Book Reviews of Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1)

Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1)
Child 44 - Leo Demidov, Bk 1
Author: Tom Rob Smith
ISBN-13: 9780446402385
ISBN-10: 0446402389
Publication Date: 4/29/2008
Pages: 448
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.

4.1 stars, based on 93 ratings
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

36 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 545 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
This thriller is one of the most hyped books this summer. The story follows one man's hunt to catch a serial killer of children. In typical thriller fashion, different chapters reveal what is happening with the protagonist, the killer, and occasionally victims or other side characters. Most chapters end with a cliff hanger before checking in with another character in the next.

Where Child 44 differs from the usual Safeway novel thrillers is in its setting - the story takes place in a Soviet Union ruled by Stalin. Clearly the author did quite a bit of research into that era, and he does a good job of showing the horrors and difficulties of life during that time. Much of the novel is spent developing the characters and setting - the murder investigations don't really rev up until the second half of the book.

Although the dialog is sometimes over-earnest and the who-dunnit aspect of the story is not very exciting, this book is still worth a read because of the dark but fascinating world and time it draws the reader into. This book should appeal to mystery/thriller fans, as well as those who enjoy historical fiction.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 180 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
As it promised, this book kept me up long past my bedtime. The suspense begins from the first pages, and tension builds with every chapter. The surprising twists shocked me and kept me reading. This thriller is based on the notorious true life crimes of Andrei Chikatilo, who was a ritualistic serial killer in Soviet Russia. A reader can feel the oppression and the fear inspired by the government. I cared deeply about the characters and could not put this book down. It is "entirely convincing and frightening." I am looking forward to his next novel which picks up where this one leaves off.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
This book explore the psychological aspects of the politically minded very well. It's matter of fact tone sits well with the plot, and the (not often) action within is worthy of a Bourne-like movie. The plot is good, the pacing is good and if you have access to the audio version, give it a try! It's an excellent look into the communist's frame of mind, and the way people have to behave and act for their very survival.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 468 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
This book is totally different from my usual fare, and I ordered it based on a fellow swapper's review. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008, this book is a definite page turner. An intense, very well written roller coaster ride that gripped me from the first page until the very last. Can't wait to order "The Secret Speech". Very highly recommend.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 28 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Excellent book. Really captures the bleakness of Russia (USSR) in the 30's and then in the 50s before Stalin dies. Favorably compares to Gorky Park and subsequent novels.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 636 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Wow! I enjoyed this murder mystery much more than I thought I would! It was a very thrilling adventure with an intricate, tightly-woven plot. I don't usually enjoy books set in Russia/U.S.S.R./Soviet Union but this one was just terrific! The characters were richly drawn and quite believable in their motivations. It was simply wonderful, with interesting sub-themes dealing with communism and the state of government. All in all, it was not only exciting, but thought-provoking as well.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 210 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I read this book about a serial killer in Russia under Stalin in the heart of winter with icy, rainy dreary wether and it fit the mood of the book. It was depressing but ultimately redeeming. It was well written, the characters well developed and the plot had some amazing twists and turns. You might want to wait till spring or summer to read it, but is a terrific page turner.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This was a engrossing murder mystery read. I would highly recommend it for fans of this genre. Set in Stalinist Russia it deals with the daily paranoia necessary to survive on a daily basis when you did not know who you could trust.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Very good book. I was a bit concerned as I the setting is 1950's communist Russia. I was quickly immersed however and it was a great insight into how that type of society functions. An easy to follow story that turned out to be a real page turner for me.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Prepare! One chapter flows into the next, and before you know it, it's 3AM.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 22 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Pretty good page turner. Set in the Soviet Union during the time of Stalin. You get to like Leo and his wife and hope they can survive. Mostly it is filled with twists and turns. A story about a serial killer who kills mostly children. He doesnt get caught because the local "police" just want to clear it off the books. So anyone can be blamed and tortured. Then everyone they mention gets killed. With all the murders solved the real killer if free to kill again. Only Leo seems to realize what is going on. In order to save face, he is threatened and nearly killed. The story twists around and eventually all is revealed.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This tale of the search for a mass murderer in the Soviet Union is chilling for two main reasons: not only the obvious, the horror of the victimization of children, but also the fear of living in a police state. Every move being monitored, people imprisoned, tortured, and killed simply because a neighbor says they are subversives. This is masterfully written, very suspenseful, and the characters finely drawn. Twists and turns in the plot make it even more enjoyable, especially surprising near the end.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
One of the best books I have ever read. Impossible to lay it down!
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 7 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Smith does an excellent job of making the reader feel the oppressive, paranoia-inducing atmosphere of Soviet Russia at the end of the Stalinist era, all the while telling a thrilling (if sometimes gory) mystery yarn.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 412 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
#1 Leo Demidov mystery set in 1950's Russia. Leo is a State Security agent--one of those who arrests the people who are guilty of traitorous actions, who are to be "questioned" (read: tortured) and then either sent to the Gulags or executed. Of course not all these people are actually guilty--but Leo is so indoctrinated into the "party line" that he just doesn't see it that way. If you are accused, then you MUST be guilty and deserve whatever you get.

