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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good indeed, but slightly disappointed
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...
Published on 28 Mar 2010 by Chris Widgery

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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Second-Book Syndrome
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...
Published on 26 Dec 2009 by Jonathan Posner


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good indeed, but slightly disappointed, 28 Mar 2010
By 
Chris Widgery (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Speech (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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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Second-Book Syndrome, 26 Dec 2009
By 
Jonathan Posner (LONDON, England United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Speech (Hardcover)
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere as good as Child 44, 14 Dec 2009
By 
zeev wolfe (MetroWest Boston, MA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Secret Speech (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A difficult period in which to live, 29 Oct 2009
By 
J. Cooper (Sheffield, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Speech (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom Rob Smith, 20 Jan 2010
By 
Andy Targett (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Speech (Hardcover)
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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment, 22 May 2009
By 
L. Wynn Williams (Swansea Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Speech (Hardcover)
After being absolutely enthralled by Tom Rob Smith's first book "Child 44"(I would give that 5 stars)I eagerly awaited the publication of his "The Secret Speech" - it was a major disappointment. A totally impausible story line with the author trying to pack in as many of the key Communist events of 1956 as possible even if it meant the story and the plot becoming convoluting and ludicrous. Before the story moved to Hungary I would probably have awarded it 3 stars,-from that point on it was downhill all the way.How can two books by the same author vary so much in outcomes for the reader?
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bitterly disappointing sequel to the fantastic Child 44. - Don't waste your money., 23 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Secret Speech (Hardcover)
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 well...one 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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4.0 out of 5 stars Prett good follow up, 7 Mar 2010
By 
Stracs "Stracs" (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Speech (Hardcover)
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The secret speech is the follow up to Tom Rob Smiths extremely successful and highly rated Child 44, which charts the change in the lead character in both novels, Leo Demidov from order following MGB agent to State agitating homicide detective.
The Secret Speech picks up from the end of Child 44 but beginning with regailing tale from his MGB days.
I felt reading this it lacked some of the punch and urgency that 44 delivered but was still very cleverly written with unexpected twists and turns right the way through. I really enjoyed this, but must admit to being just a tad disappointed after such an incredible debut.
Despite this, Smith's ability to draw you into an landscape he so expertly paints should not be underestimated, and despite being a work of fiction, the extent of and the detail of research that Smith has gone to is obvious.
As a fan of thrillers, and follower of authors such as Grisham, Ludlam, Patterson and Ryan - Smith is easily within their ranks. In their field and with the type of characters and environments they portray, if I was in their shoes I would start keeping an eye out over my shoulder because Smith is fast approaching.
Child 44 and The Secret Speech should be on every thriller fans Amazon Wish List.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Far fetched!, 17 Jun 2009
By 
John R. Hill - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Speech (Hardcover)
His first book, Child 44, was brilliant but this story was quite ludicrous and dented my belief that this was a new major writing talent.
This is more like a child's derring-do novel somewhat similar to the recent series of James Bond films. It's pure escapism and not to be taken seriously but I suspect that Tom Rob Smith wants to be taken seriously but his latest story is not going to win him any supporters.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves, 29 Mar 2010
By 
This review is from: The Secret Speech (Paperback)
Tom Rob Smith was always going to have difficulty following up the excellent Child 44, and for the first half of this book it looked as if he was succeeding. The dynamic between Leo and his troubled 'daughter' Zoya worked very well, as did the introduction of Fraera and the Vory, and the whole idea of Leo having to break someone out of the gulag was also well played. But then all of a sudden it turned into a weird race to the end of the book. The level of detail which had made the first half of the book so intense was gone and we hurtled back to Moscow and then on to Hungary, with too much double and triple crossing. It was as if the writer had been told he had to finish in a certain number of pages and having overwritten the first half had to get to the end quickly. As a result, the last part felt thin, underdeveloped and you found yourself not really caring much more for the characters. All rather a shame.
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The Secret Speech (unabridged audio book)
The Secret Speech (unabridged audio book) by narrated by Colin Mace (Audio CD - 1 April 2009)
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