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1956. La mort du « petit père des peuples » a plongé le pays dans le chaos. Tandis que Khrouchtchev entreprend sa politique de déstalinisation, les langues se délient : le temps est venu de régler les comptes. Ex-agent zélé du MGB, Leo Demidov, aujourd'hui repenti, est à la tête d'un département de criminologie. Avec sa femme, Raïssa, il a adopté deux fillettes. Mais l'aîné 1956. La mort du « petit père des peuples » a plongé le pays dans le chaos. Tandis que Khrouchtchev entreprend sa politique de déstalinisation, les langues se délient : le temps est venu de régler les comptes. Ex-agent zélé du MGB, Leo Demidov, aujourd'hui repenti, est à la tête d'un département de criminologie. Avec sa femme, Raïssa, il a adopté deux fillettes. Mais l'aînée, Zoya, hait ce père de substitution. Et elle n'est pas la seule... Dans l'ombre, quelqu'un attend son heure, une femme que la colère et le sentiment d'injustice ont rendue ivre de vengeance. Pour sauver les siens, Leo n'aura bientôt plus d'autre choix que de se jeter dans la gueule du loup : le terrifiant goulag de la Kolyma...


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1956. La mort du « petit père des peuples » a plongé le pays dans le chaos. Tandis que Khrouchtchev entreprend sa politique de déstalinisation, les langues se délient : le temps est venu de régler les comptes. Ex-agent zélé du MGB, Leo Demidov, aujourd'hui repenti, est à la tête d'un département de criminologie. Avec sa femme, Raïssa, il a adopté deux fillettes. Mais l'aîné 1956. La mort du « petit père des peuples » a plongé le pays dans le chaos. Tandis que Khrouchtchev entreprend sa politique de déstalinisation, les langues se délient : le temps est venu de régler les comptes. Ex-agent zélé du MGB, Leo Demidov, aujourd'hui repenti, est à la tête d'un département de criminologie. Avec sa femme, Raïssa, il a adopté deux fillettes. Mais l'aînée, Zoya, hait ce père de substitution. Et elle n'est pas la seule... Dans l'ombre, quelqu'un attend son heure, une femme que la colère et le sentiment d'injustice ont rendue ivre de vengeance. Pour sauver les siens, Leo n'aura bientôt plus d'autre choix que de se jeter dans la gueule du loup : le terrifiant goulag de la Kolyma...

30 review for The Secret Speech

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jayson

    (B) 73% | More than Satisfactory Notes: After a promising first third it veers way off course. Set amidst real history, some parts are too absurd to be plausible.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Supratim

    The rating is actually 3.5 but I have no choice to round it off to 4 as 3 would have been a little less than what the book deserves. I consider myself lucky because this novel is available in my library along with the final book in the trilogy. The Secret Speech is the second book in the Leo Demidov trilogy and it follows Child 44. This novel takes us back to the bleak world of the former USSR where people betray their friends, neighbors, colleagues and even family to the state. A slip of tongue c The rating is actually 3.5 but I have no choice to round it off to 4 as 3 would have been a little less than what the book deserves. I consider myself lucky because this novel is available in my library along with the final book in the trilogy. The Secret Speech is the second book in the Leo Demidov trilogy and it follows Child 44. This novel takes us back to the bleak world of the former USSR where people betray their friends, neighbors, colleagues and even family to the state. A slip of tongue can send you to the Gulags, a suicide can ruin the lives of the person's family because the state does not approve of suicides. The state is trying to change but the dangers of living in a totalitarian regime is still there. The plot revolves around Krushchev's Secret Speech and the repercussions it would unleash. Leo has been allowed to run a homicide division and he has adopted two girls - Zoya and Elena, whose parents had been murdered when Leo had raided their home in the last book. Leo had tried to protect them but Zoya could never forgive Leo whom she wrongly accused of killing her parents. Childhood trauma can damage a person to such an extent that the savior can appear to be a monster. Something from the past has returned and is seeking retribution and not just from Leo but it seems that anybody connected to the State security apparatus is no longer safe. The author’s skill in creating an atmosphere of fear, tension and suspense is still in full force. Most of the book is so fast-paced that you will lose track of time. Danger, action, chases, rogue prison officials and guards, cult-like criminal gangs – all these would keep you absorbed in the book. As a thriller it is as good as any – I would say better than many but only when it is compared with Child 44, then, well it does not reach the standard reached by the former. Child 44 focused on mystery but this one is all about action – fire fights, fist fights, brutality, rebellion in ship carrying prisoners and Gulag, uprising in Hungary. I do understand why some people who loved the previous book gave low ratings to this one – maybe they did not enjoy so much violence. Readers who enjoy or don’t mind such action and gore would enjoy this book. I also felt that the author has gone overboard in hurling danger, deprivation and mental anguish on Leo. He has turned Leo into something like a super agent – a Russian Jason Bourne. The author has also tried to add dimensions to most of the characters and tried to infuse them with human weaknesses – people at times refuse to accept the truth, man’s need for redemption pushes him towards the bottle while some try to find it in the illusion of a happy family. Some of the characters also embody the ugliness of the human nature – betrayal and hatred. Those in power can stoop to any level to hold onto their status and idealistic people are so easy to manipulate. My only problem with the book is MELODRAMA. In my humble opinion, there is too much of it. Maybe the author was trying to portray the human side of the characters but it was a bit too much for me. I would not give way any spoilers but Zoya’s change of heart and some of the actions of the apparently main villain did not make much sense. This novel is just for some escapist entertainment. I have tried to portray what sort of book this one is and it’s up to you if you would like to give it a try.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance

