By Tom Rob Smith
This year the movie Child 44 will be released and that was the first of the Leo Demidov series of novels. The Secret Speech is the second. , the first in his Leo Demidov series. Leo Demidov is a KGB agent in post-World War 2 Russia and as he does his job, he finds himself less and less convinced that communism and his beloved Russia is as pure as it advertises.
The Secret Speech is book 2 of this series and we find Leo no longer a KGB agent but rather the head of a two-person department of the government that investigates murders. Secretly. Because murder is only a problem for capitalistic countries – like the United States. Not a socialist society like Russia.
Child 44 was a tightly written thriller that never let you get comfortable with either the hero or the suspects. The historical setting comes alive but never takes over the action.
The Secret Speech has a completely different pace and feel to it. Smith relies heavily on the historical setting in this novel using the actual speech Khrushchev gave in 1956 denouncing the brutal regime of his predecessor – Joseph Stalin. That speech made targets out of jailers, policemen, soldiers, and bureaucrats who staunchly supported Stalin. It gave legitimacy to a nation-wide revenge tour for many families who lost loved ones to the reign of terror that existed under Stalin.