3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2014
TRS does it again.
Child 44 was excellent (but then there are so many serial-killer stories), and The Secret Speech was non-stop action (but could all this really happen to one man/family?).
I think I enjoyed Agent 6 the most. When turning the pages, I often had to use all my willpower NOT to read the bottom of the right hand pages first because I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. I resisted though, and it was worth it.
A perfect conclusion to the trilogy.
(Possible spoiler ahead warning!)
Nothing to do with the book itself, but I'm not sure why it's called Agent 6. I'd lay a small wager that this book had a different title until the publishers got hold of it. Simon & Schuster should certainly be ashamed of their misleading back-cover blurb, which climaxes with: "Leo will stop at nothing as he hunts down the one person who knows the truth: Agent 6. WHO IS AGENT 6?" Did whoever wrote this actually read the book? The book is 543 pages long. The first Leo even learns of the existence of Agent 6 is on Page 483! 12 pages later he knows Agent 6's real name, and 9 pages after that he confronts the man in his house. Not exactly what I'd call a hunt.
This book deserves a better marketing department than that.
Ignore the blurb, and buy it anyway.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2012
What I've enjoyed most about these books is that each one has taken a different approach to an extremely complicated man in often terrible circumstances. The first book was more of a procedural thriller with the added complication of being at the time of Stalin, the second then threw everything into the air by setting it against the events of the Hungarian revolution and now this sweeps us towards the more recent cold war stand off between the US and USSR before finding its way onwards to a setting that is more familiar now than many of us would prefer. Leo is our anchor through all three books and our empathy with him grows as he tries to make sense of all that has happened to him and worse, all that he has done and the consequences for those he loves. I wish my Russian history lessons at school had been like this!
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
I don't get to read this genre very often as it is not one I would usually buy for myself so when a proof copy arrived in the post from Simon & Schuster (via BookDagger) to review I started reading with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Trepidation because I am not a political person at all and wondered if this would affect my perception of the story and excitement at reading a different genre.
Although this is the third book involving agent Leo Demidov it was very obvious from the beginning that I didn't have to have any previous knowledge. Leo's character is very understandable from his actions - but there is also an inference that although he is following Communist doctrine, there are underlying doubts.
At the beginning of the story the foundations are laid for how life is in the Soviet Union. We meet American singer Jesse Austin who is a Communist and is a key figure to the plot.
Fifteen years later we join Leo, his wife Raisa and their two adopted daughters on the eve before Raisa and their two daughters are leaving for America. Raisa is leading a diplomatic mission using singing as a bridge between the two countries.
On American soil we are introduced to FBI agent Jim Yates who is another central figure to the plot.
The change of events is sudden and dramatic and what follows is Leo's journey to reach America to avenge the tragedy. Along the way we spend time in Afghanistan until events conspire to get him back on track.
There are politics in the story but for me they were far outweighed by the psychological profiles of the characters we meet and the change in them as they examine their beliefs and become more humane. One of the major shocks for me was the power of the media - I'm not naïve and do know how it works - but this story brings it home how powerless people can become because they have enemies who are people in high-powered positions. I was also made to think about how a symbol in one country can mean something totally different in another and the strong emotions attached to that. Emotionally, family betrayals affected me quite powerfully.
The one thing I really want to happen in a story is that everything ties-up to a satisfactory conclusion (not necessarily a happy ending!). I loved it that a character central to the plot during the diplomatic mission appears later on - not just that the character makes an appearance! but does something that effects Leo's emotions. Also, Leo's actions on American soil left me feeling very satisfied. I loved it that an inconsequential personal possession in Russia became key to finding Agent 6 in America.
This is a story of political intrigue focussing on humanity and emotions. The main theme running through the story is Leo's over-riding and unconditional love for Raisa and his daughters. We finish on a cliff-hanger. I've been thinking there is only one possible conclusion ............... but then again, does an event send ripples that change things ............................
