I’ve just finished The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith.
This book is nowhere near the standard of his first book, Child 44. To make sense of The Secret Speech you need to read Child 44 first. But doing so will raise your expectations only for them to be dashed later. The first part of The Secret Speech describes well the confusion in the Soviet Union following Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in 1956. However this part was a bit too slow paced for me. The book changes gear in the second half and becomes more of an action thriller. However both the plot and characters lacked credibility. In particular two characters weren’t at all convincing. Fraera, a priest’s wife becomes a gang leader and goes to extreme lengths to destroy Leo, the book’s anti-hero. Leo’s adopted 14 year old daughter, Zoya, joins Fraera’s gang and later becomes a freedom fighter in Budapest. The plot was too contrived and lacked credibility. The description of Leo smuggling himself into one of the Kolyma gulags is well written and conveys the horror of both the place and the system that sent people there. Leo’s escape from the gulag by seizing an aircraft and flying it across the entire Soviet Union and his subsequent adventures in Budapest, were just not believable.