    This novel was a lot more politically motivated then the previous one and serves a good sense of the internal conflict the citizens felt under Stalin's reign. The plot and events of this novel lead to the 1956 uprising in Hungary 3 years after Stalin’s death. “The system required the consent of everyone, even if they consented by doing nothing.” ― Tom Rob Smith Leo Demidov is now leading his own homicide department and lives with his wife Raisa and two adopted girls Zoya and Elena whom they try t This novel was a lot more politically motivated then the previous one and serves a good sense of the internal conflict the citizens felt under Stalin's reign. The plot and events of this novel lead to the 1956 uprising in Hungary 3 years after Stalin’s death. “The system required the consent of everyone, even if they consented by doing nothing.” ― Tom Rob Smith Leo Demidov is now leading his own homicide department and lives with his wife Raisa and two adopted girls Zoya and Elena whom they try to parent the best they can. They have their issues as a blended family and Zoya, the older one of the two girls, is actually plotting to kill Leo to avenge the death of her birth parents. In the meantime, Khrushchev’s (Stalin’s successor) secret speech has leaked and is spreading like wildfire, exposing henchmen of the former regime. Forward comes Fraera from Leo’s past trying to hunt him down and using old and new secrets against him and his wife. The action takes the reader from Gulag transport ships to Budapest into the middle of the uprising where Stalin’s stature is taken down and destroyed. Fraera is playing them all and using Zoya’s hatred to tear the family apart. Can Leo save his family? “I had no choice" with those words thousands died, not with bullets but with perverse logic and careful reasoning.” ― Tom Rob Smith This book was action packed with adequate timing in my opinion. This would make a great movie. It never went over the top but kept me interested as the plot went on evenly spaced the entire time. I enjoyed the thriller combo with the historical elements and descriptions. It never got dull and seldom did I anticipate what would happen around the corner. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Britany

    The second book in the Leo Demidov series picks up shortly after the fall of Stalin, Russia in the 1950s. I was excited to pick this one up, because I loved the first book, and it didn't disappoint off the bat. It held up keeping a quick pace and just as action packed as the first. Suddenly, around the second half, it's almost as though the writing was completely different. The chapter cliffhangers ended and the book turned into a sappy narrative, rather than leaving me wanting more. Don't get m The second book in the Leo Demidov series picks up shortly after the fall of Stalin, Russia in the 1950s. I was excited to pick this one up, because I loved the first book, and it didn't disappoint off the bat. It held up keeping a quick pace and just as action packed as the first. Suddenly, around the second half, it's almost as though the writing was completely different. The chapter cliffhangers ended and the book turned into a sappy narrative, rather than leaving me wanting more. Don't get me wrong, there were still powerful moments, but the second half of the book fell completely flat from the first half. Nothing left to figure out and the author added in a couple of scenarios that really felt disingenuous. I will be requesting the third book soon- as I have to finish the trilogy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Willow

    It’s shocking how many people will commit atrocities and cruelty provided the actions are respected, sanctioned by the governing forces, and the persecutors are well paid. History is splattered with incidents like this, and while I do believe a lot of this blind obedience or indifference comes from the way persecutors were raised as children, it’s obvious other variables come into consideration. As human beings, we tend to lean toward societal norms, so if it’s part of a society to persecute, th It’s shocking how many people will commit atrocities and cruelty provided the actions are respected, sanctioned by the governing forces, and the persecutors are well paid. History is splattered with incidents like this, and while I do believe a lot of this blind obedience or indifference comes from the way persecutors were raised as children, it’s obvious other variables come into consideration. As human beings, we tend to lean toward societal norms, so if it’s part of a society to persecute, then I think many people will follow that. So what happens if society changes, and the people who did the persecuting are now on the other end getting persecuted themselves. Do those people deserve to redeem themselves? Do they deserve to atone? These are some of the great questions that The Secret Speech asks, and since it’s such a shadowy subject, Smith’s book is dark and grim. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and there is a vague, duel morality which I admired. I didn’t love this book quite as much as Child 44 though. The characters didn’t always mesh with me. While I thought the cold calculating Fraera was a great villain, I had trouble sympathizing with Zora, who struck me as a sanctimonious pain-in-the-ass, carrying her gargantuan chip-on-her-shoulder like it was a great virtue. I know teens act like this, but damn she was annoying. Consequently I wasn’t that concerned about her well-being. Based off a true historic event (Khrushchev’s speech denouncing Stalin) The Secret Speech is about an underground organization that is persecuting past MGB officers and denouncers, and of course Leo Demidov is right up there on the list. This puts him in a very dangerous situation. It also makes Leo do some reflecting about his crimes. He is haunted by the past. Yet he wants to atone. I thought The Secret Speech would be a mystery, but it’s not. It’s more of a thriller, with Leo going from one bad scrape to the next, some of his escapes more than a little implausible. Smith likes to play around with history (which I admire) shuffling Leo around so he can be at unlikely incidents like the Hungarian revolution. Unfortunately Smith isn’t quite as deft at doing this as Alexandre Dumas. The plot is dictating to the characters instead of the characters creating their own destinies. This makes the story feel less organic. Despite its flaws though, this is an intriguing and suspenseful story. I recommend it. I’m giving it ****. I will definitely read book three. :D

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    So disappointed in this sequel to Child 44--a fascinating thriller set in Stalinist Soviet Union with an MGB officer hunting a serial killer under a political regime which denies the possibility that such a killer could exist. The Secret Speech features the same officer, now a homicide investigator, post-Stalinist under Khrushchev, trying to rescue his kidnapped adopted daughter who despises him. In Child 44 the characters were credible and dimensional; in The Secret Speech they are ridiculous c So disappointed in this sequel to Child 44--a fascinating thriller set in Stalinist Soviet Union with an MGB officer hunting a serial killer under a political regime which denies the possibility that such a killer could exist. The Secret Speech features the same officer, now a homicide investigator, post-Stalinist under Khrushchev, trying to rescue his kidnapped adopted daughter who despises him. In Child 44 the characters were credible and dimensional; in The Secret Speech they are ridiculous caricatures furthering a completely unbelievable plot that spirals out of control. It's particularly disappointing because clearly the author can write well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really liked the first book in this trilogy. I absolutely loved this second book. If Child 44 was Star Wars, The Secret Speech is The Empire Strikes Back. Unlike the first book, which was sinister and gut-wrenching in the hunt for a twisted child killer, The Secret Speech is more action-packed. It's edge of your seat stuff and it hardly gives the reader a chance to take a breath. There are gangsters, prison riots, torture scenes, chases through sewers and across frozen wastes, disasters at sea, o I really liked the first book in this trilogy. I absolutely loved this second book. If Child 44 was Star Wars, The Secret Speech is The Empire Strikes Back. Unlike the first book, which was sinister and gut-wrenching in the hunt for a twisted child killer, The Secret Speech is more action-packed. It's edge of your seat stuff and it hardly gives the reader a chance to take a breath. There are gangsters, prison riots, torture scenes, chases through sewers and across frozen wastes, disasters at sea, open warfare, knife fights, plane crashes, brutal murders and more... but at its heart its a story about family and love and how far people who truly love each other will go to ensure the safety of their loved ones. For all the action and stomach-churning violence, this book has heart. In the final scenes, I was fighting to hold back tears.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Journeywoman

