At the height of postwar Soviet Russia, WWII hero and MGB officer (precursor to the KGB) Leo Demidov is denounced, demoted, estranged from his wife Raisa, and sent to the Ural Mountains because of the ambitions of an inferior officer. In the little town of Voualsk, Leo discovers that all is not well in Stalin’s paradise as he investigates the suspicious death of a local child. Haunted by childhood memories, Leo tries to solve a series of related child murders, restore his relationship with his wife, and keep his growing doubts about the Soviet cause under wraps from prying eyes.
Child 44, soon to be a movie starring Tom Hardy, is a great read for someone like me who loves history, mysteries, and dystopian novels. Smith does an excellent job immersing the reader in the 1950s USSR and revealing the lengths to which the Soviets went to preserve the image of a harmonious society. His plot twists are surprising and well-executed. The only quibble I have is with the publisher who decided to italicize all of the dialogue in the novel. This unusual choice was confusing at first and made following the flow of the novel difficult at times.
Italics aside, Child 44 is a must read for anyone curious about life in Stalinist Russia who loves a good murder mystery!
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About the reviewer: Abby Shelton has worked as a Reference staff member at Tredyffrin Public Library for three months. When she’s not answering questions about printing and copying, she’s reading (of course!), enjoying the outdoors, and cooking new things.