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The Secret Speech [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

Tom Rob Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 21 2010 The Child 44 Trilogy
Tom Rob Smith-the author whose debut, Child 44, has been called "brilliant" (Chicago Tribune), "remarkable" (Newsweek) and "sensational" (Entertainment Weekly)-returns with an intense, suspenseful new novel: a story where the sins of the past threaten to destroy the present, where families must overcome unimaginable obstacles to save their loved ones, and where hope for a better tomorrow is found in the most unlikely of circumstances . . .
THE SECRET SPEECH
Soviet Union, 1956. Stalin is dead, and a violent regime is beginning to fracture-leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. A secret speech composed by Stalin's successor Khrushchev is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant. Its promise: The Soviet Union will change.
Facing his own personal turmoil, former state security officer Leo Demidov is also struggling to change. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his part in the death of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa, and their family are in grave danger from someone consumed by the dark legacy of Leo's past career. Someone transformed beyond recognition into the perfect model of vengeance.
From the streets of Moscow in the throes of political upheaval, to the Siberian gulags, and to the center of the Hungarian uprising in Budapest, THE SECRET SPEECH is a breathtaking, epic novel that confirms Tom Rob Smith as one of the most exciting new authors writing today.


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Review

"CHILD 44 is a remarkable debut novel--inventive, edgy, and relentlessly gripping from the first page to the last."—Scott Turow

"A debut novel from a shockingly talented 28-year-old Brit...Nerve-wracking pace and atmosphere...Smashing."—Starred KIRKUS

About the Author

Tom Rob Smith graduated from Cambridge University in 2001 and lives in London. His novels in the Child 44 trilogy were New York Times bestsellers and international publishing sensations. Among its many honors, Child 44 won the ITW 2009 Thriller Award for Best First Novel, The Strand Magazine 2008 Critics Award for Best First Novel, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars a letdown from his first book Oct. 24 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It would have been hard to top his first novel, which was an excellent book, but this book dwells a bit more on the mundane and frankly less interesting elements of Soviet culture and society. It's still somewhat enjoyable, but the bar was set very high with his first foray, and this book isn't at that level or perhaps even one level below.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed June 29 2011
Format:Paperback
I bought this book having just finished Shalamov's Kolyma Tales. Well, I soon realized it's been a long, long time since I read a page-burner like this... Angels and Demons maybe? I knew right off the top it would be fluffy with the 1.5 line spacing but was willing to give it a try. Made it to page 150 in the first read, whereas normally I wouldn't get more than 20 pages in a session with a weightier tome. Unfortunately, at about page 150 Smith begins his imagined description how the first ever female gang leader in the gulag came to power, and it was too much to continue. I would have sworn Smith was American from the style of the novel... can't think of a current British author I've read who depicts such a Rambo-style mission of revenge-justice, especially in a historical milieu where virtually no such justice was ever meted out. Another disturbing bit was how readily Smith had scattered little factoids clearly lifted directly from Solzhenitsyn throughout the prose in a form of gratuitous authenticity... maybe some people will like it but it doesn't work for me. The Dan Brown of stalinism as far as I'm concerned.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty darn good Oct. 31 2011
By Prairie Pal TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It would take a powerful piece of writing to surpass Tom Rob Smith's first novel in this series,"Child 44" an absolutely chilling look at the paranoia and horror of life in Joseph Stalin's Russia as seen through the eyes of a member of the secret police. "The Secret Speech" doesn't quite measure up to its predecessor but it is a very good novel nonetheless. It examines the shockwaves that went through the USSR when Stalin was denounced to the 20th Party Congress by Nikita Khrushchev and Russians could contemplate the possibility of a relaxation of the police state. Our secret police hero must confront more crimes from his past and delve into the gulag to find absolution. Well worth reading.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Speech book April 13 2014
By Kathy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book arrived in a very good condition, within specified time frame. I enjoyed reading it.
I would recommend it to everyone.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  189 reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 Stars -- A Very Strong Follow-Up To Child 44! May 19 2009
By Bobbewig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Let me start off by saying that The Secret Speech is not quite as good as Child 44 -- BUT it is a very good historical thriller and definitely well worth reading. Tom Rob Smith's second novel takes places in 1956, post-Stalin Soviet Union. During this time a violent regime is beginning to come apart, resulting in a society where the police are the criminals and the criminals are the innocent. The "firecracker" during this period is when a secret document based on a speech by Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, is distributed throughout the nation. The basic theme of Khrushchev's message is that Stalin was a murderer and a tyrant, and that life in the Soviet Union will improve. The plot of The Secret Speech moves from the streets of Moscow during its political upheaval, to the Siberian gulags and to the heart of the Hungarian uprising in Budapest. Central to the plot is former state security officer, Leo Demidov, the hero of Smith's Child 44. Demidov is now the head of Moscow's homicide department, and while striving to see justice done, his life is in turmoil due to trying to build a life with his wife, Raisa, and their adopted daughters who have yet to forgive him for his role in the death of their parents. On top of this personal turmoil, Demidov and his family are in serious danger from someone with a grudge against him. The Secret Speech is an exciting, visceral, well-written page-turner from beginning to end that paints a vivid picture of the post-Stalinist Soviet Union at its onset. Further, as was also true in Child 44, Smith's characters are richly developed and are ones that this reader felt he got to know well. I should point out that The Secret Speech isn't flawless, although none of these flaws are major. Perhaps, the biggest of these minor flaws is that some of the plot developments are somewhat too coincidental and a bit far-fetched. But this book is fiction, after all, and these minor flaws do help to contribute to the book's excitement. In addition, I should point out that potential readers of The Secret Speech would highly benefit from reading Child 44 first. Enjoy!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "To know how to wait is the great secret of success." Joseph De Maistre April 23 2010
By michael a. draper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With Stalin's death in the mid '50s, the iron fisted regime in the Soviet Union was beginning to breakup. The ruthless KGB were now thought to be extremists and criminals while former criminals were currently considered oppressed and innocent. During this time, Stalin's successor, Khrushchev, distributes a secret speech claiming that Stalin was a tryant and Russia was going to change.

