated the insight into 1953 Soviet politics & culture. I normally hate political sections of books, but the author tied the politics & culture in nicely so that it was all interesting and relevant to the plot. Overall a great read and I would definitely recommend to others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
couldn't put it down once I started. Great plot twists and story all together. You won't be disappointed
JarrahZack More than 1 year ago
The crimes are suitably heinous. The mystery stubbornly (and enjoyably) refuses to unravel until the final sequences. As is usually the case with these kinds of books, the killer turns out to have a special connection to the protagonist. If that's all there was to Child 44, then it would just be another forgettable mystery-thriller. What makes it special is the author's assured writing and an incredible setting. We get to experience the dread and paranoia that exists among the ordinary citizens of the Soviet Union, as well as within their law enforcement. The mystery side of the story is often overshadowed by the thriller aspects of the book. Much of the novel is a long chase across the country with many participants. There are plenty of thwarted plans, narrow escapes and surprise revelations. It's enough to make me add the sequel to my list of books to read.
karen southern More than 1 year ago
Child 44 kept me on the edge of my seat. Very unpredictable with a lot of exciting twists and turns. I couldn't wait to read the sequel: The Secret Speech, which was also good.. I have been searching for a suspense novel of this quality every since.
Pugitis More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I heard rumors that they may be making a movie of it also. I hope so. It is definitely worth the time to take to read this one!
Ann47 More than 1 year ago
I'll never forget this book. I had trouble putting it down. It is somewhat depressing to read how the people in Russia lived during this time. It has a lot of historical fact about Russia during Stalin's reign and is a very suspenseful mystery. So, if you are looking for light reading that is fun or romantic, this isn't for you. But if you like mysteries with a twist, you will love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. War or the history surrounding war has never been particularly interesting to me, but the brief description of the main character's struggle on the book jacket made me want to buy it. I held on to it for a while, passing it by for other books, before actually reading it. When I started the book, I couldn't wait to finish it. The strength displayed by the characters was astonishing. Had I found myself in any of the situations they were in, I would have folded like a deck of cards. I know this is fiction, but the fear and misery seemed very real to me. I know I haven't said much (because I don't want to give anything away) but I needed to say something. I think everyone should read this book.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
The book starts off with the gruesome story of survival in 1930's Russia. It only gets more brutal from there. It jumps forward 20 years to Stalin era Soviet Union, where paranoia reigns, trust is in short supply, and no one is innocent. Torture in the name of justice, false confessions and betrayals for the sake of survival, crime coverups in the name of propaganda... these are just some of the atrocities depicted. Leo, the main character is a rising star with the MGB. He is a truthseeker -- So long as the truth benefits the government. When confronted with a man he believes to be truly innocent of any crime, his world starts to unravel. Questioning the government and its methods is not in the script and he is soon denounced as a traitor and demoted. Sent to the east. While there, he begins to investigate a serial child murderer. His (and his wife's) life is in danger however, because it is not in the government's interest to believe a rational man could be responsible for these children's deaths. As far as the government is concerned each child's death is easily attributed to the lunatics, homosexuals, and Nazi infiltrators. But Leo is willing to risk life and limb in order to get to the truth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting mystery. It is a little slow at times but i enjoyed the story overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Be prepared to settle in for a thrilling page turner. This book would be appealing to a man or woman young adult or senior citizen. Yes it is fiction but also insightful. Oh shucks just read it.
DrIreland More than 1 year ago
This novel is beautifully humanistic; tragically and heartrendingly real. This story is one that you dread will end, and then applaud the author when it does. Tom Rob Smith provides his readers with a fantastic plot, characters, and a believable and reliable tale that deserves praise for its endearing qualities and scrupulous attention to the qualities of human emotion and behavior.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will not be able to put this book down. Unbelievable tempo, characters, and insight into an era of communist russia that has not been described so vividly to date.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are so few stories that give so much insight into the Soviet Union. Could not put down this book or the others in the trilogy! Passed them on to hubby with the same results.
GR12 More than 1 year ago
Great book. stayed up all night reading it. Although the Iron Curtain was before my time. From what I've heard this was very much what it must have been like to live back in Russia in those times. By no means is this a book about history, it's a book about a man who has everything he has ever believed in turned upside down. Hunted by the people and the state that he fought his whole life for, built his life around. This is a book you really must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book took a little while to get into, but it was worth it. The reader gets an insight into communist russia,but mixed with a thriller.
Mupples More than 1 year ago
One reviewer wrote it was terrible because it was violently graphic. Its called Russian socialism under Stalinist rule. Not all realities in life are romantic or sweet, and this particular chapter in human history especially gruesome. I thought this book was very realistic and worthy of my time.
mimimoo More than 1 year ago
Seriously terrible story. This book was so violently graphic I had to stop reading it. the story (not that there is much of one) is not what the synopsis describes. Don't waste your time with this book, its beyond terrible.
sbrita More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended and I'm glad I bought it. I'm not a big fan of murder mysteries but towards the end I couldn't put this one down. Smith has a great writing style that is very character driven. The story follows a young "MGB" agent through his transformation of agent of the state to someone who needs to confront his past and the path he has chosen. I don't want to give too much away since its a murder mystery, but its worth reading if you want a good piece of fiction. The story is told in Russia and the tone, descriptions and lifestyle of Stalin-ruled Soviet-Union is done very very well. Reminds me a bit of Gorky-Park from the '80's. The one knock I have is that it seems very formulaic. Every lingering question or open issue seems to get wrapped up right at the very end. I feel Smith may have had a check list sitting beside is computer to make sure he tied everything up before the final period - but honestly, a small criticism for a decent book.
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
Imagine you live in a society which is perfect, must be perfect, and is set in contrast with "evil" western capitalism. This is a world in which no challenge to this ideology can be tolerated. This is a world in which the MGB, the state secret police, will arrest anyone who is believed to be questioning this view of the world, or presenting a challenge to protecting this "utopia." This is 1953 Stalinist Russia. But this is a world in which anyone, at any time, can fall under the suspicion of the MGB, including Leo Demidov, one of its officers. He and his wife, Raisa, are sent away, to a small town along the train line, and it is here that Leo comes to realize that his own actions were complicit in helping a serial killer of young children remain free, protected by the ideologically demanded "blindness" to flaws of Russia. Leo becomes committed to finding the killer. In the process, however, he is forced to see how those around him really view him, now that he is no longer cloaked in the power of the MGB. When his wife is able to drop the mask of being a true believer of all the State's methods and goals, he must question his previous notions of being owed love, and what he now has the right to ask of others. Now, every move that Leo makes will be under scrutiny, without protection, and he can no longer confidently know from what source the greatest threat to his life will be. This is a gripping, disturbing, and yet fascinating read, giving a glimpse of the history of Russia. But perhaps most disturbing is the realization that although the book is set in 1953, the author drew upon the events of an actual child/serial murderer, Andrei Chikatilo, the Butcher of Rostov, who killed at least 53 women and children between 1978 to 1990.
smgSG More than 1 year ago
I was surprised how much I was engaged in this book. I couldn't put it down once I started reading. The characters were really gripping and I couldn't believe how well the story read.
UglyCook More than 1 year ago
I stayed up far too late with this one. A close look into the Soviet system of creating a perfect society when in fact there is a serial killer on the loose. Unquestioning loyalty turns to ethical struggles and characters find themselves in surprising and touching ways.