    This was brilliant. I loved Child 44. Gave it 4 stars. I didn't believe people when they said that this was better. It is. I could hardly put this book down, and yet I read it slowly savoring every twist in plot, every nuance of the characters growth. This is one of THOSE books. One that will stay with you and make you question what you would do in the situation that the characters are in. There are no easy answers and you're swept along as these three dimensional people search for any answer. I This was brilliant. I loved Child 44. Gave it 4 stars. I didn't believe people when they said that this was better. It is. I could hardly put this book down, and yet I read it slowly savoring every twist in plot, every nuance of the characters growth. This is one of THOSE books. One that will stay with you and make you question what you would do in the situation that the characters are in. There are no easy answers and you're swept along as these three dimensional people search for any answer. I highly recommend this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Is it possible for someone who has committed terrible crimes to achieve redemption? That is the central question posed by Tom Rob Smith's riveting new book, The Secret Speech, sequel to last year's terrific, terrifying, and surprisingly moving, Child 44. The Secret Speech opens in 1949, with young Leo Demidov's first case as an officer in the MGB, Stalin's secret police. Leo betrays a dissident priest and his wife, sending them both to the Gulag. Flash forward to 1956; Leo is struggling to run S Is it possible for someone who has committed terrible crimes to achieve redemption? That is the central question posed by Tom Rob Smith's riveting new book, The Secret Speech, sequel to last year's terrific, terrifying, and surprisingly moving, Child 44. The Secret Speech opens in 1949, with young Leo Demidov's first case as an officer in the MGB, Stalin's secret police. Leo betrays a dissident priest and his wife, sending them both to the Gulag. Flash forward to 1956; Leo is struggling to run Soviet Russia's first homicide unit. Meanwhile, he and Raisa try to raise their two adopted daughters, orphaned by a man under Leo's command when he was still in the MGB. Life is difficult; the police distrust Leo's unit, and Zoya, the older of his two daughters, hates him for his involvement in her parents' death, holding a knife against his throat while he sleeps. The story kicks into gear when a controversial speech given by Khrushchev is distributed all over Russia, repudiating the horrors committed by the secret police under Stalin's rule. Immediately, MGB agents start dying, mysteriously murdered. Zoya is kidnapped by a gang of vory, brutal Russian gangsters, led by the priest's wife; the only way to get Zoya back is for Leo to go to the Gulag to break out the innocent man he sent there seven years earlier. Leo is honestly ashamed of his crimes; his entire existence is centered around his efforts at atonement. But one after another, the characters in the story ask the same question; should someone who has brought so much anguish, torment and death to so many hundreds of innocent people be allowed the luxury of redemption?

  10. 5 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    After being amazed by Child 44, I immediately put this, the next book in the series, on hold. While there are the expected similarities of characters, time, and place, this one did not measure up in the suspense department. And Leo has a few too many adventures and narrow escapes, in my opinion. Still, Smith has an admirable ability to illustrate the paranoia and tumult of the post-Stalin period. His description of the Soviet citizens' reactions to Khrushev's Secret Speech, in which Stalin's sins After being amazed by Child 44, I immediately put this, the next book in the series, on hold. While there are the expected similarities of characters, time, and place, this one did not measure up in the suspense department. And Leo has a few too many adventures and narrow escapes, in my opinion. Still, Smith has an admirable ability to illustrate the paranoia and tumult of the post-Stalin period. His description of the Soviet citizens' reactions to Khrushev's Secret Speech, in which Stalin's sins are laid bare and perpetrators exposed, was an education to me. This was a period in history I knew not much about. I still love Leo in all his decency and multiple layers, and will be reading the last book in the trilogy soon.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Veeral

    No sophomore slump for Tom Rob Smith. The Secret Speech is better than Child 44. “The Secret Speech” continues from where “Child 44” left off. Leo and Raisa are living with their two adopted girls, Zoya and Elena. But Zoya hates Leo for killing her parents and is seeking revenge. Meanwhile, Leo and Raisa are desperately trying to hold their family together. While the troubles are brewing in the mismatched family, a new character, Fraera, yet another ghost from Leo’s guilt laden past comes back t No sophomore slump for Tom Rob Smith. The Secret Speech is better than Child 44. “The Secret Speech” continues from where “Child 44” left off. Leo and Raisa are living with their two adopted girls, Zoya and Elena. But Zoya hates Leo for killing her parents and is seeking revenge. Meanwhile, Leo and Raisa are desperately trying to hold their family together. While the troubles are brewing in the mismatched family, a new character, Fraera, yet another ghost from Leo’s guilt laden past comes back to haunt him. Her retaliatory actions would compel Leo to face the hardships of a transit ship (the infamous Gulag death ships), freezing hells of the Siberian Gulags and finally would plunge him and Raisa into the centre of a people’s uprising against their oppressive Communist rulers. While “Child 44” suffered from the want of a more tightly woven plot, “The Secret Speech” more than delivers on that front. Initially, the plot seemed a bit far-fetched and unconvincing to me, but Smith wraps it all up quiet nicely in the end. Although this book is written in the same style as “Child 44”, the prose seems much refined here than in the previous book. It’s a good sign that Tom Rob Smith seems to be improving as an author but I am not sure if a third book was required in the series as even the sub-plots from the first book are nicely wrapped up by the end of “The Secret Speech”. So, even though I liked the first two books, I am not sure whether I would read Agent 6 or not. Maybe it’s time for Smith to write a new book with different characters now. Leave Leo alone. But as far as “The Secret Speech” is concerned, I highly recommend that you read it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Warda