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2013
For a book that starts off fast paced and really draws you in, this seemed to lack a little depth in the middle and towards the end. Still an excellent way to end a brilliant trilogy!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2012
Having read and enjoyed 'Child 44' immensely, I have purchased both of Tom Rob Smith's follow-ups. 'The Secret Speech' is good in itself but felt a little too desperate to come across as an 'epic' and get itself adapted into a Hollywood movie. 'Agent 6' - despite an excellent premise - feels like a TV mini-series that runs out of budget half way through. I was intrigued by the opening chapters which genuinely reel you in, but once the tragic central incident has unfolded, the brakes suddenly slam on and the book wonders around in circles for ages - particularly the scenes set in Afghanistan. It's a brave move by Smith to jump so far ahead in time, only a third of the way in but it's not altogether successful (I was reminded of a similar, equally-jarring period shift in Philip Kerr's 'The Dead Rise Not'). And most frustrating of all, the eponymous Agent 6 (around whom the book's mystery revolves) is neither mentioned nor seen until the final quarter of the book. A missed opportunity.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Agent 6 is the final book in the trilogy following the life of Leo Demidov. This story sees the central character retired from his former KGB work and living a quiet life with his wife and children. But all is turned upside down when his wife leads a group of young people to perform at a UN concert in New York. Events spiral out of control in a complex plot which starts with a clash of Cold War ideologies, a challenge to Communism and white supremacy and then moves into Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the consequences of that invasion.
The locations are disparate and colourful. The issues raised, be they political, moral or ethical as the plot unfolds, are challenging and thought provoking. As one who has lived through the Cold War and remembers hostile exchanges and Soviet/American posturing and gameplay throughout the 1950s and 60's, it served as a stark reminder of the way the world has changed.
Leo is forced to reflect on his values and allegiances. He is a flawed individual but his frailties are also his strength and he is forced to confront a lifetime of demons in his search for retribution and salvation.
Others have commented on 'the Afghan' section, mainly with reservation. I agree that it's the least convincing section of the book, but overall it still worked well. It served to take Leo on a necessary part of his 'journey'. Part of the narrative came close to proselytizing and although a well paced section, it broke the overall flow. I can forgive that, because in simple narrative terms, I remained gripped. I was willing the troupe to succeed in their mission.
I didn't want the story to end. I certainly didn't want this to be the end of Leo who, over three books, is more Common Man than Communist Man. Really enjoyed it and thanks Tom Rob Smith for taking me into another world. I really enjoyed it.
on 30 May 2015
It is rare for each installment of a trilogy to rank 5 stars with me. I don't think it has ever happened so I am thrilled to say that the Leo Demidov trilogy (Child 44, The Secret Speech and Agent 6) has the honor of sweeping the board with 15 stars total. How can it be? I found each book to be distinctly different yet equally gripping in the 'mystery to be solved' arena with thriller tension abounding in all stories.
Agent 6, being the conclusion, was rather emotional for me as I feel I have traveled with Leo through many treacherous scrapes and am sad the adventure is coming to a close. I bitterly hate to see it end but found the finale satisfying on a number of levels.
The stage is even wider in this book with Raisa, Zoya and Elena going to America, leaving Leo in Soviet Russia. Worry not, Leo covers lots of ground as his travels take him to Afghanistan and beyond. As in the previous books, Agent 6 focuses on love, loss, honor, a deep sense of right/wrong and even duty. There is conflict from numerous angles which keeps this story fresh and interesting.
I don't want to give anything away but I so pleased to have enjoyed the labors of this talented author even though I am saddened to no longer have adventures of Leo and Raisa to entertain. This series has been keen on flashbacks so there is the odd possibility for more to come for them. A girl can hope!
This trilogy is a glorious endevour that is sure to please should you like a cracking mystery, history, police procedural, military/political drama, thrillers and/or suspense. I anxiously look forward to the next offering by Tom Rob Smith!
on 26 April 2014
A little disappointed to say the least with this final book in the trilogy. We start in the 1950s with some important and relevant background information. After wondering when the story is going to get moving we then move after around 200 pages into the 1960s where the basis of the plot is assembled as we flit between New York and Moscow. We then move through into the 1970s when suddenly we are in Kabul where the plot seems to veer off into another completely irrelevant but nevertheless thought provoking storyline. And throughout all this time we are expected to believe that Leo still seeks retribution for the murder. Finally we end up in the 1980s with what is in my view a very unsatisfactory end.
i did wonder whether the author had committed himself to a trilogy and then found that when it came to writing the finale he did not really have anything to say and so we end up with the makings of two, possibly three, different novels crudely compressed into one.
So why the sadly missed opportunity. Because the author has a character who is a patriotic war hero fiercely committed to the Communist beliefs and as a KGB agent vigorously pursues citizens deemed to deviate from the true path. He has gradually become disillusioned with the Party and I would dearly loved to have seen the author address that disillusionment against the backdrop of the politically ground breaking events that occurred during the Brezhnev, Gorbachev and Yeltsin years. We should have had Leo dealing with a politically sensitive case possibly involving the oligarchs, corruption at the highest leve, possibly anti war activists or even rogue soldiers returning from Kabul while at the same time mindful that with the fall of Communism and being a senior KGB agent he will be found on the "wrong side". Perhaps the author thought Martin Cruz Smith was already mining that seam. Certainly Qiu Xiaolong manages it extremely well with his Inspector Chen novels set in China (which I highly recommend) .
on 18 March 2013
Agent 6 is the final part of Tom Rob Smith's trilogy which began with the Booker nominated Child 44. There's no assumed knowledge from the previous books so you could read Agent 6 independently but you would lose a lot of the context. Besides, Child 44 is easily the best of the three, so it would be a strange move to jump straight into this one.
