Large Print Reviews
The Secret Speech
By Tom Rob Smith
The Secret Speech
By Tom Rob Smith
Read by Dennis Boutsikaris
Hachette Audio, (2009)
An Unabridged Recording on 10 CDs
Genre: Thriller, Historic Fiction
This book is also available in a Large Print edition.
Reviewed by Angela Evans - June 16, 2009
The Secret Speech is the second novel from the pen of Tom Rob Smith, and it follows on the heels of his best-selling book, Child 44. This new novel is set 1956, in the dark years after Joseph Stalin's death. The story focuses on the life of Leo Demidov, a former State Security Officer, a.k.a a former MGB agent. (The MGB, Ministry for State Security, ceased to exist in 1953. After some shenanigans that resulted in the execution of many of the MGB's hierarchy, it was resurrected as the dreaded KGB in 1954.) While still working for the MGB, Demidov was responsible for the death of many individuals, including the parents of his two adopted children!
At the time of this story, Nikita Khrushchev is firmly in control of the Soviet Union, and when he gives a speech to the Communist Party Congress on how Stalin used the MGB to silence his foes and to maintain his iron grip on the Soviet people, he sets into motion a wave of revenge killings and assaults. Demidov, who is now working as a homicide detective, is disheartened, but not surprised, to learn how he was used during his service in the MGB. However, for many, this is new information, and many of Stalin's victims are now interested in taking revenge on the members of the MGB who destroyed their lives and families. Demidov soon finds that he, and his family, are in grave danger from those seeking revenge, which results in the kidnapping of one of his daughters. To save her, Demidov will have to meet the kidnappers demands - get an imprisoned priest out of one of the Soviet Union's deadliest gulags. His task is daunting, and should he fail he knows that his daughter will be killed, and he will be lucky if being sent to a gulag is the worst he has to fear.
The story jumps from Moscow to Siberia where the gulag is located, and onto the dangerous streets of Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 that was crushed with the assistance of Soviet forces. This is a fast paced, complicated, and memorable story that will delight both fans of thrillers, as well as of historic fiction. Smith's pacing is solid throughout, and the story gripping. This audio edition of The Secret Speech is read by Dennis Boutsikaris, who is a talented actor and narrator and his reading makes listening to this dark novel a thrilling, although chilling, experience.
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