Review of ‘The Secret Speech’ by Tom Rob Smith

The-Secret-Speech Tom Rob Smith, The Secret Speech (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009). Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle

On February 25, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech to a closed session of the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The speech, which was formally titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences,” criticized Josef Stalin, his prosecution of the Great Patriotic War (World War II), his multiple purges of the armed forces and party leadership, and other politically driven crimes against the Soviet people.

Tom Rob Smith uses Khrushchev’s speech as his point of departure in The Secret Speech, the second volume in his Child 44 trilogy. The question it ponders is this: When the State becomes criminal, can criminals exact justice? As always, Leo Demidov is at the center of the action, traveling from Moscow to Kolyma to Budapest to uncover the truth and protect himself and his family in the process. As with Smith’s other volumes in this series, the pacing is swift and the plot twists are sharp.

Highly recommended, but read the books in order of the series!


P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

Review of ‘Child 44’ by Tom Rob Smith

Child-44 Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2008). Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle

A serial killer haunts the western Soviet Union in 1953. According to Communist Party doctrine, such a crime cannot exist in a socialist country, where the State has eliminated inequality and poverty and hence the crimes that arise from them. To assert that a serial killer exists—let alone to track him down and seek his punishment—is thus a counterrevolutionary act, a crime that the State takes seriously and punishes severely.

Leo Stepanovich Demidov is a decorated hero of the Great Patriotic War and a loyal soldier of the MGB (predecessor of the KGB). Married, and with a promising career before him, he must confront a colleague and friend whose child is the forty-fourth victim of a serial killer whose very existence the State denies. Caught between his loyalty to the State and the evidence plain to anyone with eyes to see, Demidov dares to follow the truth and pursue a killer who must be stopped, In the process, he reveals a horrifying truth about Soviet history that explains the killer’s actions.

In Child 44, Tom Rob Smith captures the contradictions, paranoia, and massive evil of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s final year. It is a riveting page-turner of a mystery, not to mention a complex meditation on what it mean to pursue justice in a fundamentally unjust society. This is the first volume in a trilogy—The Secret Speech and Agent 6 are the succeeding volumes—all of which are highly recommended.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

Review of ‘Agent 6’ by Tom Rob Smith

Agent-6 Tom Rob Smith, Agent 6 (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2012). Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle

Agent 6 is the third book in Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 Trilogy. It follows ex-KGB officer Leo Demidov over three decades and across three continents as he seeks to unravel a conspiracy and avenge the murder of a loved one. Usually, when I read a series that features a central character, I try to read the books in order. I didn’t do that with Agent 6 because it arrived before the other two, and I wanted to crack it open immediately. I’m not sure if I missed any necessary backstory; I’ll find that out when I read the Child 44 and The Secret Speech. What I’m sure of is this: This was an engrossing read. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. For me, that’s the mark of a good mystery: It grabs you and won’t let you go until you see the solution. I look forward to reading Smith’s other books.

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

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