* This post is brought to you by the nearly 2 feet of snow Mother Nature brought our area over the weekend. Since I couldn’t be out doing last minute Christmas stuff, I spent some time catching up on my reviews. *
I don’t know about you, but every so often I’m in the mood for a thriller. I don’t read them often, but there comes a time when the only thing that will do to read is a thriller. If that thriller has anything to do with Communists, it’s all the better. Just such a time hit at the end of October and I was so glad to have a review copy of Tom Rob Smith’s The Secret Speech on my shelves. It picks up on Leo Demidov’s story after Child 44. He is raising two adoptive daughters with his wife, but he doesn’t feel very successful about it because of his past in the MGB. Zoya, his oldest daughter, blames him for the death of her birth parents. Zoya’s not the only reason why he regrets his MGB past. He soon figures out that his former comrades are being murdered one by one in an organized fashion shortly after receiving a copy of a secret speech about Stalin‘s brutality leaked by the new Khrushchev regime. When Zoya disappears by the hands of the group responsible for these murders, Leo must fight for the daughter who hates him. He must keep his unlikely family in tact.
When reading this novel, be prepared for action. This novel primarily takes place in Russia, but there is an important section that takes place in Hungary. I ‘ve never read fiction taking place in Hungary and it was interesting to see the differences between Hungary and Russia during that time period. My favorite part of this story was following the path of revenge against the state and its agents. I cannot imagine the terror and paranoia one must have felt living under Stalin. When he died, it must have been equally difficult to move forward. Forgiveness would be unthinkable. For some, basic human morality would be, too.
I have heard some wonderful things about Child 44. I haven’t read it and I wish that I had. It’s not that Smith didn’t do a wonderful job catching readers like me up on Leo and his past. He did. I didn’t actually realize The Secret Speech was a sequel until after I read it. I’m wondering if I might have felt more connected to Leo had I followed him through his time with the MGB. He felt cold to me and as I read I felt removed from the heart of what was going on. I was interested in the story. I found the implications of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech intriguing. I just wished that I felt more invested in Leo and his family. I might have been had I read Child 44.
Tom Rob Smith can definitely right a thriller and I could see his post-Stalin era world. There were aspects that I found predictable. At the same time, there were twists that caught me way off guard. Despite not feeling as connected to the characters as I had wanted, this book really hit the spot. I stayed up later than was wise one night to finish it because I couldn’t put it down. The next time I’m itching for a political thriller, I will be looking to Smith. If I enjoyed The Secret Speech this much, Child 44 must be amazing.
A special thanks to Miriam from Hatchette Book Group for sending me a review copy of this novel.