Until a vicious, ambitious co-worker who has it in for him inserts Leo's wife's name into another prisoner's confession and thus Leo is asked to investigate his own wife and then denounce her. He refuses, and he and Raisa are sent to do the lowest of lowly jobs in a remote manufacturing community. Shortly after their arrival, Leo finds the body of a child in the snow--stripped, its stomach cut out and soil stuffed in its mouth. Horrified, Leo realizes that this crime must have been committed by the same person who killed the son of another agent back in Moscow months earlier--a crime that he helped to cover up and officially called 'an accident' without ever actually seeing the body or crime scene.

Suddenly he is gripped by the need to solve this crime and to his dismay as he secretly begins an investigation, discovers dozens of other similar murders occurring in small towns along the railroad line, all having been covered up by the State and never formally acknowledged as murder. With the help of some others willing to risk their skins, Leo and Raisa gather information and knowing full well it means execution at the end of the line if they are caught, set out to stop the monster preying on Russia's children.

What a wonderful book! Not the details of the story, mind you--those were nothing short of horrible. It seems very well-researched and also well-written; the author manages to make you somehow take Leo's side even though at the beginning he is a high-ranking officer in a machine that systematically terrorized and destroyed the whole vastness of the Soviet Union.

I was able to figure out the plot twist well ahead of time with the carefully laid down clues the author left, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story. Dark, graphically violent and deeply philosophical, this book won't appeal to everyone, but I personally am very much looking forward to the next entry in the series.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 4 more book reviews
This is an excellent book, not just as a mystery but the historical content is really fascinating. The characters are also very well-developed.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 24 more book reviews
I began reading this book thinking I probably wouldn't like it..I was so wrong..Even though I am not a big fan of books on the Soviet Union, this book was so much more..It could apply to any totaltarian society that dehumanizes it's citizens. The human heart struggles to survive, and love conquers the despotic rule. The story is beautifully told with vivid characterization..It may take a few chapters to get into the story of a man and his family..a man dedicated to enforcing state rule who gradually succumbs to his own morality even at the risk of everything..It put me in mind of the movie CITIZEN X which was superb.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on
Somehow this book slipped below my radar...until now!
Set in Communist Russia when the average citizen lived with very little and in fear, the author introduces to a policeman whose everyday life involves beatings and sending fellow citizens to the Gulag. And this many times with fabricated charges.
After being involved with a case involving a child's death, brushing it aside, more sentencing for the family, the protagonist begins to evolve into a more caring person, even at risk to his family. A pattern of child murders has been uncovered.

