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The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith (Read by Dennis Boutsikaris)

Remarkable! Explosive! Gripping! These are some the words that befit this fine book. The author's previous book, Child 44, was just as outstanding, and at its conclusion left the listener wanting more. This book continues the saga of Leo and Raisa three years after the end of Child 44. Leo is working with the special homicide division in Moscow 1956, and Raisa has returned to teaching. Stalin is gone and Khrushchev is now the ruler.

The city of Moscow is suddenly turned topsy turvy when copies of Khrushchev's speech to his governing body -- the famous Secret Speech -- is sent to all schools and public agencies along with the order for it to be read to all citizens. In the speech, Khrushchev states that Stalin was wrong in ordering the deaths, tortures and confinements in gulags of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Not only does Leo risk possible retaliation for his past involvement with the secret police, he finds himself the target of a vendetta by Fraera, once the wife of a priest he arrested and sent to a gulag and now the leader of a band of thieves and murders. So strong is Fraera's hatred for Leo that she does not want him instantly killed, she wants him to suffer as she and her husband have for the last seven years. Knowing that Leo wants nothing more than to have a happy peaceful life with his wife and the two orphan girls they've adopted, Fraera kidnaps the older girl, Zoya, and threatens to kill her unless Leo rescues Lazar, her husband, from the gulag. This takes Leo on a torturous mission to a Siberian gulag, a punishment worse than death.

The story takes the listener across Russia and Eastern Europe from one electrifying situation to another, following Leo and Raisa as they try to rescue their daughter and salvage their marriage and family. Through the author's great skill with words you will feel the gripping fear and tension as Leo encounters the turmoil of a prison ship caught in a raging storm, as he navigates the rat-infested Moscow sewers in pursuit of a killer, and as he and Raisa find themselves unwilling participants in the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

Tom Rob Smith has the amazing ability to retell the events of history in such a vivid way that the listener truly feels like an eyewitness to the incidents. His storytelling is enhanced by the reader, Denis Boutsikaris. His ability to portray the characters with the perfect Russian accent makes them even more believable.

At the conclusion of this fast-paced historical thriller, some listeners may feel satisfied with the conclusion and some may not, but everyone will be left wanting another Tom Rob Smith installment in the saga of Leo Demidov as he plays his part in the history of Russia.

John Mormon

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