    [ 3.5 ] I loved this book for the most part. It's always incredibly insightful to find out about how a period in our history lived, to see that politics always seemed to be a dirty game of manipulation and power and how that still isn't changing. History does repeat itself. The character exploration and the writing was such a joy to read and extremely well done. It's just the ending that just didn't sit well with me. It felt rushed and not as detailed as the other parts. It just reminded me of w [ 3.5 ] I loved this book for the most part. It's always incredibly insightful to find out about how a period in our history lived, to see that politics always seemed to be a dirty game of manipulation and power and how that still isn't changing. History does repeat itself. The character exploration and the writing was such a joy to read and extremely well done. It's just the ending that just didn't sit well with me. It felt rushed and not as detailed as the other parts. It just reminded me of when we had to write out an essay for university - or any time during our educational years - and at the beginning, you're enthusiastic and you start off being prepared. Just when it's due and you've not made use of your time because of books and Netflix, you just write up a quick conclusion and rush the last paragraph. I can't pinpoint exactly what about the story towards the end it was, but despite it, I enjoyed reading it a lot for the most part. I'm excited to see how it'll conclude.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Narrated by Colin Mace. 13 hrs and 52 mins Description: Soviet Union, 1956: Stalin is dead. With his passing, a violent regime is beginning to fracture - leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. The catalyst comes when a secret manifesto composed by Stalin's successor, Khrushchev, is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant and a murderer. Its promise: The Soviet Union will transform. But there are forces at work that ar Narrated by Colin Mace. 13 hrs and 52 mins Description: Soviet Union, 1956: Stalin is dead. With his passing, a violent regime is beginning to fracture - leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. The catalyst comes when a secret manifesto composed by Stalin's successor, Khrushchev, is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant and a murderer. Its promise: The Soviet Union will transform. But there are forces at work that are unable to forgive or forget Stalin's tyranny so easily and demand revenge of the most appalling nature. Meanwhile, former MGB officer Leo Demidov is facing his own turmoil. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his involvement in the murder of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa and their family are in grave danger from someone with a grudge against Leo. Someone transformed beyond recognition into the perfect model of vengeance. RasPutin took against book one, so there is no better reason to keep on with this trilogy and even though this is not a great book it does cover some important history: Khrushchev’s secret speech, (February 25, 1956), in Russian history, denunciation of the deceased Soviet leader Joseph Stalin made by Nikita S. Khrushchev to a closed session of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The speech was the nucleus of a far-reaching de-Stalinization campaign intended to destroy the image of the late dictator as an infallible leader and to revert official policy to an idealized Leninist model. - Encyclopædia Britannica Flatline 3* 3.5* Child 44 (Leo Demidov, #1) 3* The Secret Speech (Leo Demidov, #2) TR Agent 6 (Leo Demidov, #3)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Keep your pants on people, Leo Stepanovich Demidov is back again! And I love him a little more than I did in the previous book. ....... So where to begin? Like I said, Leo's back, with his wife Raisa and his newly adopted daughters--well not newly, it's been 3 years now-- Zoya and Elena(in Russian, that would be pronounced with a "Y"- Yelena). And now it's no longer a matter of political oppression or living a life in constant fear of the 4:00am arrest; Times are changing, powers are being threate Keep your pants on people, Leo Stepanovich Demidov is back again! And I love him a little more than I did in the previous book. ....... So where to begin? Like I said, Leo's back, with his wife Raisa and his newly adopted daughters--well not newly, it's been 3 years now-- Zoya and Elena(in Russian, that would be pronounced with a "Y"- Yelena). And now it's no longer a matter of political oppression or living a life in constant fear of the 4:00am arrest; Times are changing, powers are being threatened by challenging forces and one woman, one very spiteful and vengeful woman from Leo's past headily rides the messy waves of events which sum up this book. And all it took to set these events in motion was the accidental-not so accidental publication of *Cue in the name of the book* The Secret Speech made by Khrushchev, condemning the Stalinist government. And I'm screaming "Poor Leo!", "Why Leo?", "But he's a changed man!". And so, his slate must be wiped clean? This book says NOT. I acknowledged while reading this book that no matter how times change, in every age we can always find the uglies , and ultimately the concept of life in general is no less threatening. It suffices to say, The Beautiful Years Are Not Yet Born. Tom Rob Smith made me an empathetic mess of a reader. His characters frustrated and agitated me, but in the end, I could pick no sides and justify none of their actions- but don't get me wrong, I did know who the villains were, but I understood the significance of their nefariousness. THE REPRESENTATIVES OF TWO OPPOSING WORLDS. LEO: Never underestimate the retributive justice of Karma. Leo is the poster boy for the saying: You reap what you sow. Now, from page to page, from the first book till now, I love Leo. But I felt like the suffering he endured in this book was crucial to his journey, his search for redemption. I was enthralled by how focused a character he was, so determined in his cause; Even when his efforts were ridiculed and his strength put to test, he never lost face. He's not just a representative of the good, he is a symbol of hope and second chances. With a story like this, it's easy to believe some people are hurt as much as they've hurt. FRAERA: I swear, I need a pill for every time this woman made me feel murderous. Fraera says: "When the police are criminals, the criminals must become the police. The innocent must live underground, in the shit of the city, while the villains live in warm apartments. The world is upside down. I'm merely turning it the right way up". BUT YOU'RE NOT SO INNOCENT NOW FRAERA, ARE YOU? See her idea is, you become beasts in order to fight the beasts, hurting more than they have hurt, condemning more than they have