Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Secret Speech

by Tom Rob Smith
403 pgs  (Leo Demidov series #2)

In 1956, Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, gave a speech behind closed doors to the leaders of the Soviet regime. In it, he condemned Stalin and those who carried out his ruthless decrees. The purpose of the speech was to usher in a new era in the Soviet Union, an era in which the government acted in the best interests of its citizens, and the citizens didn’t live in constant fear of being condemned by coworkers, neighbors, and even family members, and sent to work in a Siberian gulag for the rest of their lives.

The speech was quickly leaked to the press and soon the MGM agents, police, judges, and everyone else who had helped Stalin maintain his genocidal dictatorship found themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, in fear of the reprisals which were occurring throughout many of the cities in Russia. Leo Demidov, the former officer of Stalin’s secret police, and the hero of Smith’s first book Child 44 is no exception.

In his years working for the secret police, Leo had sent hundreds of his countrymen to the gulags and torture chambers, and his past is determined to catch up to him. Fraera, the wife of a man Leo had betrayed and sent to a gulag in Siberia seven years ago reenters his life and is determined to destroy the new life Leo has tried to create for himself, his wife, and their two adopted daughters.

I read Child 44 a few months ago, which tells the story of Leo’s pursuit of a sensational mass murderer who prayed on children throughout Russia, and I considered it one of the best books I had read in a long time. The Secret Speech is a very different type of story, but it’s just as compelling. This time around the scope of the Smith’s story is broader and he includes several themes which made it a difficult book for me to put down.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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