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The Secret Speech [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Tom Rob Smith , Gareth Armstrong
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

6 April 2009
Soviet Union, 1956: Stalin is dead. With his passing, a violent regime is beginning to fracture - leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. The catalyst comes when a secret manifesto composed by Stalin's successor Khrushchev is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant and a murderer. Its promise: The Soviet Union will transform. But there are forces at work that are unable to forgive or forget Stalin's tyranny so easily, that demand revenge of the most appalling nature. Meanwhile, former MGB officer Leo Demidov is facing his own turmoil. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his involvement in the murder of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa and their family are in grave danger from someone with a grudge against Leo. Someone transformed beyond recognition into the perfect model of vengeance.From the streets of Moscow in the throes of political upheaval, to the wintry Siberian gulags and to Budapest, where a revolution will destroy as many innocent lives as the regime it is attempting to end, The Secret Speech is another stunning thriller from the author of the Booker- longlisted Child 44.

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 5 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (6 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184737431X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847374318
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 12.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 782,187 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.


'TOM ROB SMITH, 30 His first novel, Child 44, appeared on last year's Booker longlist. Worked his magic again with The Secret Speech this year' LONDON'S BEST YOUNG WRITER'S, Evening Standard 30/4 'An epic journey across the blasted Siberian landscape to the dreaded Gulag 57. As with Child 44, Smith's historiography is exact and his early career as a scriptwriter shows in his feel for the necessary rhythms of plot. The feints, bluggs and reveals keep it all rattling along' The Herald, 25/4 'The follow-up to smash-hit Child 44 is also set in post-war Russia and follows investigator Leo Demidov from that book as he attempts to protect his family from someone with a grudge against him. VERDICT: As good as Child 44 *****' Heat 16/5 'This second outing for the conflicted former Soviet law enforcer Leo Demidov shows that the proposed trilogy of novels will be something special... Smith has spoken of his admiration for Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim, in which the protagonist has to atone for collusion with evil. That book is a template for Leo's ordeal in The Secret Speech, and if the comparison seems grandiose, one has to admire Smith's ambition. The moral conflicts just about keep pace with the tension in a narrative packed with a dizzying mass of incident' Barry Forshaw, Independent 13/5 'The central Leo-Fraera-Zoya triangle, interdependent though enemies, is brilliantly conceived and the scenes featuring them are invariably vivid' Sunday Times 8/6 'Riots, plane crashes and a steadily building body count make this one very packed and chilly ride' Book of the Week, Mirror 10/4 'Violent actions follow relentlessly on every page. This is a tragic portrait of Russia's brutality. The novel is good, and it's good for you too - educational and informative. But you need a strong stomach for it' Literary Review April issue 'Following his debut child 44, The Secret Speech follows former war hero Leo Demidov and his family as they try to survive the collapse of society in post-Stalinist Russia. A powerful page-turner' GQ, May issue 'A relentless cold-war thriller set during Stalin's dying days, Child 44 focused on the efforts of officer Leo Demidov to track down a serial killer despite a state ideologically insistent that crime couldn't exist in a utopian society. Avowedly commercial, feverishly executed and soaked in the violent paranoia of Soviet Russia, it won readers acclaim and a place on the Booker longlist...he's just published the follow-up, The Secret Speech. Stalin is dead, Krushchev is in power and Leo and his wife Raisa are struggling to bring up the two orphaned girls they adopted at the end of Child 44. Krushchev's reform and rapprochement policies provided Smith with a ready-made historical backdrop for examining ideas of guilt and repercussions' Interview, Metro 9/4 'In a market saturated by production-line thrillers, Child 44 stood out like Hannibal Lecter at a serial killers' convention... its sequel maintains the momentum . .. If it's thrills you are after, this book delivers. It's a great piledriver of a read' Charlie Higson, Guardian 4/5 'Tom Rob Smith is patently a talented writer with a rich and complex period to explore' Louise France, Observer 5/5 'As a study of betrayal at every level The Secret Speech is masterly. It brilliantly portrays a society stripped of every element of love, trust and respect; compassion is a weakness to be exploited and denunciation is accepted with resignation...Read this and shiver' Sunday Telegraph 5/5 'This is a fast-paced...action thriller set in an exciting period' Peter Millar, The Times 28/3 'Smith paints a chilling picture of post-Stalinist Russia, and never lets the pace flag as Demidov tries to save his family from foes out for vengeance' TheLondonPaper 7/4 "Remarkable... In Smith's hands [the] scenes attain a pulse of exhilaration worthy of Dickens by way of Conrad...a broadening of moral scope and thematic richness...rendered with passionate and indelible precision." Dennis Lehane 'Former secret police officer Leo Dormidov goes from hunter to hunted. He knows what to do to save his family, but is it possible? Ace' The Sun 12/3 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good indeed, but slightly disappointed 28 Mar 2010
By Chris Widgery VINE VOICE
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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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Second-Book Syndrome 26 Dec 2009
By Jonathan Posner VINE VOICE
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom Rob Smith 20 Jan 2010
What an amazing book, a great follow up to Child 44. I cannot recommend this writer enough. An absolute star.
Have contacted him via his web site and he is working on book three, as yet untitled, and it should be released in 2011.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere as good as Child 44 14 Dec 2009
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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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Bitterly disappointing sequel to the fantastic Child 44.

This book is awful. Simple as that. What Tom Rob Smith achieved with Child 44 has been wiped out by this poor follow up. Whilst there are interesting ideas in the book, it's a mish-mash of scenes and doesn't flow particularly wonders if the words 'film rights' have been mentioned to the author and he's thinking movie adaptation.

I truly wanted to love this book as I did Child 44, but alas there is no substance. Will give great consideration to ever reading this author again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great item
Published 6 days ago by H. Newman
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read but...
To have a follow up to the great Child 42 is really wonderful. I was hoping for a little more detail on how Leo adjusts to family life and moving out of the MGB. Read more
Published 12 days ago by McNott
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
Set in Russia not long after the death of Stalin this story follows the political fall out from a speech given by Stalin's succesor Kruschev denouncing Stalin and the brutal acts... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Page turner,kept me interested the whole way through.
Could not put it down.
The second book I have read by this author.
Published 1 month ago by MRS Bonita Banham
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book!!
A book full of close and complex relationships! Touching and heart warming. If you enjoyed Child 44 then don't miss this- it's a gem!!
Published 1 month ago by Mrs
4.0 out of 5 stars Not too bad
Readable thriller, but a bit too reliant on deus ex machina. Very good about the viciousness of Stalin's regime and the gulags.
Published 2 months ago by Armourer
4.0 out of 5 stars second part to child 44
I liked it. Second part to child 44. Leo really gets a hard time in this one. Good twist to it.
Published 2 months ago by Mark Hussey
4.0 out of 5 stars secrect speech
again good condition but saving it for my holiday this year,i have read one of his books and can recomend the author
Published 2 months ago by mrs jane manners
4.0 out of 5 stars Pot Boiler
Having read Child 44 I looked forward maybe a little too much to this one. However it is a solid read and the action keeps on coming.
Published 2 months ago by James L. Weir
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Really enjoyed this book. Child 44 is a must as well. read child 44 first then secret speech looking forward to more from this author.
Published 2 months ago by Ms. La Bryce
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