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The Secret Speech Hardcover – May 19, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (May 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446402400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446402408
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1956, bestseller Smith's edgy second thriller to feature Leo Demidov (after Child 44) depicts the paranoia and instability of the Soviet Union after the newly installed Khrushchev regime leaks a secret speech laying out Stalin's brutal abuses. Now working as a homicide detective, Leo has long since repudiated his days as an MGB officer, but his former colleagues, fearful of reprisals from their victims, have begun taking their own lives. Leo himself becomes the target of Fraera, the wife of a priest he imprisoned. Now the leader of a violent criminal gang, Fraera kidnaps Leo's daughter, Zoya, and threatens to kill Zoya if Leo doesn't liberate her husband from his gulag prison. Shifting from Moscow to Siberia and to a Hungary convulsed by revolution, this fast-paced novel is packed with too many incidents for Smith to dwell on any in great depth. Though its drama often lacks emotional resonance, this story paints a memorable portrait of post-Stalinist Russia at its dawn. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Compared to the critical acclaim showered on its predecessor, Child 44, The Secret Speech drew mixed reviews from critics. While the Minneapolis Star Tribune alone proclaimed Smith's sophomore effort equal to his debut, other critics still considered it entertaining and thought-provoking in its questioning of the nature of exoneration and redemption. The power of Smith's writing lies in his ability to ground sensational plot developments in rich historical and cultural detail, gleaned from extensive research. His gift for immersing readers deep within Cold War-era Moscow and Siberia propels the plot as much as his chase scenes and action sequences. Though it may not possess the psychological tension or strong, convincing characters of Child 44, Speech is still an "insanely exciting story" (Independent).

More About the Author

Tom Rob Smith graduated from Cambridge University in 2001 and lives in London. His first novel, Child 44, was a New York Times bestseller and an international publishing sensation. Among its many honors, Child 44 won the ITW 2009 Thriller Award for Best First Novel, The Strand Magazine 2008 Critics Award for Best First Novel, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Tom invites you to visit his website www.TomRobSmith.com and follow @tomrobsmith on Twitter.

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Customer Reviews

A little too much unnecessary action;a few too many incredulous characters and scenes.
Princeton Book Review
Overall, this is a worthy follow-up to the author's acclaimed Child 44, and I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy, Agent 6.
jazznut
"Child 44" was a great thriller, and I had high expectations for Tom Rob Smith's sequel "The Secret Speech".
Z Hayes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By bobbewig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me start off by saying that The Secret Speech is not quite as good as Child 44 -- BUT it is a very good historical thriller and definitely well worth reading. Tom Rob Smith's second novel takes places in 1956, post-Stalin Soviet Union. During this time a violent regime is beginning to come apart, resulting in a society where the police are the criminals and the criminals are the innocent. The "firecracker" during this period is when a secret document based on a speech by Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, is distributed throughout the nation. The basic theme of Khrushchev's message is that Stalin was a murderer and a tyrant, and that life in the Soviet Union will improve. The plot of The Secret Speech moves from the streets of Moscow during its political upheaval, to the Siberian gulags and to the heart of the Hungarian uprising in Budapest. Central to the plot is former state security officer, Leo Demidov, the hero of Smith's Child 44. Demidov is now the head of Moscow's homicide department, and while striving to see justice done, his life is in turmoil due to trying to build a life with his wife, Raisa, and their adopted daughters who have yet to forgive him for his role in the death of their parents. On top of this personal turmoil, Demidov and his family are in serious danger from someone with a grudge against him. The Secret Speech is an exciting, visceral, well-written page-turner from beginning to end that paints a vivid picture of the post-Stalinist Soviet Union at its onset. Further, as was also true in Child 44, Smith's characters are richly developed and are ones that this reader felt he got to know well. I should point out that The Secret Speech isn't flawless, although none of these flaws are major.Read more ›
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By michael a. draper VINE VOICE on April 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
With Stalin's death in the mid '50s, the iron fisted regime in the Soviet Union was beginning to breakup. The ruthless KGB were now thought to be extremists and criminals while former criminals were currently considered oppressed and innocent. During this time, Stalin's successor, Khrushchev, distributes a secret speech claiming that Stalin was a tryant and Russia was going to change.

Before that change took place, Leo Demidov, pretended to be a follower of a man named Lazar and was also the lover of Lazar's wife, Anisya. When the time came, Leo betrayed Lazar and Anisya, forcing them to inform on many of their followers. Lazar and Anisya were sent to prison.

With the lessening of the harsh treatment of dissidents, Anisya is released. She has become a hardened criminal and takes on the gang name, Fraera. Her one mission in life is to gain revenge on Leo not only for his betrayal of her husband but for his dishonesty about loving her. Her gang kidnaps Leo's adopted daughter and she tells Leo that unless he can free her husband, she will kill Leo's daughter, Zoya.

The story moves to the Gulag where prisoners are still treated harshly and we read of Leo's plan to free Lazar. The description of how this is carried out is a scene that will remain in the reader's mind.

With an excellent sense of history and drama, the story unfolds, providing the reader with an enlightened view of the intrigue and deception in Russia and in Hungary in the mid 1950's.

Although, not quite up to the excellence of the author's first novel, "Child 44," this is still an excellent historical mystery. Leo Demidov is a well portrayed character who wins the reader's heart with his love of family and sense of justice.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner VINE VOICE on March 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Tom Rob Smith's second novel, "The Secret Speech", is an action-packed thriller set in the Soviet Bloc at the start of its post-Stalinist era. Rather than provide a run-of-the-mill East-versus-West spy story, however, Smith has chosen to use the de-Stalinisation programme of the early Khrushchev years and the events of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 as a setting for an exciting and engaging action drama. The main protagonist, Leo Demidov, is a former MGB (secret police) agent who, while attempting to atone for his earlier life and his role in the Stalinist purges, and also to provide a normal family home for his wife and two adopted daughters -- children orphaned as a result of his own earlier denunciation of their parents -- suddenly finds himself at the centre of a brutal and far-reaching back-lash against former Stalinist supporters.

The action flows across the pages in a fast and furious fashion with never a dull moment, as Leo battles against both the odds and the system -- reminiscent sometimes of a Russian Jack Bauer -- to preserve the State and to protect both himself and his family from the villains of the piece. As a lively and engaging read, Smith cannot really be faulted, unless it is perhaps that he packs in rather too much action and adversity for the hero to face, with there being altogether too many close calls than are necessary to make a good story. After a while, the rhythm of crisis/progress/setback/success becomes so endlessly sustained as to become somewhat predictable, with many a cliché along the way. Hollywood will love it.
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