The Secret Speech
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central, May 2009, $24.99
In 1956 at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev claims Stalin was too paranoid leading to unnecessary fears throughout the country. He wants to loosen the controls so people can breathe without fear of being sent to a Gulag. However, THE SECRET SPEECH gets out and soon angry people retaliate against those who harmed family; mostly security officers.
One of those who know he deserves assaults from those harmed is former MGB security officer Leo Demidov. He hopes his work as a homicide detective will give him some redemption, but he also believes he cannot ever make up for the atrocities he committed or allowed. Still using the success of catching a serial killer (see CHILD 44), he obtains official blessing to form a homicide police unit. As his peers from the Stalin days of torture commit suicide rather than face vigilante justice, Fraera the wife of a priest Leo sent to Siberia, abducts his daughter Zoya as a hostage and informs the cop release her spouse from the gulag or have his child returned dead.
Based on a real event that Gorbachev acknowledged in 2007 was the first courageous step away from Stalin’s brutal totalitarian reign, THE SECRET SPEECH is a great Soviet historical police procedural. The cast is strong especially the remorseful hero whose beloved daughter has become a pawn in a dangerous game and his and outraged enemy. As with the CHILD 44 case, Tom Rob Smith provides a deep Cold War era mystery in which 1950s Soviet Russia is the star; as readers will travel on frozen solid prison ships and underground Moscow to see a side of the nation the Communists hid.