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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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57 of 63 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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57 of 63 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 Another excellent book, 7 Mar. 2012
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I do find it fascinating how people's opinions can be so polarised. For me this is another excellent book, with Child 44 being slightly better, but that is very very difficult to beat, and well worth reading.

The plot does move around a lot but there is still a strong reason for this, and as the story unfolds it makes sense and fully accords with the sense of paranoia and extreme measures that were necessary in Russia in the 50s. Personally I felt that all of the action added to the suspense and didn't in any way detract from it.

Seeing as quite a few people having read, and enjoyed, Child 44 didn't enjoy this book I clearly can't guarantee that you will enjoy it, but I know for sure that I couldn't put it down and enjoyed it from start to finish. I think the best thing to do is just to forget about your expectations and read it and allow Tom to take you on his journey.
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable sequel to Child 44, 15 Dec. 2011
By 
T. Bradshaw - See all my reviews
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I nearly didn't buy this book due to the bad reviews here, but the first one was good enough to give it a go. I'm glad I did! The negative reviews seem overly harsh, it's not as good as the first book but definitely worth the time spent reading! It has lots of good ideas and it's well written, however the action movie stuff is a little overdone admittedly. I think the author maintains all his credibility and I look forward to the paperback release of the third book. If you are wavering after reading the reviews here, I strongly suggest you read this book for yourself and make your own mind up.
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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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2.0 out of 5 stars It's no Child 44, 9 Feb. 2014
After the enjoyable experience of reading Child 44 a few years ago, I was eager to get stuck into The Secret Speech. The book started off slow and makes assumptions such as that the reader already knows the main characters and that Smith has no need to elaborate on what he has already wrote in Child 44 making them seem like cardboard cut outs rather than real people; I felt no empathy or feelings towards any of them, considering that I had read the book a few years previous, I could have done with reminding of what their purpose was.
The book is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors making it hard to understand in places as the sentences do not flow correctly. The same can be said for the entire plot; it feels rushed. One scene finishes and then the next chapter, the characters are in an entirely different situation, making the reader make assumptions on what has happened in the meantime. This feels like a novel wrote by a person in their first year of a creative writing degree and not by a seasoned, highly acclaimed author.
The novel has no depth, feeling or reason; I'm never sure what characters are good or bad or how I should feel about them.
I have only ever put down two books in my life without finishing them; The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and The Secret Speech. I got to within twenty pages of the finish, skipped to the end through boredom, realised that I had made the right decision and went back to reading something by Stephen King; a real writer who cares about his characters like they are his children not as if they are chess pieces to be moved around without rhyme or reason.
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The Secret Speech
The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith (Hardcover - 6 April 2009)
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