Before that change took place, Leo Demidov, pretended to be a follower of a man named Lazar and was also the lover of Lazar's wife, Anisya. When the time came, Leo betrayed Lazar and Anisya, forcing them to inform on many of their followers. Lazar and Anisya were sent to prison.

With the lessening of the harsh treatment of dissidents, Anisya is released. She has become a hardened criminal and takes on the gang name, Fraera. Her one mission in life is to gain revenge on Leo not only for his betrayal of her husband but for his dishonesty about loving her. Her gang kidnaps Leo's adopted daughter and she tells Leo that unless he can free her husband, she will kill Leo's daughter, Zoya.

The story moves to the Gulag where prisoners are still treated harshly and we read of Leo's plan to free Lazar. The description of how this is carried out is a scene that will remain in the reader's mind.

With an excellent sense of history and drama, the story unfolds, providing the reader with an enlightened view of the intrigue and deception in Russia and in Hungary in the mid 1950's.

Although, not quite up to the excellence of the author's first novel, "Child 44," this is still an excellent historical mystery. Leo Demidov is a well portrayed character who wins the reader's heart with his love of family and sense of justice.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as silly as some other best sellers... March 9 2009
By Steve Benner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tom Rob Smith's second novel, "The Secret Speech", is an action-packed thriller set in the Soviet Bloc at the start of its post-Stalinist era. Rather than provide a run-of-the-mill East-versus-West spy story, however, Smith has chosen to use the de-Stalinisation programme of the early Khrushchev years and the events of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 as a setting for an exciting and engaging action drama. The main protagonist, Leo Demidov, is a former MGB (secret police) agent who, while attempting to atone for his earlier life and his role in the Stalinist purges, and also to provide a normal family home for his wife and two adopted daughters -- children orphaned as a result of his own earlier denunciation of their parents -- suddenly finds himself at the centre of a brutal and far-reaching back-lash against former Stalinist supporters.

The action flows across the pages in a fast and furious fashion with never a dull moment, as Leo battles against both the odds and the system -- reminiscent sometimes of a Russian Jack Bauer -- to preserve the State and to protect both himself and his family from the villains of the piece. As a lively and engaging read, Smith cannot really be faulted, unless it is perhaps that he packs in rather too much action and adversity for the hero to face, with there being altogether too many close calls than are necessary to make a good story. After a while, the rhythm of crisis/progress/setback/success becomes so endlessly sustained as to become somewhat predictable, with many a cliché along the way. Hollywood will love it.

