Book Review: 'The Secret Speech' is a true thriller throughout

"The Secret Speech" by Tom Rob Smith; 0-446-40240-0; Pages: 416; $24.99; Publication Date: May 19; Hardcover; Fiction; Published by Grand Central Publishing.

Fresh on the heels of his outstanding debut novel "Child 44," author Tom Rob Smith unveils his sequel, "The Secret Speech."

So widely acclaimed was "Child 44" that it swept up to high rankings on the prestigious New York Times Best Seller List. When Smith captured many awards in his native London, his success was assured as a widely accepted new thriller writer.

Main character, Leo Demidov, was responsible for hundreds of arrests and interrogations. He was a bad man who was following orders, but at the same time, he had become hardened to the need for decency in the way he treated others. He was brutal in the manner in which he quested for confessions under the guise of following orders from his superiors.

Times changed under Khrushchev, and his job changed, as did he, to now being in charge of investigations for murders, pursuing justice on behalf of murder victims. "The Secret Speech" is the story of Leo and how he survives as he returns to intrigue, suspense and violence. This is an adventurous thriller about the treacherous lives led by those who were in power in Russia after Stalin.

Raisa, Leo's wife, and their two daughters are put in jeopardy by a vengeful wife of one of the people who Leo had previously imprisoned. One of his daughters is kidnapped and the other is hospitalized. He is then forced to accede to that wife's demands to get her husband freed.

Leo travels undercover as a prisoner to the Siberian Gulag (prison) where the husband is being kept. In an effort to bring his wife and children together again, a series of escapades involving Leo become dangerous, murderous and downright gruesome. He experiences a wild trip at sea in a prison ship through a storm, and then he becomes a prisoner in the gulag and is imprisoned with some people who he had caused to be there years before.

After about 50 pages of reading, the full impact is realized. The secret speech is disclosed. Premier Khrushchev's secret manifesto is distributed to the entire nation, exposing the wrongs which had been committed under Stalin. This is the start of the split in the Soviet Union, and more action ensues in the Hungarian uprising.

"The Secret Speech" is a novel which uses actual historical facts to base its woven fabric into fiction and becomes very entertaining. Smith is an author to be followed through his career. At 30 years old, he promises to be a successful writer for a long time to come. Highly recommended!

Publisher Weekly

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