Spread over 30 years, the story starts in 1950 Moscow with an introduction (or re-introduction) to Soviet agent Leo Demidov. He is given a mission to oversee the visit of American singer and Communist sympathiser Jesse Austin - which largely involves ensuring he only sees the aspects of Soviet society which the state are keen to reveal. This introduces the key characters before the story jumps forward to 1965, past the time in which Child 44 and The Secret Speech were set, where Leo has now retired from the secret police and is working as a factory manager. As part of a cultural exchange, Leo's family are given the opportunity to visit New York - a trip which turns to disaster.
This happens half way through the book and sets the scene for what could have been a thrilling investigation - similar to Child 44 but with the added intrigue and complexity of Cold War relations. Except that isn't what happens - instead the story moves to 1980 Afghanistan for a side story which, although interesting in its own right, drags on and adds little to the plot except for trying to set up the sense of an epic revenge story.
When circumstances finally conspire, in typically unlikely circumstances, for the revenge story to develop, it has been delayed so much by the narrative in Afghanistan that it is anti-climactic both for the characters and for the reader who learns little more about the events of 16 years before than what the author told us at the time.
Agent 6 is a slower read than the previous two books and more ponderous - although this isn't completely a bad thing as the breakneck pace of The Secret Speech made it painfully implausible at times and prevented it from developing characters. This novel takes longer to heat up, simmers for a long time and does not come close to boiling until the final 100 pages or so - by which time I'd lost a lot of interest.
I did enjoy it - the first half more than the second - but felt the author missed a lot of great opportunities. In moving the plot away from Russia, he creates the opportunity to delve into the American Cold War psyche and reveal the same kind of insights about the inner workings of the American government and FBI that he makes about the Russian government and KGB in the first two novels. When he does this, it makes for the most interesting part of the book, but in the end he barely scratches the surface before the story moves on elsewhere.
Similarly in Afghanistan, he builds an interesting plot around the Soviet invasion which again hints at more to come - but this aspect of the book never develops as meaningfully as it might because the Afghan episode is never much more than a side story that leads (very slowly) towards the novel's inevitable conclusion.
A further missed opportunity is some of the characters he expertly creates but then discards without giving them the attention they deserve. I'm thinking particularly of Yates, a vile and sociopathic FBI agent who is central to the New York plot, and a character I wanted the author to explore further, but who then disappears from the plot. Similar could be said of Mikael Ivanov and Captain Vashchenko.
In summary, this is a decent conclusion to the trilogy - I think the author's decision to move the plot away from Russia rather than delivering another Moscow based thriller was a clever move and his insights into both the Cold War and the Afghan invasion are interesting, although not explored deeply enough, and there are some strong characters. If anything, I think the author tries to do too much and ends up spreading the book too thinly, which leads to an unsatisfactory second half. I look forward to seeing what Tom Rob Smith does next, although my concern is that he will fail to reach the heights of Child 44, which is certainly the most rounded, satisfying and intelligent read of this trilogy.
on 10 July 2014
This is a curious book. It is almost as if it is so enamoured of its locations and self-consciously 'epic' sweep that it forgets about plot or character development for large chunks.
Leo Demidov's wife and daughters travel from the depths of Cold War Russia to New York, where they are caught up in a diplomatic incident. Leo struggles to come to terms with and ends up in Afghanistan, some years later, as a type of 'Sean Connery in The Rock' grizzled, opium-addled consultant. Don't think it gives too much away to say that he ends up in New York, finding out the truth about events years previously.
Smith is a very talented writer, and the subject matter is sufficiently different and well-researched to be interesting (history of communist-sympathising among Afro-Americans, torture by soft-drink bottle), but there are major issues here: A soggy middle section, some two dimensional characters (particularly the Afghans) and a very rushed denouement. As others have pointed out, it takes about 12 pages to unravel the 'central mystery' (for Leo; the reader will need only a fraction of that), which suggests that Smith (or his editor) couldn't quite work out what the focus of the book should be.
Some way from being Smith's best work, but if you've shifted a gazillion units of your previous book, I guess you can be allowed the odd dud (or an eye to a TV mini-series with a high location budget).