condemned. No problem if innocent people have to die so some misguided lot can make a point. Fraera's actions are ruled by hate, vengeance and selfishness. She couldn't care less about the good of the people and the country that failed her years ago. And In a way, I understood her grief. I gave every character consideration, a benefit of a doubt even, to some. But the contrast between Leo and Fraera couldn't be more appalling. How does one get eaten alive by one's own hate and get spat out, morphed into such a monstrous character? And how does the other reconcile his past with his future, by admitting to the evils he committed and rising above them? It's the easiest thing to say; "You could've just let it go Fraera". Would you have? This book wasn't as bedazzling as the first one, but it embodied all the things that made me love the first book in the first place: ▶ Murder, Mind Games and Mystery "Someone wouldn't let him forget, sending him photographs of men and women taken against a white wall, cropped so that they were just a face" "I had no choice" With those words thousands died not with bullets but with perverse logic and careful reasoning" ▶ Politics and Conspiracy : I swear the concept of politics has never looked so seductive to me. "The system required the consent of everyone even if they consented by doing nothing" "Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why let them have ideas" ▶ Just plain old crazy: "I wanted him to. I want him to smash this city to rubble and fill it with dead citizens! I want the world to see the true nature of our country. No more secrets" "The truth is Maxim...I was nothing until I hated you" GIRL YOU NEED A LIFE ▶ And then the feels... "His body fell on top of the fire underneath his son. As they burned together, many in the crowd were already hastening away" "As the roof exploded, fragments of slate burning into her arms and face, she had no doubt her last photograph would be her greatest of all" I really don't know how else to love this book. I love how it ravaged my mind and left it raw. I love how this story was given a setting which had history as a backdrop of it's creativeness. "The price of this story was the audience's innocence" Quote from Child 44.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    I stopped reading this book half way through, but I just want to post a review to warn people that this CHILD 44 sequel is not up there with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or THE GODFATHER PART II. It's more like ROCKY 2. In the last book, KGB enforcer Leo Demidov was the ultimate bad-ass, somewhere between Charles Bronson and Charlie Manson. One minute he's beating up his own agents and the next he's sprinting through knee high snow drifts hopped up on biker crank, then swimming under a frozen river li I stopped reading this book half way through, but I just want to post a review to warn people that this CHILD 44 sequel is not up there with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or THE GODFATHER PART II. It's more like ROCKY 2. In the last book, KGB enforcer Leo Demidov was the ultimate bad-ass, somewhere between Charles Bronson and Charlie Manson. One minute he's beating up his own agents and the next he's sprinting through knee high snow drifts hopped up on biker crank, then swimming under a frozen river like Houdini! And then the excitement really begins as he's arrested, tortured, and told his wife doesn't love him anymore. The original book is an incredible classic. It's 1984 meets CHINATOWN, with prison escape scenes right out of COOL HAND LUKE and a love story worthy of OUTLANDER. Oh and there's a child-murdering serial killer thrown in just for comic relief! But this sequel is totally stupid and boring. Leo has become a total wimp, he's a henpecked "Family Guy" who spends all his time worrying why a bratty adopted 13 year old doesn't love him enough. Then she gets kidnapped by -- get this -- the crazed wife of the first man Leo ever arrested. And don't ask me how a whiny little priest's wife suddenly morphs into Ma Barker, a deadly butch lesbian mobster with the uncanny ability to run through sewers and recruit pickpockets for her nefarious schemes. The first book was believable. This one is absurd. AS IF the Soviet State is going to be blackmailed and terrified by some nasty old bag (that's a soomka in Russian) with a gang of sewer dwelling scumbags as muscle. AS IF the only way to placate Ma Barker is to have Leo do the old "sent to Siberia" routine on more time. AS IF anyone could care what happens to bratty little Zoya. As Winston Smith once said, "You know, a real dystopia should never waste time on family melodrama. Besides, any man who hates dogs and children can't be all bad."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.625* of five This series of books, the life of Leo and Raisa in a newly post-Stalinist USSR, is cold and damp and gritty and scary. Those are the *good* parts of the life of these two oddly assorted people, who are trying to form a family from some very unlikely and unnatural and uncomfortable pieces. (Sounds like my family!) This outing centers on events set in motion by the (factual) secret speech of the title: Khrushchev's "private" deunciation of Stalin's terror. While never reported Rating: 3.625* of five This series of books, the life of Leo and Raisa in a newly post-Stalinist USSR, is cold and damp and gritty and scary. Those are the *good* parts of the life of these two oddly assorted people, who are trying to form a family from some very unlikely and unnatural and uncomfortable pieces. (Sounds like my family!) This outing centers on events set in motion by the (factual) secret speech of the title: Khrushchev's "private" deunciation of Stalin's terror. While never reported, as in made a news story, the speech *was* widely circulated under the excuse that now the State was dismantling the cult of personality that Stalin left behind, the cult's leaders...teachers, policemen, et alii...needed to know to cease and desist. Oh, and "incidentally", it was now open season on the powerful apparatchiks who maintained the terror. Leo's life has just become that much more difficult, and that, my friends, is sayin' something. I like that this book makes Leo's travails into high-risk travels to, for example, Budapest during the anti-Soviet rebellion of 1956. I liked the historical tenor of the story in general, this being a time and a place that's outside my Cold War-formed mindset. What I find a little wearing is the relentlessness of the smackdowns Leo and Raisa endure. It starts to feel like they're being used by God as target practice. It's the story of Job with funny fur hats. I want the next one to be lighter, please, Mr. Smith. But prepare for a serious thrill ride, y'all, and don't hesitate to get going in this series.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shelli

