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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audio Books; Unabridged audio book. 12 CDs. edition (1 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1407435809
  • ISBN-13: 978-1407435800
  • Product Dimensions: 15.1 x 2.6 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,478,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1979 to a Swedish mother and an English father, Tom Rob Smith's bestselling novels in the Child 44 trilogy were international publishing sensations. Among its many honours, Child 44 won the International Thriller Writer Award for Best First Novel, the Galaxy Book Award for Best New Writer, the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the inaugural Desmond Elliot Prize. Child 44 is now a major motion picture starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Tom Rob Smith’s first book, Child 44, enjoyed unprecedented attention and acclaim (as did its youthful author), so it was inevitable that the appetite for that novel’s successor would be keen. Now it’s here, and The Secret Speech, largely speaking, lives up the promise of its Fleming-Dagger-winning predecessor, despite being a very different book: Ex-MGB officer Leo Dormidov returns and becomes involved in a narrative so incident-packed it makes the earlier book seem positively sedate.

The most memorable thing about the first novel, of course, was the moral transformation of the hero, initially a charismatic tool of the brutal state apparatus, enforcing the Stalin-era edicts with grim efficiency until he becomes hunted rather hunter and earns some hard-won humanity. Part of the point of Child 44 was the protagonist’s journey of character – so how to follow this, when Leo has become a human being by the end of the first novel?

The Secret Speech performs this tricky balancing act by taking the reader back to 1949, with Leo the unreformed agent of the state, behaving with the callousness he once possessed before his life was turned upside down. We are then taken to the mid-fifties, after the death of Stalin (as cracks begin to show in the totalitarian Soviet State). Khrushchev’s famous denunciation of the Stalin era ushers in significant changes, and Leo Dormidov (along with his wife Raisa and their daughters) are in danger, as the power of the police is undercut – and, in fact, the police are now identified as enemies of the state. This is only one of the dangers that Leo faces: there is now a ruthless enemy on his trail – as ruthless as Leo was himself in the days of his authority and acclaim.

There is no denying that the bracing innovation of the first book (in what is to be a trilogy) burns at a lower wattage here – that’s inevitable – but Smith is too adroit a writer not to keep us comprehensively gripped (breathless, even, as climax after climax is piled into a crowded narrative). --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"... A memorable portrait of post-Stalinist Russia at its dawn." Publishers Weekly "It's 1956 and Khrushchev has made his four-hour "secret speech" denigrating Stalin and his KGB agents. Ex-agent Leo Demidov, pursued by his past, is terrified. His daughter is kidnapped and his life becomes a helter-skelter of dangerous escapes. The narration maintains the unsettling menace." Rachel Redford, The Observer (audiobook review)"

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chris Widgery VINE VOICE on 28 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
I loved Child 44. Smith (or should it Rob Smith? Perhaps it should; calling someone "Tom Rob" makes them sound like they're straight out of Deliverance) created both a taut thriller as well as a utterly believeable recreation of Stalin's Soviet Union - the fear and suspicion of life in those terrible times. So I was really looking forward to the follow up.

Stalin has died, and Kruschev taken over. Kruschev makes the secret speech - denouncing the crimes of Stalin and tentatively signalling a freer era. And Leo Demidov, our hero from Child 44 returns. He is investigating the murders of former secret police personnel, when he gets drawn into a web of intrigues, conspiracy and, well, action.

The atmosphere is as good as in the first book, but the action is perhaps the issue. There's a bit in Moscow, and then they move several thousand miles east and more happens and then they go somewhere else entirely and more happens. And the travelling almost makes it feel like different things thrown together. I can't quite put my finger on why, but it doesn't quite work. Maybe all of the jet setting makes it feel like a 50s James Bond on a lower budget. It's all highly readable, and very enjoyable, but it's just not as good as child 44.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Posner VINE VOICE on 26 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I adored Child 44 and as soon as I'd finished it immediately ordered this follow-up in hardback. It had only been out a matter of weeks but by the time it arrived it was already in its 5th printing. Which just goes to show . . . what exactly?

Because bluntly, in comparison with Child 44 this book is dreadful. The only weak point in Child 44 was a contrived 'action' sequence on a train. Now I can almost imagine the conversation between Smith and his dumbed-down, know-nothing publishers as, flushed with the success of a first novel they exhorted him to write another 400 pages of the same kind of action, certain that this - as opposed to any kind of literary merit - was the winning formula. To see all Smith's undoubted writing potential thrown away like this is as heartbreaking as this book is unreadable. And to think that this is the same writer who was actually nominated for the Booker prize!

In the end this isn't so much of a novel as a comic without the pictures: the narrative is rushed, the characters implausible and the dialogue, far from giving us insight into character, creaks instead with often undigested dollops of history so obviously lifted from the research material.

I couldn't wait to finish this book. Tom Rob Smith is capable of so much more and if I were him I'd be making it my new year's resolution to stop hanging around with the wrong crowd and get in with a new set of literary people who can instead nurture and promote this writer's obvious talent and ability. If he does (and only if he does) will I be the first in line to buy his third novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By zeev wolfe on 14 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
As with many second books (especially sequels) this one doesn't measure up to the first (Child 44). Mostly this is because so much psychological karma related to Leo and Raisa was used up in the first book. Leo who had gone from an unthinking automaton (and perpetrator of torture) to a pained reality of what he had done, could never be as powerful a character as he was before.

The Secret Speech refers to Nikita Krushchev's indictment of Stalin at the CPSU Congress in 1956. At that time he accused Stalin (and therefore the Party and the State) of the torture (and forced confessions)and persecution of innocent people. That it was done for no other reason but to cull anyone who might become a threat to Stalin and to cower the rest of the population into unthinking obeyance of every government command.

Krushchev's denunciation of Stalin, therefore accused all who were involved and part of the Great Terror (1936-1939) and those (the MGB and KGB) who ran the Gulag. The Party could NOT admit that it had made a mistake and Krushchev was eventually overthrown in 1964 by a coup d'etat led by Brezhnev and Kosygin. Most western historians tended to believe Krushchev because he had been the leader of the Ukraine SSR and a member of the Politburo during most of the last twenty years of Stalin's reign.

The weakness in the book is Leo's invariable ability to work his way through some of the worst parts of the Gulag and survive. The time on the prison ship and the personality of the camp commander are hard to take at face value. Leo (with Raisa) being able to escape the Soviet Union and venture to Hungary in itself (even though he has the help of a powerful KGB general) is too fantastical. Then the number of coincidences that occur ask the reader to ignore too much to make the last part of the story possible. The semi-happy ending at the end is in itself totally implausible.

Zeev BM Halevi
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Cooper on 29 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating and riveting book which plunges the reader into post-Stalin Russian society. Everyone appears to be under the Government's scrutiny and trust is a fickle and malleable entity.

Leo, an ex-MGB officer is tormented and made to suffer for his past misdeeds. He travels the length of Russia and Eastern Europe in an attempt to save and rescue his reluctant adopted daughter.

I was very pleasantly surprised when reading this book, as when I initially picked it up to begin with, I was unsure of what to expect. What I found was a gem that was terribly addictive which I read in two sittings. This is a deeply engrossing crime thriller, ideal for those interested in post-Stalin Russia. For others looking for their next read, try this book, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

This book made me realise just how glad I am that I didn't have to live through this period.
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