No crime here

24 09 2016

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

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It is set in the Soviet Union and in the year 1953; Stalin’s reign of terror is at its height, and those who stand up against the might of the state vanish into the labour camps – or vanish altogether. With this background, it is an audacious move on Tom Rob Smith’s part to put his hero right at the heart of this hideous regime, as an officer in no less than the brutal Ministry State Security.

Leo Demidov is, basically, an instrument of the state — by no means a villain, but one who tries to look not too closely into the repressive work he does. His superiors remind him that there is no crime in Soviet Union, and he is somehow able to maintain its fiction in his mind even as he tracks down and punishes the miscreants. The body of a young boy is found on railway tracks in Moscow, and Demidov is quickly informed that there is nothing to the case. He quickly realises that something unpleasant is being covered over here, but is forced to obey his orders. However, things begin to quickly unravel, and this ex-hero of state suddenly finds himself in disgrace, exiled with his wife Raisa to a town in the Ural Mountains. And things will get worse for him — not only the murder of another child, but even the life and safety of his wife.

Terrific debut thriller and thoroughly gripping throughout. Disturbing and inspired by a real child killer in the Soviet Union who escaped capture because the system protected him the novel captures the nightmare of society at the end of the Stalin era.

four stars

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One response

6 01 2017
Secrets and lies | Prole Art Threat

[…] A cracking tale and really entertaining. Lots of twists and turns in a very uncertain world. Strongly recommended follow up to Child 44. […]

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