This is one of those books I wouldn’t have read if someone doesn’t insist on my reading them – my boyfriend, in this case, who had just finished it and said very seriously that I had to read it as well.
Leo Stepánovich is a young man who works for the Soviet Union security service, a job he likes because it allows him to have special benefits for he and his family when it comes to the apartments they live in or the food they can afford, and also makes him help to keep the country clean of those who want to destroy the freedom and equality only communism can bring to people… But this wonderful life Leo has ends when he is asked to spy his own wife and report to his superiors if she is actually a traitor.
At the same time, Leo has detected a series of crimes – some children have been murdered near the railroads, and he needs to find the killer, even when “crime is a capitalism illness” and he can barely ask for help, because just by saying that there have been murders he can be considered a political traitor himself.
Crimes and communism in the USSR are nor really my favourite topics for a novel, but I have been hooked on this book, so if you think this is not for you either, just get out of your comfort zone and try Smith’s Child 44.
The end is wonderfully solved, connecting the two lines of the novel – Leo’s personal and professional lives – but the real issue is the political background, which is as dangerous for an agent in the security service as for anyone else, because anybody can just report his neighbor and the guy will be in a torture chamber by the end of the day. Everyone is guilty, they seemed to claim.
So, would you report your own partner just to save yourself?
There is a film based on this book, but this is one of those times in which the film is not worth your time because the book is far more superior. Besides, they have changed the connection between Leo and the murderer, and in the film it doesn’t make any sense.
Summarizing: read the book!