    Good read. Fast-paced and exciting with so many twists and turns I was on the edge of my seat. This is the second novel I have read by this author and enjoy the character of Leo Demitov, former MGB officer. This novel explores the horrific tension of those living in post WW11 Russia. Not quite at the level of the first book which I gave 5 stars, but still very good. I look forward to the third book in the trilogy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marianna Neal

    As seen on Impression Blend The title of The Secret Speech refers to a real-life event: the new Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev giving a shocking speech in which he acknowledged Stalin's crimes. This new political climate in the country sets an interesting backdrop for the story, puts certain things in motion, and leaves some characters in a questionable position based on their previous actions. The story opens with an important event in Leo's past—his first assignment, and later in the book we s As seen on Impression Blend The title of The Secret Speech refers to a real-life event: the new Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev giving a shocking speech in which he acknowledged Stalin's crimes. This new political climate in the country sets an interesting backdrop for the story, puts certain things in motion, and leaves some characters in a questionable position based on their previous actions. The story opens with an important event in Leo's past—his first assignment, and later in the book we start understanding why this is so important. The Secret Speech lacks the murder mystery aspect Child 44 had, but it still keeps you on the edge of your seat once the story gets going. It's also worth noting that just like Child 44, this book is a complete story on its own and could definitely be treated as a standalone novel. The Secret Speech has a lot to do with Leo adjusting to his new life and trying to do what's right for his family. I loved his character and the way he kept growing as a person. However, someone I didn't like as much was Zoya—one of his adopted daughters. While she has been through a lot as a child, her actions were obnoxious, and her hostile attitude was often uncalled for. She created so many problems, and often I felt that if only she wasn't being ridiculous—half of the issues would have been solved. This doesn't necessarily make her a badly written character—just one that I was very annoyed with. Just like in Child 44, there are a lot of interesting themes in The Secret Speech. Some are lightly touched on, some are more developed, but the novel definitely gives you a lot to think about and research. Aside from the political situation, it also touches on attitudes towards religion, the workings of an underground movement, and how a person's social status can drastically change in a very short amount of time. However, the main theme of this book and the question that keeps coming up is this: is it possible for someone who has done terrible things to achieve redemption? This isn't something that only has to do with Leo—if you consider the characters and circumstances of The Secret Speech, you will find this theme echoing through the entire novel. As for the answer—it's not an easy one, and it's something Tom Rob Smith leaves for his readers to decide. Overall, I felt conflicted about rating this book. On one hand, I really enjoyed it, and there were some very nerve-racking parts. On the other, I did miss the mystery aspect I loved in Child 44, and personally I don't particularly enjoy the subject of thieves and gangs (something that was a big part of The Secret Speech). In the end, I'm still really happy I read it, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first novel in this series.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    This is the second book in the Leo Demidov mystery series. Demidov is an ex-KGB officer, who, after the last book was allowed to form a Criminal Investigation division, as he tries to amend for his work as a KGB officer. The story starts with an incident from Demidov's past, an incident where he infiltrates a local priest and causes his arrest and that of the priest's wife. As we move to the present, these events come back to haunt him, everything instigated by a secret letter from Kruschev, tha This is the second book in the Leo Demidov mystery series. Demidov is an ex-KGB officer, who, after the last book was allowed to form a Criminal Investigation division, as he tries to amend for his work as a KGB officer. The story starts with an incident from Demidov's past, an incident where he infiltrates a local priest and causes his arrest and that of the priest's wife. As we move to the present, these events come back to haunt him, everything instigated by a secret letter from Kruschev, that turns the country on its head. Demidov must raise to save his adopted daughter and his family from the vengeance of these people from his past. His journey takes him to the Gulags in the frozen North and to Hungary during their revolution against Soviet rule. My mood changed over time as I read this story. I like Demidov, even with his past. He is a lot like Arcady Renko in the Martin Cruz Smith books. I had difficulty with some of the other characters, especially his adopted daughter. Even considering her hatred for Demidov, who was involved in the deaths of her parents, she was hard to like. I could be sympathetic, but that was the extent of my feelings. Having said that, as the story progressed, I found myself being drawn more and more into it. It was tense, with lots of action and I couldn't put it down as the story drew to its conclusion. There are broken people, living in a society I can't fathom, but there are people who are trying to make the most of their lives. It was a nice surprise and I enjoyed very much.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)

    Not as gripping as Child 44. Well written but poorly organized, such that it's difficult to figure out what the real plot was intended to be. It does carry forward the main characters from Child 44, so if you want to stay "in the loop," so to speak, you need to read this one to be ready for the next one. It's not really a series, at least not yet, but the two books definitely follow a linear trajectory, so it may turn into a series of sorts. Not as gripping as Child 44. Well written but poorly organized, such that it's difficult to figure out what the real plot was intended to be. It does carry forward the main characters from Child 44, so if you want to stay "in the loop," so to speak, you need to read this one to be ready for the next one. It's not really a series, at least not yet, but the two books definitely follow a linear trajectory, so it may turn into a series of sorts.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tau

    Lost a lot of interest halfway through the book. I kept reading in case it picked up but it never did. I really wanted to read Child 44, but now I'm not so sure. There's just something about this guy's writing style that I don't like/find mundane. Lost a lot of interest halfway through the book. I kept reading in case it picked up but it never did. I really wanted to read Child 44, but now I'm not so sure. There's just something about this guy's writing style that I don't like/find mundane.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I was a huge fan of Smith’s first book, Child 44. That novel was grounded by an actual historical character, the serial killer of the (mostly) 1980’s, Andrei Chikatilo. This novel, while a real “page turner”, lacked that same grounding, and consequently was all over the place, often pushing credibility to its outer limits. The book’s strengths are not dissimilar to Child 44. That is, capturing the atmosphere of the Soviet Union in the 1950’s and, in this case, how the guilty (that is, those who I was a huge fan of Smith’s first book, Child 44. That novel was grounded by an actual historical character, the serial killer of the (mostly) 1980’s, Andrei Chikatilo. This novel, while a real “page turner”, lacked that same grounding, and consequently was all over the place, often pushing credibility to its outer limits. The book’s strengths are not dissimilar to Child 44. That is, capturing the atmosphere of the Soviet Union in the 1950’s and, in this case, how the guilty (that is, those who carried out the brutal police policies under the Stalin regime) came to handle, or not, that guilt once Stalin was out of power. Those elements have again been handled very well by Smith. It’s just that the storyline that he uses to tell his tale (the break-in and then the break-out from Gulag 57, both of which were miraculous), the cross country plane ride (another miracle), the action in Budapest (Hollywood-ish), the revolutionary actions of a 14 (14!) year old girl. Definitely a page turner, but I always shudder when a writer who previously seemed to excel at well thought out and character rich mysteries, decides to venture into the thriller category. They often land with a thud. A similar thing seems to be happening with Jo Nesbo.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Instinctively, I must have known, there was a pretty damn good reason, I was avoiding this book. I read Child 44, five long years ago. I absolutely loved that debut. This one...well, it begins okay, as we revisit former MGB officer, Leo Demidov, the hero of Child 44. It is 1956. Stalin is dead and Khrushchev  is on the rise. He pledges reform but the horrific ghosts of the past, refuse to relent. Leo is drawn into hellish retribution, involving an uprising, putting his family in grave peril. The Instinctively, I must have known, there was a pretty damn good reason, I was avoiding this book. I read Child 44, five long years ago. I absolutely loved that debut. This one...well, it begins okay, as we revisit former MGB officer, Leo Demidov, the hero of Child 44. It is 1956. Stalin is dead and Khrushchev  is on the rise. He pledges reform but the horrific ghosts of the past, refuse to relent. Leo is drawn into hellish retribution, involving an uprising, putting his family in grave peril. The story, begins to bog down in grim tediousness, about halfway through and never recovers, like those avenging ghosts I recently mentioned. My last crime novel, The Marco Effect was also bloated and repetitive, but at least it had humor and engaging characters. I will not be reading the third book, which is sad, because I was crazy about his recent stand-alone, The Farm.

