Tom Rob Smith – Child 44

★★★★½

“Better to let ten innocent men suffer than one spy escape”

Title: Child 44
Author: Tom Rob Smith
Language: English
Publication details: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2011. (First published 2008)
Pages: 473

The gist of it:

  • Soviet Russia. Death, doom and despair.
  • And suspicion. Lots of suspicion.
  • 44 children murdered. Officer Leo pokes around. Ruffles feathers.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Demidov make a run. For their lives.
  • Officer Leo continues poking. For justice.
  • Murder mystery is solved. Soviet Russia still soviet. Can’t win them all.

My ponderings:

Child 44 a mixture of Argo meets Shutter Island, with the thrill and suspense of Argo and the twists and turns of Shutter Island.

Picture
WILL YOU?!?!

It’s a roller-coaster ride. You’re swooping, you’re falling, you’re shielding your eyes and screaming for your life…then you finally reach the safety of level ground. Before you have a chance to catch your breath, the tracks are rising again, and you prepare yourself for another thrilling plunge. Will you survive the drop this time…?

The plot was entirely engaging, with one twist soon followed by another. The book was fast-paced, but in every positive meaning of the term. There were many scenes where I was holding my breath wondering if Leo and his wife were going to make it out unharmed, then breathing out a sigh of relief when they did (usually with repercussions).

Me, while reading this book:

 

“Leo. Leo NO! LEO RUN!! GODDAMMIT LEO GET OUT OF THERE!!!”
*starts flipping through pages rapidly*
*Heart rate starts slowing down*
“What a ride…”
*Resumes reading*
Repeat process till end of book.

 

You never knew who you could trust in the book, but you just wanted to trust people so badly because you knew they were all in the same boat, living under fear and oppression. Unfortunately, that was also the reason why you couldn’t trust them in the first place. A people in fear will do anything to guarantee their own lives after all.
Picture
Who can I trust…?

The characters were so flawed, so human, and you had to respect their decisions given the circumstances they were living in. The bad guys were scum, obviously, but not without reason. In such an oppressive environment, it was only normal that everyone was looking out for themselves first. There was one scene where a relatively ‘good’ lady squealed on Leo for the sake of her family and even though I was screaming “WHY LADY WHY??”, I also grudgingly understood that she was scared and desperate.

There are two train scenes in this book (as far as I can remember), one is near the start, where Leo is tracking down his wife. The other is near the end, where Leo and his wife are making their getaway. I’m not going to reveal anything, lest spoilers, but I will say that those two scenes were heart-stopping, adrenaline pumping, thrill rides across an active volcano. I was internally screaming “OH MY GOD!!” as I read through the pages, because everything was just so suspenseful! And you wanted the characters to survive so badly!

Picture
JESUS LEO.
Leo and his wife, a.k.a. Mr. and Mrs. Demidov, were badass fugitives with immense willpower. They were the kind of characters who would go through shit and had you thinking “If that was me, I’d be lying on the floor in foetal position now.” I guess I just don’t have what it takes to be a badass fugitive, but at least I can still look up to them! They had a tense relationship at the start, as their marriage wasn’t entirely based on love per se, but after sticking with each other through some pretty dreadful tribulations, husband and wife can naught but depend on one another, trust one another, care for one another. It’s…it’s romantic in a melancholy way. And made for a very interesting dynamic, I must say.

 

Picture
Nothing to see here folks. Carry on.
I really like the prose; it was terse and to the point, yet capable of painting a very descriptive picture of scenery, people and emotions. Once in a while there would be these particularly important phrases that were positioned right in the centre of the page, reminiscent of something like this:

The girl read, her heart pacing. She had no idea what was going to happen next. How could she? She was after all, but a reader and not the author. All she could do at this point, was think:

GTFO LEO. NAOW.

She grabbed another cookie to munch on.

Well, the layout was similar; I can’t even begin to do justice to the writing.

Recommends it to: Anyone. This book is fast-paced, thrilling and packs a powerful message and emotional punch. Repeatedly.

The only reason I didn’t watch the show, starring Tom Hardy nonetheless, was because reading gore is one thing, but I just can’t stomach watching it. The setting is Soviet Russia, so you can only imagine how graphic the scenes are going to get.

 

Picture
Tom Hardy sure can rock a Russian uniform.
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