the alfmeister

a figment of reality's imagination

Book Review – Child 44


In Auckland over the last week or so I didn’t take a book with me which almost is as distressing as not having my beloved iPhone. Thankfully the darling Kelly had a collection close to the National Library and she offered one nondescript looking paperback and duly I set about reading it.

And what a book!

Apparently this is the first such novel by Tom Rob Smith (yep, that’s his name) and if you were to get a following, this would be the way to do so. I haven’t had the inclination of yet to find out if he has done any others, but it will come to mind next time I am in the library.

The story is set in 1950s Russia, a country still recovering and revelling in the victory of the Great Patriotic War and follows a hero from the conflict who is a man on the up and up in the MGB.

For anyone who follows Communism in its purest form, this book tells it like it is…or was. Leo, the agent is asked to deal with an issue where a fellow agent’s family are upset at the State’s investigation into the death of their son. They claim murder, and despite the disembowelment and lack of clothes, the State cannot possibly admit to any form of crime on their watch and report it as an unfortunate accident involving a train. Case closed.

However, due to a series of smaller unrelated incidences, and a power struggle within the MGB, Leo is then asked to investigate his own wife and denounce her, which would subject her to either death, or worse, 25 years in the Gulags.

What follows is a shocking portrayal of the paranoia that gripped the people during the Stalin-ist era and Leo and his wife flee to outback Russia and are forced to live the life of peasants. You would think that was enough of a story?

Wrong. Leo stumbles upon another disemboweled kid, and another is discovered, and soon enough he and the local Constable have uncovered a nationwide killing spree that the State still refuse to admit to and deal with the issue the best way they know; eliminate those who know.

Get it, read it, and love it. A great book, well written (I especially like the way he delivers speech, nice, dark and broody touch) but I have to discredit it somewhere. And it is the last few chapters where it seemed to have succumbed to Hollywood-like script writing. I won’t give anything away, but when 90% of the book was chilling and dark, the ending, while somewhat a relief, should have maintained that Communist feel.

I later found out this book is based on the killing spree of The Rostov Ripper who killed 52.

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