For me, the book's biggest failings are Smith's complete inability to present a credible picture of the austerity of Soviet life of those times, or to evoke any of the atmosphere of fear and paranoia which permeated all lives behind the Iron Curtain throughout the Cold War -- factors which would have rendered both the premise and the details of this story entirely implausible. Smith's USSR bears more resemblance to a Soviet Union under Gorbachev's Perestroika than that under Khrushchev. Try Gillian Slovo's "Ice Road" if you want to see how much better this could have been handled.

In addition, Smith's plot line is often unnecessarily wayward and feels to be unnaturally contorted by a design intended to string together certain set dramatic scenes, more than to serve any greater over-riding story arc, coupled with a lack of focus as to where the human drama really lies. The closing chapters depicting events in Budapest in October and November 1956, for instance, read like dramatised re-tellings of old newsreel footage; as if such were the inspiration for the story as a whole, with the back-story being bolted on simply to get us to this concluding set of scenes.

For those who care not one jot about the historical accuracy of their novels and who like the action to be thick and furious, this book is sufficiently well written to keep one entertained over a long-haul flight, or engrossed through several long evenings with nothing better to do. Lots of the book is somewhat silly, but no more so than, say, "The Da Vinci Code". The author does need a lesson or two about the physics of aircraft and flying, though, and could really do to learn to rein back his need for a new crisis every ten minutes but apart from these lapses, he sure can write a good read!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stand-in for Cruz Smith and Kaminsky June 18 2009
By Dave Schwinghammer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Stuart Kaminsky's Porfiry Rostnikov series seems to have been retired, and Martin Cruz Smith isn't very prolific, so I'm always on the lookout for another Russian mystery series that lives up to the other two. CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith certainly fit the bill. THE SECRET SPEECH is Tom Rob Smith's second effort starring former secret police operative and homicide cop Leo Demidov.

THE SECRET SPEECH gets its name from a speech that Khrushchev circulated after the death of Stalin, denouncing his inhumane treatment of Russian citizens. Someone else is murdering former MGB operatives and Leo Demidov sets out to find out who's behind it. Meanwhile his adopted daughter, Zoya, is kidnapped. Zoya still blames Leo for the death of her parents and that becomes a plot line as Leo strives to earn her love. The plot takes us from Moscow, to the gulags in the Kolyma and from there to the 1956 uprising in Budapest.

THE SECRET SPEECH is not as good as CHILD 44; I imagine because Smith had so much to work with in the previous novel, based on a real-life Russian serial killer who targeted children. Smith also puts the reader through some annoying twists and gyrations. Somebody dies only to come back to life a few pages later. There's also a scene toward the end regarding a musician that I could not figure out without rereading the book. A little hint would've helped.

There does seem to be a very apt theme running through the book, however. Reform can often lead to unintended complications. Baby steps is sometimes a better option.

THE SECRET SPEECH is okay as an alternative to Cruz Smith or Kaminsky, but CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff might be a better option. It's almost as good as GORKY PARK.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great follow-up to Child 44 April 2 2010
By Kathy Kaiser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I don't understand the reviewers who think Smith's second book is subpar. On the contrary, The Secret Speech is just as riveting as Child 44. There is just as much action in this sophmore effort, just as much in-depth character study, and as much well-researched historical detail and perspective as his debut novel. Smith has a winning formula and will hopefully stick with his main characters for his next book. I find Leo to be a superb action hero. He has a core of moral goodness and never-ending supply of stamina to endure the physical discomfort and pain to which he is regularly subjected. I loved it. It's like watching a Bourne movie but with the added depth of historical setting. I found Leo's superhuman capacity to endure injury wonderfully exciting and heart-poundingly fun. Raisa is also perfectly drawn: a woman who is slowly learning to trust, a quiet but strong heroine whose love is starting to solidify and grow for Leo. That relationship is also intriguing. Smith leaves us not quite satisfied, wanting more, eager for another story about these two well-drawn characters (as well as their "daughters") and their existence in this harrowing time in history. I'll buy any book he writes from now on. I've become a huge fan.
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