The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

In 1952 Josef Stalin died and Nikolai Kruschev came to power in the Soviet Union. In 1956, in a speech by Kruschev, he attempts to distance himself from the excessively brutal purges that characterised the Stalin era. The speech is rapidly and probably deliberately leaked to the public resulting in revenge attackes against members and former members of the Soviet Secret Police (MGB), from political prisoners who are now being released.

It is in this environment of revenge that Leo Demidov (see Child 44), former MGB officer and now homicide detective, finds himself. Leo and his wife, Raisa, have adopted two children, Zoya and Elena, whose parents were killed during one of Leo’s MGB raids. The younger girl Elena, is adjusting well to her new life, but despite all attempts by Leo and Raisa, Zoya has decided that she will hate Leo forever.

When Fraera, a women who Leo betrayed 7 years earlier is released from a Gulag, Fraera sets out, not to kill Leo, but to take away everything that Leo values in his life. Fraera kidnaps Zoya and in order to get her back Leo must first go to a Gulag as a prisoner, to release Fraera’s husband, and then later travel to Budapest. Leo finds himself in Budapest in the middle of the 1956 Hungarian uprising.

The reforms set in place by Kruschev and Leo’s exit from the MGB make this book much less dark that Child 44, so it did not fill me with the same sense of gloom and fear. One of the main issues of the book was about forgiveness for past crimes and absolving guilt. This created a real conflict because the story is written in such a way that you feel for Leo as the hero of the story, but his actions as an MGB officer are pretty unforgiveable. The history surrounding the story – Kruschev’s speech and the 1956 Hungarian uprising – was fascinating to read about.

The Secret Speech is the second novel in a trilogy with ‘Child 44’ the first novel, and ‘Agent 6’ the last. The Secret Speech was an excellent entertaining book, whereas Child 44 was truly exceptional.


Book Published 2009


See a full list of books by Tom Rob Smith

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