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Publisher's Summary

It is a society that is, officially, a paradise. Superior to the decadent West, Stalin's Soviet Union is a haven for its citizens, providing for all of their needs: education, health care, security. In exchange, all that is required is their hard work, and their loyalty and faith to the Soviet State.

Leo Demidov knows this better than most. A rising, prominent officer in the State Security force, Leo is a former war hero whose only ambition is to serve his country. To defend this workers' paradise - and to guarantee a secure life for his parents and for his wife, Raisa - Leo has spent his career guarding against threats to the State. Ideological crimes - crimes of thought, crimes of disloyalty, crimes against the revolution - are forcefully suppressed, without question.

And then the impossible happens. A different kind of criminal - a murderer - is on the loose, killing at will. At the same time, Leo finds himself demoted and denounced by his enemies, all but sentenced to death. The only way to salvage what remains of his life is to uncover this criminal. But in a society that is officially paradise, it's a crime against the state to suggest that a murderer - much less a serial killer - is in their midst.

To save his life and the lives of his family, Leo must confront the vast resources and reach of the security forces, with only Raisa remaining at his side, to find and stop a criminal that the State won't even admit exists.

©2008 Tom Rob Smith (P)2008 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

" Child 44 is a remarkable debut novel - inventive, edgy and relentlessly gripping from the first page to the last." (Scott Turow)

  • Winner, 2009 Thriller Award, Best First Novel

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Be Prepared Be Forewarned

A stark, harrowing, intense portrayal of the of Stalin's murderous reign and legacy in the Soviet Union. Complex characters and story telling in this unique setting made for a compelling listen to the end. An outstanding first novel with appeal to fans of historical novels, thrillers, and perhaps true crime. My highest recommendation.

45 of 45 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Terror from all sides.

One amazing aspect I found in Smiths first novel is his ability to draw the reader into the personal lives of its many differing characters,to draw out empathy from the reader for the main actors situation,and feel the paranoia and fear
of living under a Stalinist regime which is just as frightening as having a serial killer roaming at will.
The characters on its surface might seem stock;each one in place, each doing what's expected in such a novel,but on deeper reading a whole other world of resourceful people come together to try to protect themselves and each other against a killer and their government that says he couldn't exist.
Dennis Boutsikaris is the perfect reader for this novel. Usually I'm distracted by a narrator affecting a foreign accent,but Boutsikaris has an evenhanded way of telling this story.His accent conveys a sense of fatalism in the characters lives,but also ,extremely(to me),the love for and between parent and children,as well as conflict between husband and wife.
This is a great book.Tom Rob Smiths experience as a script writer shows through,for good or ill.
This would be a great movie if the right director and actors could be found;or maybe we should just leave well enough alone.

71 of 72 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story


I can't decide if I'm more impressed by the fact that this is Tom Rob Smith's first book, or by Dennis Boutsikaris' performance. Either way - it's a win all around. This is a very chilling literary thriller, both in story and in setting, but absolutely captivating. You can feel the fear and the paranoia in Boutsikaris' characterizations, and it comes as no surprise that Child 44 won a few debut fiction awards when it first came out and quickly became a listener favorite.

23 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent story with vivid, engaging setting

Beginning with a description of the blight of Russian communism in the 1930's your stomach will actually cry for food. This book really draws you in so you feel for the characters. After two years of listening to audiobooks this is my overall favorite. There are several well developed characters, all of which are 100% believable. You will not regret getting this book, I am recommending it to everyone. Many stories of this type suffer from predictability, and this usually causes me to shy away from detective novels. This is not the case for "Child 44". Another high point is the narration, it is clear, articulate and imitates a perfect russian accent when appropriate.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Relationships Explored in Tightly Written Thriller

Child 44 is presented as a thriller; a Russian Agent, Leo Demidov, tracking a serial killer in communist Russia. While the novel is most certainly a thriller – and an exceptional one at that – it’s also an extremely personal story that explores how two people can have completely different perceptions of the relationship they are in.

The way Tom Rob Smith develops and reveals these relationships is done with care, pacing, and flawless planning. Time and again, we are presented with different situations and different combinations of people that have for years co-existed without ever knowing what the other was thinking or feeling. The balance between the exploration of these relationships and the action of the murder investigation is perfect, and the author manages to weave them together into a single absorbing story. For anyone who enjoys thrillers but demands strong character development, this story is a nearly sure bet.

I was taken off guard by the first scene in the story, and considered turning it off, thinking the book was not for me. I’m so glad I gave it a little more time, and urge anyone that isn’t thrilled with the very beginning of the novel to give it a little longer and let the story really get started. For me, quitting would have been a huge mistake.

Mentioning the skill of Dennis Boutsikaris will be unnecessary for most Audible listeners, who will already be aware of the value he brings to everything he reads.

A phenomenal book on every level.

28 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Grisly, chilling, yet it'll wrap you up and you will think about it long after it's finished. The background of 50s Soviet life is fascinating as a backdrop. The final twist is a bit unbelievable but it doesn't take away from the impact of the story. Recommend this one highly but if you are squeamish, better stick to Disney.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Rarely is an audiobook so compelling, so absorbing from beginning to end, as this one was. I found myself sitting in the car after getting to work, wishing I could continue listening, and plugging the headphones back into my ears at the end of my 8 hours, eager to resume the tale.
Some stories have nothing but action. Some get carried away with descriptive passages. Some focus so intensely on characters that the story line is too thin. This one has the perfect balance of all three elements -- memorable characters, nail-bitting plot, and evocative descriptions.
I can hardly wait for the author's next book.

27 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent and Exciting

This is essentially a detective story set inside the Soviet Union near the end of Stalin's reign. You have to suspend disbelief with regard to some of the plot twists, but it's well worth it. In addition, the setting -- a communist state with higher regard for appearances than justice -- is like another character in the book. Be warned that the story involves the murders of children, and it's a little gruesome.

It appears that this book is the first in a possible series with the same protagonist. I'll listen to those that follow.

24 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Excellent audible novel. Engrossing, easily accessible story. Very well narrated. Think I actually listened to every word, which is rare for me! Both myself and my partner thoroughly enjoyed this book on our commute everyday - we have slightly different tastes in literature, so that is a good endorsement!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Remarkable Thriller

The best read of 2008 -- but wait, 2008 isn't over yet! True, but if there's a novel out there better than Child 44, it will have to be the best read of the decade. Child 44 is that good!

Add to that the fact that this is a debut novel, and I'm left in astonishment. Where does an author go when he's this good out of the starting gate?

The story of Child 44 is the story of Leo, an agent of the security police in Russia at the end of the Stalinist and the beginning of the Krushchev periods. It is the story of his wife, Raisa, and it is the story of Russia during a time when she feared her own people more than any other. The story would have been fascinating in any setting, but in the stark world of Russian communism, it is riveting.

Truly the best of 2008!

21 of 22 people found this review helpful