The child 44 of the title of Tom Rob Smith's debut crime novel is the anticipated 44th victim of a serial killer--a killer who strips his victims naked, eviscerates them, and leaves them with their mouths stuffed with masticated bark. But here in Stalinist Soviet Union, where these grisly deaths take place, there is no such thing as a serial killer and the state sees little it can do to prevent such "accidents.?
But therein lies the story of Leo Stepanovich Damidov, who is married to the beautiful, Raisa, and living the life of a privileged member of the State Security force, MGB. Unable to ignore the deaths, Damidov is about to lose his whole world to become one of the fearful masses he has long persecuted. Demoted, stripped of his power, and sent into internal exile with Raisa, Leo begins to examine his complicity in the state's apparatus of oppression--and searches for redemption by pursuing the criminal no one else wants to acknowledge exists.
Tom Rob Smith has written a standout suspense thriller set in a truly awful time and place. His evocation of the Soviet society and its criminal justice system is harrowing and frighteningly real. Damidov and his other characters are drawn with extraordinary depth of detail and exactitude of emotion. Child 44 is a marvelous novel; one that begs to have a sequel.