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The Secret Speech
Sequel to Child 44

by Tom Rob Smith


Leo Demidov, who was also the hero in Child 44, is back in this riveting novel of post-Stalinist Russia, which begins in 1956.  Leo is an MGB agent in the homicide department.  His job frequently requires him to send innocent people to the dreaded Gulag.  Leo's heart isn't in it; he is a man with a conscience and only wants to live and love his family—his wife, Raisa, and their two adopted daughters, Elena and Zoya—and try in his own way to make amends for the actions that were forced on him.

Now, in a little known secret speech to the twentieth Communist Party Congress, Khrushchev has criticized Stalin's brutality, and has pledged reforms to free former prisoners. The prisoners themselves have revenge in mind. One female gang leader called Fraera targets Leo and his family, since Leo is responsible for sending her priest husband to the Gulag.  She kidnaps Zoya and threatens to kill her, to force Leo into action to free her beloved husband. Since Leo killed Zoya's biological parents before he adopted her, Zoya has a revenge agenda of her own.

Leo goes to Siberia in the guise of a prisoner to liberate Fraera's husband, but the journey is fraught with danger, and freeing anyone from the Gulag may be next to impossible. Switching from Moscow to Siberia and back, and to a Hungary convulsed by revolution, this fast-paced novel is packed with deadly action. Smith portrays the shocking and shameful tragedy and brutality of life for many millions of Russians and Hungarians and takes it to a personal level with Leo's story.

I found myself turning the pages with dread, but unable to put The Secret Speech down.  A mild sounding title for a book filled with brutality, danger and fear.  It's a story that you won't soon forget.

Reviews of other titles in this Trilogy

Child 44 [audio] [book]
Secret Speech [audio] [book]
Agent 6 [audio] [review]

The Book

Grand Central Publishing
May 19, 2009
0446402400 / 978-0446402408
Historical Suspense [1956 Russia)
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The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Beverly J. Rowe is's "Babes to Teens" columnist, covering topics related to reading ideas for the youth in the family.
© 2009