Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review

In high school and college I read Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and recently I read Anne Applebaum's Gulag.  However, nothing brought home to me what it must have felt like to live in Stalinist Russia better then Tom Rob Smith's Child 44.

The book tells the story of Leo Demidov who is a MGB(otherwise known as the KGB) investigator.  Demidov stumbles upon a series of murders but this is a problem because the Soviet Union is a workers paradise and murders do no officially occur.  To suggest otherwise is to commit a crime against the state.  Demidov must find the murderer before the state captures him and sends him to the gulag.  

The real strength of this book is its use of  language to give the reader a sense of what it was like in Communist Russia.  There is sense in which the reader feels disoriented and tense because it is difficult to know who Leo can trust.  Smith does a good job building the tension and inserting plot shifts to keep the reader off balance.  It is never clear who Demidov can trust or if he will successful.

The only complaint is that the motive for the murders does not seem to be fully developed.  However this is a minor complaint and the strength of the narrative more than makes up for this small weakness. 

Child 44 is a quick read and I recommend investing the time in a story about a world in which the truth must officially be fiction.

Buy the book here.


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