Last Christmas my father bought my sister and I a bunch of crime novels. All three of us caught the crime novel bug after inheriting my late Mamgu's collection of book. Mamgu knew what she liked: bingo, knitting, chain-smoking cigarettes, car boot fairs, jewellery, QVC, Dad's Army, The Two Ronnies, Only Fools and Horses, snooker, cricket, tennis and crime novels. Sorry for that overly long list. I find that when someone's dead it's like they are looking over your shoulder expecting an accurate description. Mamgu made me do it!
Anyway, Child 44, that's what we were meant to be talking about. This is no ordinary crime novel. In fact, the crime it investigates is almost in addition to the true focus of the novel which is the abuse of power and the terror of living in Russia as a Soviet state. This is a country where noone is safe. Where people inform on their brothers, friends, even their lovers to save their own skins from suspicion. Everyone lives in fear of being sent to the Gulags - a prison where people are tortured until they admit to crimes they did not commit and are executed for doing so. The regime of terror is supported by propaganda. The Communist leaders are unquestionable and their rule has created a perfect society in which crime does not exist. The police force is therefore unimportant, almost obsolete. The only crime that does exist is the crime of undermining the State.
Our story focuses on Leo, an exemplary officer in the MGB (later the KGB). Leo has spent his life tracing and arresting "enemies of the state" and has total faith in the work that he does. That is until one day he comes to realise that a man he has arrested is actually innocent. If he is innocent, how many others that Leo has seen put to death are also innocent? As his faith is shaken Leo's world begins to crumble until it is he who is the suspected enemy of state. Banished from Moscow and thrown out from the MGB Leo finds out that crime is very real and that there is a mass murderer on the loose. But how will he catch this killer when the state insists there is no crime, and when Leo himself is a fugitive?
Well I'm not going to spoil it for you. With a 8/10 it's definitely one to read for yourself.