  24. 4 out of 5

    The Bursting Bookshelf of a Wallflower

    3 stars - good, but not as good as the first installment in this series! Child 44 has been one of the best books I read this year and I was really looking forward to meet Leo Dimidov once again. And I did enjoy this book, it just wasn't as good as the first one. The plot was a little less credible - maybe the author wanted a little too much here. The setting of Kolyma was very interesting and I felt that the second part of the books was a little rushed. I still like Leo Dimidov a lot as a charact 3 stars - good, but not as good as the first installment in this series! Child 44 has been one of the best books I read this year and I was really looking forward to meet Leo Dimidov once again. And I did enjoy this book, it just wasn't as good as the first one. The plot was a little less credible - maybe the author wanted a little too much here. The setting of Kolyma was very interesting and I felt that the second part of the books was a little rushed. I still like Leo Dimidov a lot as a character - he has his good and his dark sides and that's what's making him so intriguing. I am really looking forward to the last installment in this series and I luckily already have it on my TBR.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    3.5 stars. Plausibility stretched to the nth degree, yet Smith keeps a tight rein on the tension. This does not have the grip and grit of Child 44, but it moves at a fast clip while still providing fascinating historical context. Perfect holiday read. Unless you're in Russia... 3.5 stars. Plausibility stretched to the nth degree, yet Smith keeps a tight rein on the tension. This does not have the grip and grit of Child 44, but it moves at a fast clip while still providing fascinating historical context. Perfect holiday read. Unless you're in Russia...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Speesh

    It’s a tricky one, books like these. Do you (or should you say you) enjoy(ed) it, as some do on cover? Or should you describe it as exciting, as they do on the cover? That, after reading this and books on the whole Soviet era in Russia, is almost, well, it does seem like you’re denigrating what was a real life or death struggle for survival, to entertainment. Entertainment is of course what you, at least in part, read books for, but also to educate yourself, surely. I do anyway. Hopefully, the m It’s a tricky one, books like these. Do you (or should you say you) enjoy(ed) it, as some do on cover? Or should you describe it as exciting, as they do on the cover? That, after reading this and books on the whole Soviet era in Russia, is almost, well, it does seem like you’re denigrating what was a real life or death struggle for survival, to entertainment. Entertainment is of course what you, at least in part, read books for, but also to educate yourself, surely. I do anyway. Hopefully, the more people who think that way and read books like this, the (perhaps) less chance there is of this sort of regime happening again. It is happening at the moment. Think North Korea, that’s the closest in terms of official ideology, we have today. But a similar type of ideology, exists in many Middle Eastern states. The ones who aren’t Israel. You know what I’m saying. It moves along at a good pace, but never misses a chance to give you room to start thinking. It’s perhaps not as immediately attention grabbing as Child 44 and I can well see that it won’t sell so many copies, though it does deserve to. But it’s more than just another slice of the Child 44 bacon and it’s certainly not Child 44 ‘light.’ I think, all things considered and a week or so after I’ve finished it, that it’s better than Child 44. Maybe because I know/knew the characters now, I’m in tune with their motivations and can understand their predicaments. I’ve read a fair few books on this period, but if you’re new to it, Child 44 and this one, swiftly followed by William Ryan’s books, will start you on the right path. The main themes are about plain, good old-fashioned survival. From day to day, from hour to hour. About how suspicion is set off from doubt, how doubt breeds suspicion. About how to even stop yourself from seeing things. About the survival of the fittest. Russia of this period trumpeted everything as being for the good of The State, of self sacrifice for the good of Socialism and ‘the people.’ But it was really about the individual being isolated, even isolating themselves, in order to survive. If someone you knew, was arrested because someone else denounced them, that was more or less it, for them. Purely being arrested was proof enough of their guilt. Suspicion of guilt, was guilt. Then, their colleagues and friends and family were investigated. Unless you were a favourite of someone higher up, that was pretty much it for you as well. And so on… So you had to isolate yourself and not see what you couldn’t often avoid seeing. You had to try and not stand out, not do selfless things for the good of the state, just incase the wind blew and the good of the state under Stalin, suddenly made you an enemy of the state under Khrushchev the morning after. It’s brutal and harsh. Perhaps best describes as interesting in the extreme, heading towards fascination. I have more respect for the Russians, the people lower down the food chain, who survived this period now, after having read these books, than I did before. They were just people like you and me. They had the same hopes and wishes and dreams as you and me. They didn’t deserve this, they didn’t deserve their revolution that was supposed to set them free, to enslave them in an even worse way. They sure as fuck don’t deserve the slow creep back that’s happening today under Putin. All my reviews are on Speesh Reads Speesh Reads Facebook

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alondra Miller

    4 Stars “If you can take a step up, can you not also take a step down? If you can do wrong can you not also do good? Can I not try and put right the wrongs that I have done?” This sums up Leo's existence, even though another character stated these lines. Leo; our anti-hero from the first book; is trying to make good, do right, be honest, be open; and it pretty much is not working. Does this mean he doesn't deserve a second chance? In some ways, yes, he certainly does. Yet, he does not when it com 4 Stars “If you can take a step up, can you not also take a step down? If you can do wrong can you not also do good? Can I not try and put right the wrongs that I have done?” This sums up Leo's existence, even though another character stated these lines. Leo; our anti-hero from the first book; is trying to make good, do right, be honest, be open; and it pretty much is not working. Does this mean he doesn't deserve a second chance? In some ways, yes, he certainly does. Yet, he does not when it comes to the 2 little girls from the first book. I think that is pushing the limits of forgiveness and allowing old wounds to heal. I thought things would be simple with this 2nd book; but it was not so. I was hoping for simple murder and resolution; and instead I got revolution, freedom-fighting, and also despair. This book is still dark; but I do see some light at the end of the tunnel for Leo, Raisa and maybe even for Zoya and Elena. We shall hope and pray this is true.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Hayes

