The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith is the action-packed follow-up to Child 44. Based in Russia in the 1950s, it is set soon after the fall of Stalin. Three years have went by since the first book and Stalin has died. The protagonist Leo Demidov is trying to be a good father to his two daughters and a good other half to his wife Raisa. He now is at the helm of his own homicide department and is trying to put his past of torturing behind him. This makes him a very complex protagonist.
Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor, compiles The Secret Speech in order to distance the new regime from the violence of the former period. The speech is supposedly supposed to be secret but is leaked throughout Russia causing many of Stalin’s former henchmen to feel incredibly exposed and unsafe. It is rumoured that some senior officials have had heart attacks or committed suicide following the reveal of the speech. Demidov is a former loyal follower and servant of the regime and one of his victims who was sent to prison for seven years comes back to seek revenge.
The book has a very quick pace and is based on the time leading up to the 1956 uprising in Hungary. The process of de-Stalinization is underway and following the speech two separate entities are central in book: on one side the vory and on the other side the state’s torturers and killers. The vory start a campaign against those who helped uphold Stalin’s rule. Demidov was three years with the secret police and was responsible for sending hundreds of people to the gulags, the torture chambers and the executioner. He now has turned over a new leaf and lives with his wife Raisa and his daughters Zoya and Elena in Moscow. Raisa and Leo adopted Zoya and Elena after Leo sent their birth parents to their death. Elena is the youngest and she has settled into the family, the eldest Zoya on the other hand hasn’t. She harbours thoughts of revenge and stands over Leo while he is asleep holding a knife wishing she could kill him.
Meanwhile Fraera, the vory leader who was imprisoned by Leo seven years earlier, also has revenge on her mind towards both Leo and his family. Leo had sent her husband and her to the gulag in the past. She tells him that she “was nothing until I hated you.” She kidnaps Zoya. Zoya becomes a member of the vory going on missions with a young guy called Malysh and they fall in love.
The book has a huge theme in second chances and the follower mentality of human nature. Personally I couldn’t get past the evilness in Leo’s past and the following orders thing didn’t make me feel any different about him and I didn’t particularly like him but not every central character has to be likable in books. My favourite character was Raisa and I also liked the romance between Zoya and Malysh.
Described as “brilliant (Chicago Tribune), “remarkable” (Newsweek) and “sensational” (Entertainment Weekly) I would have to agree. A wonderfully crafted book by a very talented writer.
My review of Roan: The Tales of Conor Archer by E.R. Barr is now up on onlinebookclub.org. It was wonderful as a writer to get the chance to review another writer’s work and it was a really great read. 🙂
I love reality TV so the idea to set a novel in a reality TV setting was an idea I had for a long time. One Step Closer is set in a reality singing contest. The synopsis goes as follows:
The new TV singing competition One Step Closer is about to start. Follow the ups, downs, the performances and the relationships before the cameras and behind the scenes with the judges Mark, Lucy, Benjamin, Cody and Emily and with contestants like Gavin, Lee, Quarter Note, Katie, Jake and Ocean 5. It’s the first season. Let the adventure begin …
I loved writing it. It is the first in a series of books and can be purchased at:
My new book Hours of Darkness is now available on Amazon. It is a thriller where a spree of murders by a lone gun man take place. Can policeman Michael Hennessy-Walsh solve the case with partner Ian Doyle?
Loved writing it because I love reading mysteries so it was a good experience. 🙂
Bonds That Bind: A Short Story Collection (2016) by Writings by Ender and Beautiful / Losers Magazine founder Austin L. Wiggins is a beautifully written collection of six short stories: The Bird That Flew Overhead, One Man’s Sin, Radiance, The Outsider, Of Flowers and What Ails Us. The book is thought-provoking and asks of readers exactly how far their moral compass goes.
The characters in each of these collections share two traits: a sense of being flawed but also of being human. These stories have very realistic and relateable characters in extraordinary circumstances which many readers will hope they are never in. Written in a very accessible style each story drags you in making you want to continue reading to find out what will happen. There is a beautiful descriptive style to the writing.
