Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid
The year is 1956. Leo Demidov is heading up the homicide department in Moscow. Leo is trying to make a good life for his wife Raisa and the two girls that the couple has adopted. Elena is the youngest and is happy with Leo and Raisa. Zoya is older and has bitter memories of the death of her biological family. Zoya holds Leo responsible for the death of her parents and her hatred goes deeper than Leo and Raisa realize.
Stalin’s rule is over. Khruschchev is the new leader. A secret manifesto has been printed and is referred to as The Secret Speech. Teachers are commanded to read the document aloud in classrooms across the Soviet Union. Former officials are in fear of their lives since many of their actions under Stalin’s rule are now public knowledge.
A woman from Leo’s past is now the leader of a vory (a group of bandits) in Moscow. The woman is known as Fraera although that is not really her name. Fraera is determined to make Leo suffer for his past actions. Her revenge includes everyone in Leo’s family and extends to his friends. Leo travels undercover to a Siberian gulag and eventually winds up in Hungary during the uprising in Budapest. Leo is determined to keep his family safe and is willing to undergo any hardship to accomplish his goal. Fraera is just as determined to destroy the family.
The Secret Speech is a book that is not easy to read and not easy to forget. It is not necessary to read Child 44 first but I am glad I did. I am also glad that I have not had to undergo the hardships and cruelty that existed in Russia during these times.