After reading Child 44 and loving it, and subsequently going to see Tom Rob Smith as part of the Wimbledon Book Fest, I was very much looking forward to reading the follow up book – The Secret Speech. So much so in fact that I bought a HARDBACK copy new, which I never do although it is nearly half price at the moment on Amazon so I suppose it wasn’t too much of a hardship!
So before I tell you what I thought here’s the blurb to give you a taster:
Soviet Union, 1956: Stalin is dead. With his passing, a violent regime is beginning to fracture – leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. The catalyst comes when a secret manifesto composed by Stalin’s successor Khrushchev is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant and a murderer. Its promise: The Soviet Union will transform. But there are forces at work that are unable to forgive or forget Stalin’s tyranny so easily, that demand revenge of the most appalling nature. Meanwhile, former MGB officer Leo Demidov is facing his own turmoil. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his involvement in the murder of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa and their family are in grave danger from someone with a grudge against Leo.
I had mixed feelings about The Secret Speech. I found it just as compelling as Child 44 and enjoyed the grim details and quality of writing just as much as well as being re-united with Leo and Raisa. The plot was fast, and it was a brilliant page-turner to the extent that I was even gripped when reading through several chapters set on a boat, which along with submarines is a setting I usually can’t abide. I also found the time period in the change from Stalinism to the new leader Khrushchev interesting and thought it was a good starting point around which he developed the level of tension and violence that began in the first book.
However, and there are a few howevers. I found a couple of the key characters intensly irritating. I think they were supposed to be complicated people but I just found them annoying and wanted them killed off. I also found the plot slightly implausible, but this didn’t detract from it being very entertaining.
I think this had the sense of very much being a follow-up book for me. Unlike Child 44 which I waxed lyrical about I felt that to an extent this was ‘just’ a page-turner albeit a well written and constructed one. Also in some instances it felt as if it had been written with cinematic intent, but that may just be me speculating wildly and that in itself is testament to how much I was caught up in the book and how visual the scenes were. I’m glad that I read The Secret Speech because I enjoyed it. It completely carried me away into another world and if you enjoyed the key characters in the first book you’ll want to know what happens next. I’ll certainly read the third book and will be interested to see if it can pack the same punch for me as Child 44 did.
Have you read any of Tom Rob Smith’s books? If so what did you think? What do you think is the key to writing a good sequel?