25 April 2014

The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith, Book review

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Lrg edition (May 19, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0446402419
Also available in KINDLE format


Moscow, 1956. A society trying to recover from a time when the police were corrupt and the innocent arrested as criminals. Detective Leo Demidov, former Secret Police Officer, is forced to ask whether the wrongs of the past can ever be forgiven. 
Trying to solve a series of brutal murders that grip the capital, he must decide if this is savagery or justice. Quickly it becomes apparent that Leo himself - and his family - are in danger from someone intent on revenge. 
Desperate to save those he loves, he is offered salvation from an unexpected source - and at a terrible price. 
From the streets of Moscow in the throes of political upheaval, to the Siberian gulags and the Hungarian uprising in Budapest, The Secret Speech is a breathtaking novel that confirms Tom Rob Smith as one of the most exciting authors writing today.
(Source Amazon)

My thoughts:

A testament to the endurance of thousands of dissidents, Solzhenitsyn's 'The Gulag Archipelago' fascinated me as a youngster and a copy traveled with me throughout thousands of miles. Fictional works such as Kate Furnival's 'The Red Scarf' holds similar appeal me so when I spotted Tom Rob Smith, I anticipated a good novel.

Based in part on the 25th February 1956 'Secret Speech' delivered by Nikita Khrushchev, the novel by the same title is Tom Rob Smith's second.

The first chapter of The Secret Speech features the planned destruction of a centuries old church in 1949 Moscow, its priest now a Professor at a nearby University under the new regime, hiding in the crowd. Most gawkers congregate to satisfy their curiosity, some because of their political inclinations, others to mourn the loss of a treasured religious edifice. 
Amongst them is an agent for the State, as expected under the regime, milling to gauge the crowd's reactions. 
Unbeknownst to Lazar the priest, his young prodigy Maxim and one of his University student, is not only a member of the dreaded MGB, but his wife's lover. Betrayed, husband and wife are arrested as dissidents.

1956: Maxim whose real name is Leo Demidov has left the secret police. His wife and two adopted daughters are all that matters to him as he tries to forget his own role in the old regime's purges. But the past comes to revisit when his oldest daughter is kidnapped and soon the former MGB agent finds himself in the middle of a series of brutal murders, the retribution for the denunciations and torture of hundreds of innocents.
Desperate to hold on to the family he has created for himself, Leo finds himself in pursuit and amid the impending invasion of Hungary.

Best described as a 'sensational thriller' set behind the Iron Curtain throughout the Cold War, it provided neither entertainment or seemed historically accurate. None of the characters profiles grabbed me as strong and the hackneyed plot line following Leo from Moscow to the horrors of Gulag Kolyma, back to Moscow and on to Budapest as Hungarians citizens vehemently resist the Russian advances seemed implausible. 

3 Stars!

Note: Due to thematic contents, violence and strong language, recommended for mature readers only.

About the Author:

Image of Tom Rob Smith

Tom Rob Smith graduated from Cambridge University in 2001 and lives in London. His first novel, Child 44, was a New York Times bestseller and an international publishing sensation. 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.

Visit his website (HERE)

Note: This novel is part of my personal library and reflects only my opinion.


  1. I read one of Smith's books and really liked it.

    1. I understand Child 44 was excellent, maybe the title?


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