Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel, Child 44
, was a considerable success (the youthful Smith began to collect book award nominations by the bushel, before finally bagging the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for 2008). That book’s successor, The Secret Speech
, featured the second appearance of the beleaguered former MGB officer Leo Dormidov. Hopes were high for the final volume in the trilogy – and here is Agent 6
, the final outing for Leo. So does it satisfactorily conclude the sequence?
In the last book, the time was 1956; Stalin had died, and it was the time of Nikita Khrushchev’s revisionist pronouncements (such as the ‘secret speech’ of the title, in which the Stalinist regime was – for the first time – roundly denounced). Leo Dormidov, his wife Raisa and their daughters are in mortal danger again, because of the new public view of the police as criminals; Leo’s efforts to save his family plunged him into situations of fear and tension. Both books were novel of striking authority (despite the controversial stylistic notion of putting all speech in italics, so that everything appeared over-emphasised). Agent 6, the third and final outing for the conflicted former MGB officer, brings the trilogy of novels to a resounding climax. Leo’s new civilian life with his wife Raisa and his family has acquired equilibrium, but the USSR and the US are still bitter enemies. A visit to the states by Leo on a diplomatic mission has a tragic outcome, and Leo loses everything. Only the grim plains of Afghanistan offer him a way back – or death. Tom Rob Smith has utilised cinematic technique here (not to mention upping the number of suspenseful set pieces), and some will prefer the more complex character building of the first book (still the finest in the sequence), but for most readers this final Leo Dormidov novel will push all the requisite buttons. --Barry Forshaw
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`In this final part of the trilogy (equally good as a stand-alone book), which began with much acclaimed Child 44, author Tom Rob Smith shows he has lost none of his talent for producing a perfectly paced thriller' --Books of the Year, Country & Town House