The Bird That Flew Overhead has many stunning descriptive lines and is a great opener for the book. The tension and anticipation is very well written in this story and leaves the reader wanting to know how it will end. One Man’s Sin is an intriguing tale of a 40-year-old revenge and once again the reader’s attention is held brilliantly throughout. Although all the stories are great, the best in my opinion is the third story entitled Radiance. The plot is so good and so original. It is the story of George whose best friend Joe has had an affair with George’s wife but is now going to kill himself out of guilt. It is down to George to stop him from doing so. A very interesting plot and keeps your attention to the end as you wait to see whether George will show his humanity or not in light of what he knows. The Outsider is wonderfully written. It deals with quite a mundane situation. Derek is in The Pacific City Wind Ensemble and we as readers get a great sense of his inner feelings about being part of the ensemble and the different personalities of the members. Fascinating and an excellent commentary on human communications. Of Flowers is an interesting story with a bit of a James Patterson feel to it. From one best-selling crime writer to another the final story What Ails Us has a bit of a John Grisham feel to it. We follow Glenda’s story as Price interviews her and it is a cleverly written and thought-provoking plot.
If you would like to read Bonds That Bind: A Short Story Collection by Austin L. Wiggins go to:
24-year-old Louise Pennel has been murdered and her body has been found by the River Thames. The press become interested in covering the case and call the case The Red Dahlia due to it’s similarities to the unsolved 1940s murder of another young woman called Elizabeth Short. Detective Anna Travis is on the case to find the killer in this Lynda La Plante thriller The Red Dahlia (Published in 2006, Simon & Schuster).
The book is excellently written with a variety of very different personalities all thrown into the mix. There is also an element of romance running alongside the main thriller plot with Travis and Chief Inspector James Langton as they try to unravel the case. There is many twists and turns to keep readers interests engaged throughout. The killer becomes very obvious quite a while before the end of the book which is the one flaw I did find but there is still many twists and turns as to the question of whether or not the killer will be brought to justice and the ending is brilliant because it’s not a typical ending. But I won’t spoil it on you.
La Plante’s writing style throughout is excellent. It is very down-to-earth, matter of fact and earthly. She writes it very naturally. The way she writes about how the press quite often make sensational headlines even out of tragedy is very true of so much press that surrounds us in real-life.
Inspired by his interest in the philosophy of Carl Jung, The Pearl (1947) is a stunningly written and thought-provoking novella by John Steinbeck. Pearl diver Kino and his wife Juana go to the local doctor for help when their son Coyotito is stung by a scorpion. Denied by the doctor through racism and snobbery, he is understandably angry and worried about his child’s life. While Kino and Juana worry for their son, Kino finds a huge pearl which seems to be the solution to their problems. They could use the pearl to save their son.
Soon there is talk that this pearl is “the Pearl of the World”. It gains a prestigious reputation. Lots of interest is shown. So much so that Kino is attacked in their home and this prompts him to make the decision to get rid of the pearl. He tries to sell it in town. However it quickly appears that the system is corrupt. The buyers pretend to bid against each other but they are paid a salary by one man who they give the pearls to. After that he would resell them outside the village for a bigger profit. The buyers try to make Kino believe that the pearl is of little worth leaving Kino to decide to go to the capital in search of a better value.
Juana now sees that the pearl is only bringing greed and misery. In response she decides it has to go and brings it in the late of the night to return it to the ocean. Kino sees her and attacks her leaving her on the beach. This shows the evil forces the pearl has brought out which Juana has foreseen. On his return home he is attacked by a mystery man and in the fight he stabs him killing his unknown attacker. Kino believes he has stolen the pearl but it turns out that Juana has it. On returning home they find that their hut has been set alight and their canoe destroyed. They hide out in Kino’s brother Juan Tomás and his wife’s hut the next day before the family of three leave for the capital with the pearl.
On the trip, Kino sees some trackers that he thinks are following them. They find a cave to hide and to wait for the trackers to catch up so that Kino can kill the trackers to ensure safe passage to the capital. The trackers hear Coyotito crying and one of the trackers shoots in that direction. Although Kino kills the attackers, they soon realise that Coyotito has been shot in the head. In the morning, Kino and Juana go back home to La Paz with Coyotito’s dead body and Kino throws the pearl into the ocean.
The story is a very sad tale of how greed impacts upon life and the vanity of that greed. The greed and jealousy of so many of the characters like the buyers, the doctor and the trackers is shown throughout. What began as a quest by Kino to save his son’s life ultimately leads ironically to his son’s death. The pearl has turned him into a murderer as well. It shows that wealth may not be the answer to problems but can often be the cause of many problems which beforehand did not exist. It shows the importance of love and family over wealth and power which is no more poignant than when Kino and Juana arrive back in La Paz with Coyotito’s lifeless body and when Kino returns the pearl of darkness to the depths of the ocean bed. The ending reminds us all, if we ever needed reminding, that our wealth in life is really those we love and without them life feels meaningless.