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on 7 March 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 26 December 2009
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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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2010
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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on 14 December 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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on 23 January 2010
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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on 6 February 2016
I loved Tom Rob Smith from the moment I read Child 44.
Engaging storys, well written.

I think these novels can be read individually, as well as in order, and I don't think it makes a difference.
Of course reading in order will give additional time line backstory - but they do sit fine on their own.

I love Toms attention to detail, and his good historical descriptions.
This book is quite detailed in places, regarding shootings and torture etc, but it is handled well, and not gratuitous.
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on 28 March 2016
Fantastic book. The next one in the Child 44 trilogy continuing the story of Leo Demidov. I cannot praise this book high enough. So well researched and written. Believable characters and absolutely cracking plot. I love the way he ties everything in together and the twists and turns in the plot. The only criticism I would have is the amount of abuse Leo suffers and still manages to survive. However this is a very minor criticism and does not detract from the story, the writing or the plot. I loved every page.
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on 10 February 2015
I gather that reviews have been mixed in as much as it's often difficult to follow up a great first novel with a sequel. However, for me this really works. I thought that Child 44 was ground breaking not just because of the story line but in large part because of the people depicted.
Leo and Raisa were brilliant characters and I wanted to continue on the journey with them. This book does that brilliantly and continues to offer an amazing insight into Soviet society in the 1950's,.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Set 3 years after CHILD 44, Leo now heads a secret homicide department with his friend, Timur Nesterov. Although he and Raisa live in a smart apartment with Elena and Zoya, their adopted daughters, Zoya cannot forgive Leo for his part in the death of her parents and her hatred is poisoning the family.

When the new premier, Kruschev, orders the publication of a speech that he made criticising the actions of the government under Stalin, it triggers a series of murders - the victims all people who participated in Stalin's repression of the innocent. The deaths force Leo to confront his first arrest as an MGB agent, where he infiltrated and betrayed an Orthodox priest, Lazar. Soon Leo's past will put him and his family in danger as a figure from Leo's past seeks revenge, sending him on a daring mission to a Siberian gulag and then onto Hungary, where an uprising is brewing.

Whether you enjoy this book depends on whether you can ignore the way Smith plays fast and loose with historical facts and make some rather ludicrous plot jumps. The set pieces are slick if improbable and Smith keeps the action coming.

As with CHILD 44, the problem lies with Leo who never convinces as having once been a ruthless MGB officer given his naivety and the ease with which he is manipulated by others. His need for redemption is slightly more satisfying, particularly his desperation to receive some kind of forgiveness from Zoya. Raisa gets less time on the page and as a result, her relationship with Zoya, which is so pivotal to the plot, fails to fully engage. Zoya herself is something of a stock character and although her hatred and rage is well portrayed, the motivation for some of her actions is superficial - particularly her relationship with Malysh and the ease with which she leaves Elena. Thankfully Leo's nemesis, Fraera, is dynamic, cunning and ruthless, utterly devoted to their cause and the leader of a criminal (vory) gang - Fraera's presence lends the novel a much-needed spark.

Smith's ambitious in trying to weave political machinations into a historical context, but the complexity prevents it from being convincing and the ending, while leaving the way open for a continuation, feels a little half-hearted. This isn't a bad book, but it's not great either. The best that can be said is that it's an okay read.
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on 27 December 2015
Another compelling read from Tom Rob Smith. I suffered his agonies with him, and willed him on every step of the way. Very believable characters, given the circumstance of the time. Brilliantly written, I like the way he deals with conversation - non of the 'he said' 'she said' type of thing. I will certainly look for the next in this trilogy.
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