Book Review: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

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I bor­rowed this book from the local library.

The Secret Speech by Rob Tom Smith

My rat­ing for The Secret Speech — 3

About:
The Secret Speech” by Tom Rob Smith is the fic­tional fol­low up to his engross­ing debut book “Child 44” (book review) in which we con­tinue fol­low the tor­tured life of MGB agent turned homi­cide detec­tive Leo Demi­dov.

Hey Comrade…you buy "Secret Speech" now

Thoughts:
Inevitably this book is com­pared to its bril­liant pre­de­ces­sor which recounts the fic­tional pur­suit of a mass mur­derer, as well as Leo’s real­iza­tion that work­ing as a gov­ern­ment agent, he might not be the “good guy” in the story of life. This book never achieves that urgency and rush which res­onated with “Child 44” but I will try to review it on its own merit.

What “The Secret Speech” does achieve is broad­en­ing the moral scope of the pro­tag­o­nist, ques­tion­ing his share of the col­lec­tive guilt of insti­tu­tion­al­ized oppres­sion against your own peo­ple. Much like the Soviet Pre­mier Nikita Kruschev’s secret speech (secret because it was sup­posed to be heard only behind closed doors) which is referred to in the title and dri­ves the plot, the theme of guilt is played out well together with the absur­dity of blindly fol­low­ing the “state”.

The feel­ing of Soviet para­noia and insta­bil­ity, so promi­nent in “Child 44”, sim­ply isn’t there. The plot is so unnat­u­rally twisted that the book almost seems as if it is writ­ten as a Hol­ly­wood screen­play instead of a story arc. Leo’s char­ac­ter seemed almost com­i­cal, his abil­ity to over­come every twist, turn and sure­fire death is uncanny The rest of the char­ac­ters, well drawn in the begin­ning, fall flat towards the end. The vil­lain of this story, Fraera, who dri­ves the nar­ra­tive, is one of the weaker ele­ments of this story.

One of the strong points of "The Secret Speech” is that the his­tory in this book is accu­rate. The book is a well writ­ten, fast mov­ing page turner in a relent­less pace – which, as men­tioned above, is also its downfall.

Syn­op­sis:
In 1956 Soviet Rus­sia was shaken by the con­tents of Nikita Kruschev’s secret speech denounc­ing Stalin and ush­er­ing in a new era have became pub­lic. The crim­i­nal gangs of the vory have begun a wave of reprisal against those who enforced the bru­tal pol­icy of the State. One of those peo­ple is for­mer MGB agent Leo Demidov.

Leo, his wife Raisa and two adop­tive daugh­ters, Zoya & Elena, live in Moscow where they try to adjust to their new life. Elena is adjust­ing nicely, but Zoya, the older daugh­ter, still blames Leo for the mur­der of her par­ents by one of his col­leagues. Leo has left the MGB to start an unof­fi­cial homi­cide depart­ment (there are no crimes in the “People’s Paradise”).

This is when we meet Fraera, an unlikely leader of a vory gang, wife of a priest impris­oned by Leo seven years ear­lier. Fraera wants her revenge on Leo and she uses his fam­ily to exact it. The vil­lain counts on Leo to do any­thing to pro­tect his fam­ily, but she did not count on his skill, deter­mi­na­tion and great luck.

Shhh Comrade…You Buy "Secret Speech"

Zohar — Man of la Book

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