    The protagonist of this book is Moscow homicide detective Leo Demidov, who also featured in Tom Rob Smith's earlier book, Child 44. But though there is plenty of homicide in this book, there is little detecting. This is not a whodunit. The bulk of the book is set in the period of the "Khrushchev thaw" in the Soviet Union, when, in his eponymous secret speech to the 20th Communist Party Congress, Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's dictatorship, the police state, and the Stalinist policy of arbi The protagonist of this book is Moscow homicide detective Leo Demidov, who also featured in Tom Rob Smith's earlier book, Child 44. But though there is plenty of homicide in this book, there is little detecting. This is not a whodunit. The bulk of the book is set in the period of the "Khrushchev thaw" in the Soviet Union, when, in his eponymous secret speech to the 20th Communist Party Congress, Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's dictatorship, the police state, and the Stalinist policy of arbitrary detention and sometimes liquidation of political dissenters. During this period millions of political prisoners were released, and the liberalisation policy did not meet with the approval of hard-line conservatives. It was opposed particularly by some factions in the KGB, the secret police, and led to power struggles, with some trying to promote and some trying to hinder liberalisation. It is around this that the plot of the novel is built, and particulalry the fear of some KGB members that the newly-released political prisoners might seek vengeance on those who denounced and arrested them. In the beginning the description of the setting is fairly convincing, and in many ways it reminded me of the atmosphere in South Africa 21 years ago, after F.W. de Klerk's speech of 2 February 1990. De Klerk's speech was not secret, but it had a similar effect on society. To some it gave hope of freedom, to others fear of vengeance. But after the promising beginning beginning the book becomes less convincing as the author tries to move the main characters to every scene of action in the period, from the Gulag to the Hungarian Uprising. He propagates the view that the Hungarian Uprising was not spontaneous, but that it was stage-managed by a Stalinist clique in Russia to try to check Khrushchev's reform process. I'm not sufficiently clued up on history of the period to know if this was actually the case, and perhaps some historians have propounded such a view or have found evidence for such things, but it was not something I had heard of before. Of course that would not make Smith the first novelist to manipulate history in favour of plot, and to paint "what if?" scenarios. It's just that in this case the main purpose seems to be to get the characters to the scene of the action, and it doesn't come off very well. Another bit of historical revisionism, which is even less convincing, is Smith's use and portrayal of the Orthodox Church. The book opens with a scene clearly based on the actual demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in central Moscow. Thereafter the Orthodox crucifix reappears in the book as a symbol of the search for revenge -- revenge on those who denounced, arrested and sent people to the prison camps. A priest in one of the prison camps apparently acquiesces in this search for revenge and seems to believe that it is quite justified and only to be expected. Far be it from me to suggest that Orthodox Christians are such super saints as to never have any thoughts of taking revenge on those who have harmed them. But Orthodox spirituality is such that to entertain such thoughts is a sin to be confessed, the encouragement of an evil passion. In all Orthodox manuals of devotion, in all Orthodox spiritual teaching, the most serious obstacle to receiving Holy Communion is enmity with others and the desire for revenge. This is an absolute incompatibility. The fact that the priest character has no qualms of conscience about this, and sees no need to excuse his behaviour, even to himself, makes him altogether unconvincing. And making the Orthodox crucifix a symbol of vengeance and the overriding desire for revenge seems utterly incongruous. The Orthodox approach to the exaction of vengeance for past wrongs can perhaps be symbolised by what actually happened in the case of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished in the Bolshevik era. It was rebuilt in the form of a replica of the original, and so perhaps stands as a symbol, not of vengeance, but of restorative justice.

  29. 4 out of 5

    La Petite Américaine Cash App: $Covid2020sucks

    Sigh. The brilliance of Child 44 came from two simple and intertwined themes: the nightmare of Stalinist Russia which created an environment of mistrust and betrayal. In Child 44, a child serial killer is running rampant, there's mystery the of the children at the beginning of the story, and the tyrannical government that turns its own people into traitors. To put it simply, the bad guys were nowhere and everywhere all at once, and you had no idea who was who. And along came Khrushchev ... and a Sigh. The brilliance of Child 44 came from two simple and intertwined themes: the nightmare of Stalinist Russia which created an environment of mistrust and betrayal. In Child 44, a child serial killer is running rampant, there's mystery the of the children at the beginning of the story, and the tyrannical government that turns its own people into traitors. To put it simply, the bad guys were nowhere and everywhere all at once, and you had no idea who was who. And along came Khrushchev ... and along came The Secret Speech. The bad guys are no longer hidden in back alleyways with trenchoats and big fur hats, they're not former friends turned informants any more. Noooo, now the bad guys are in your face. We now have a boring, totally unbelievable female character who managed to live through some death camps, became the leader of an all-male gang, and seeks revenge (my God what an original plot twist! revenge!) on her former interrogator, the hero from the first novel. I suppose this could work if the book were well-written. It wasn't. I've read cereal boxes with better stories and comic books with better action scenes, and I'm pissed off that I found grammatical mistakes and spelling errors (no shit) in a book I spent the last 3 months waiting eagerly to read. The writing was rushed and some of these scenes I swear were stolen from movies. UGH. Waste of time. SUCKED.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    Secret speech: A book of two halves, as they say. The first half, technically about two thirds, was great. The author portrayed well the confusion and chaos wrought on Russian society by Khrushchev’s 1955 secret speech in which he condemned Stalin’s repression and mass executions. The effect on the militias and secret police, especially as ordinary people start to take revenge, is well thought out, interesting and original. Equally, the secondary plot where the hard-liner pro-Stalin group who op Secret speech: A book of two halves, as they say. The first half, technically about two thirds, was great. The author portrayed well the confusion and chaos wrought on Russian society by Khrushchev’s 1955 secret speech in which he condemned Stalin’s repression and mass executions. The effect on the militias and secret police, especially as ordinary people start to take revenge, is well thought out, interesting and original. Equally, the secondary plot where the hard-liner pro-Stalin group who oppose Khrushchev’s reforms and want the army to remain strong is very plausible, and is well woven into the story. The descriptions of the gulags and the trip to them also fits well into the whole concept. What does not fit well is the move of the story to Hungary for the Hungarian uprising in 1956. This made no sense. It jarred on the senses, and, while it allowed an ending to be created, did not add anything to what had been a well-rounded book. Sorry, it went from 4.5 Stars back to 3.

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