Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Book I Heard: "The Secret Speech" by Tom Rob Smith

A Book I Heard: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith, 2009, Overdrive download.

I enjoyed this but it did, at times, stretch credulity.  I did not know that Krushchev's denunciation of Stalin was initially a secret.

This follows a couple years after Smith's novel Child 44.  Leo Demidov is running a homicide bureau in Moscow. He lives with his wife and the two children whose parents Leo is responsible for killing when Leo was part of the secret police. The homicide bureau is doing ok but Leo's eldest adopted daughter despises Leo. Zoya was old enough to remember when Leo and other black coated policeman arrived to take her parents away.

Leo gets called to a couple death scenes. Both of the deceased used to work in state security. They were killed by a former convict, Anisya, that Leo put in prison. Anisya is the only woman to advance in the ranks of the all male prison gangs and now uses her gang to kill those torturers and kills responsible for so much death and destruction. Anisya is especially gunning for revenge against Leo.

It's difficult to root for Leo in catching Anisya. In most novels she would be the hero fighting against the oppressive Soviets responsible for torture, summary executions, and the gulags. Here Anisya kidnaps Zoya to force Leo to help Anisya. Leo is told to rescue Anisya's husband from a gulag. The husband was a priest convicted for sedition and - surprisingly - is still alive. Ruthless Anisya means business.

We have an adventure in Siberia as Leo fakes his way to the camp and rescues the husband. SPOILER ALERT. Leo rescues the husband and returns him to Moscow. Heartless Anisya kills her husband because her old life is long over. Zoya has fallen for a teen gang member and she goes with Anisya from the city.

The Secret Speech of the title is Krushchev's denunciation of the excesses of Stalin. The speech gets the USSR in a bit of an uproar. The Soviet state is admitting it's political crimes and cruelties. Hearing the speech sends Leo's temporary prison camp into a riot. State security officers - like Leo - fear individual and governmental retribution. Some in the government are pushing for a crack down to retain control.

More things happen as Leo goes to Hungary during the uprising to try and rescue Zoya. With plenty of danger, guilt, and family turmoil, and political scheming.

1.  Anisya is an emotionless manipulator out to kill any one in her way. But, still, she's kinda heroic. She goes to prison for trying to run a church and save religious icons. She was pregnant and her son is taken away and dies in an orphanage. She is raped and abused in prison. She fights her way to the top, escapes prison and fights against rotten Ruskies.

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