Initially given a lot of information and trying to sort it out, the reader is "pulled in". I couldn't wait 'til the time of the day to read, yet didn't want to rush it but savor each chapter as it literally painted each chapter.
You'll be pulled in for a ride through a bleak time for Russians while Leo struggles to emerge into a new person.
Must reveal: as a Boomer this time still a draw, remembering Krushchev banging his fists declaring to bury America.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 2 more book reviews
Child 44 was an exceptional book set in the Stalinist era in Russia. It is written just like a action movie yet the author took the time to flesh out the characters. It really gives you a sense of how people felt during this difficult time. I look forward to the author's next book, "The Secret Speech."
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 7 more book reviews
This is a very good book, although not up-lifting. I read it in less than a week, so if that tells you anything...
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 32 more book reviews
I loved this book - well written, insightful.....I will search out more of his books.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 26 more book reviews
Best book I've read in a long time, and this isn't even my usual genre! Fantastic. I couldn't put it down, spellbinding. I've never felt so entertained reading a book before. I was literaly on the edge of my seat and gasping. Read this book then tell everyone else you know to read it too! Way WAY better then Dragon Tatoo!!
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 56 more book reviews
While not perfect, this book is one that I will recommend over and over again because it has so much going for it...solid writing, riveting mystery, likable characters and exotic (relatively) setting. The story is loosely based on the Andrei Chikatilo story out of Russia during the early 90s but the twist in this story is what makes the book so astounding. I think that the author took way too much time to get from the set up to the denouement (more than 250 pages) but everything that happens in the interim is important too. I am definitely going to look for more books by Tom Rob Smith that feature Leo Demidov.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 1585 more book reviews
In the words of Emily Dickinson, Child 44 is a brilliantly plotted novel that had me feeling "zero at the bone" many times. From its staggering depiction of Stalinist Russia to the blood-chilling meaning behind its title, Tom Rob Smith's book grabbed me by the throat and refused to turn me loose. The devastating things Stalin's government did to the minds and bodies of its people almost beggars belief, and I have to admit that I did read this book in small sips until about the two-thirds mark simply because I wasn't quite in the mood for such a depressing book. The sips may have been small, but they were very frequent because Smith knows how to tell a tale, and once Demidov's investigation hits its stride, there was no way I could put Child 44 down.

However, this isn't merely a nose-to-the-window depiction of an era and an absorbing murder mystery. Smith's characterization is superb. Through the course of the book, Leo Demidov loses his innocence and grows up. His wife Raisa later shows depths undreamt of when readers first met her. The differences between city folk and country folk give readers hope for humanity, and there's a little girl named Nadya, who was probably my favorite character in the entire novel.

Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 made me say "Wow!" more than once while reading it, and I'm certainly looking forward to continuing Leo's story in the rest of the trilogy.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 168 more book reviews
Best book I've read this year, so far. Usually, I like a book to get right to the action and have little patience with authors that take their time setting the scene. TR Smith is such a good writer that he quickly draws you into, first, the back story, then the present day with all of its complexities and atrocities. The latter is so interesting that you don't even realize that half the book has been read before the focus turns to the child murders. Truly a story within a story!

The setting is post-revolutionary Russia just before and after Stalin's death. The protagonist, Leo Demidov, is a war hero turned security officer working for the state. He believes to his core in the righteousness of the laws, but is somewhat troubled by the ruthlessness and zeal with which they are enforced. Smith provides a chilling description of life during this time which was really no life at all when you consider the constant fear of being arrested for absolutely nothing.

It is in this surreal world, and after some personal tragedy and hardship, that our hero realizes that a serial killer is in their midst and dedicates himself to hunting down this creature and killing him. Because the existence of a serial killer would contradict the government's portrayal of their state as "crime-free", Leo risks his and his wife's lives by insisting that the killer exists and in pursuing his illegal investigation.

The tension builds and the atrocities against Leo and his wife (and those who assist them) continue until you simply can't put the book down. Very satisfying ending with a twist. You will NOT be disappointed in this book. Can't wait to read his second book!
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 28 more book reviews
Lots of suspense and thrills. The real pay off here is the information on the Stalin and post- Stalin years give the reader good insight on the horrifying ways that the ordinary (as well as the politically priliviged) people had to live in order to survive. A little gritty as far as plot, but great story line!
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 155 more book reviews
Stuart Kaminsky's Inspector Rostnikov and Martin Cruze Smith's Arkady Renko do their sleuthing for the most part in post-Soviet Russia, grappling with the challenges not only of crime and criminals, but the wildly shifting socio-political-economic environment as well. Tom Rob Smith offers an earlier time (Stalinist and post-Stalinist USSR) and a detective grappling with internal State terror, the Cold War, and his own past as an officer of in the State Security (NKVD and MGB) forces during and after WWII. In Child 44, a disturbing but very well-crafted debut, Leo Demidov expertly navigates the political pitfalls of his agency -- including a boss he should not trust and a rival clearly out to destroy him. He becomes enmeshed in the discovery of a horrific series of child murders that will threaten his marriage, his career, and his life -- and the lives of his wife, parents and a widening circle of those he encounters.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 34 more book reviews
Not knowing much about Starlin-era Soviet Union I wasn't sure what I was getting into. I had read a little bit about the Gulag's, but nothing about the average person living at the time. This was exciting and fascinating at the same time. The story was riveting, but I'm not sure I liked the characters. I felt there was something a bit lacking in the explanation of the murders and what happened to Leo as a child. That sounds like a fascinating story too. I'll look into the next book for sure.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on
I enjoyed this book very much. A most creative tale, peppered with historical facts. A great explanation of the political world in Soviet Russia during that time. I will have to get the second book in the series.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 2 more book reviews
I can't remember the last book I read that had me so totally engrossed. It started out a little slow, then all of a sudden I could not put it down! I found myself sneaking it into my work day, reading it instead of making dinner, and reading it well into the night, which if you knew me, you would realize very little comes between mw and a good night's sleep! I found out that a movie has been made of this book and it is coming out in April 2015. So excited! Even though I know the movie couldn't begin to measure up to this awesome book! I highly recommend you drop whatever book you are currently reading and read this instead. You won't be disappointed.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 76 more book reviews
A great story as well as a good look at the Cold War Soviet Union.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 6005 more book reviews
I don't know what I expected, but this is kind of a depressing read. I am always amazed by detective stories in the Soviet Union where people on the run from authorities manage to escape.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 205 more book reviews
I enjoyed this for the history rather than the mystery. The latter seems to exist almost as a backdrop for the former, rather than vice versa as often happens. However, the historical fiction is well done, so read it for the engaging description of life under Stalin. If you're looking for a great mystery or thriller, look elsewhere.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 205 more book reviews
I enjoyed this for the history rather than the mystery. The latter seems to exist almost as a backdrop for the former, rather than vice versa as often happens. However, the historical fiction is well done, so read it for the engaging description of life under Stalin. If you're looking for a great mystery or thriller, look elsewhere.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 44 more book reviews
This book started out making me depressed because of it's look into human nature under the big government type scenario experienced by people under communism. Then I got into the mystery and things began to turn around to show another side of human nature that restored my faith in people. It's a good mystery and I am recommending it to my book club. Fodder for much discussion.
reviewed Child 44 (Leo Demidov, Bk 1) on + 36 more book reviews
Leo is a war hero, he is married and lives in Moscow in a nice apartment and he is a memeber of the MGB, the state security agency which defends the system, thus however bad the crime is, the MGB is worse. But then a child is murdered but because the Soviet Union doesn't acknowledge that crime exists, this death is not investigated, the parents of the child are bullied into saying that the death is an accident. When Leo continues to investigate, he finds that this wasn't the first murder, Leo is ordered to let it drop when he defies the order, he is demoted and sent away. Since crime does not exist, the MGB is not about to admit that there is a serial killer on the loose. As Leo continues to investigate will he find the killer before they stop him. This is was a great book to listen too. A glimpse into a world that sounds like science fiction but is a world that thousands of people have lived and continue to do so.