BookBrowse Reviews The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

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The Secret Speech

By Tom Rob Smith

The Secret Speech
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  • Hardcover: May 2009,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: May 2010,
    448 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Tom Robb Smith's thrilling sequel to Child 44

The historical context for The Secret Speech is a presentation by Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev of a paper entitled The Personality Cult and its Consequences, delivered to the 20th Party Congress on February 24-25, 1956. The speech condemned Stalin, his policies and the people who carried them out. It was called "The Secret Speech," because it was delivered behind closed doors and, in theory, no one outside the room was to know of its contents (although it was widely – and probably deliberately – leaked to the public). Smith's novel focuses on the wide-ranging consequences of the speech.

Like its predecessor Child 44, The Secret Speech is top-notch historical fiction showcasing Smith's excellent grasp of 1950s Soviet politics. He is particularly good at illustrating the complexities that pervaded the era; there is no black and white, decisions and...

The Vory-v-zakone

Leo Demidov's prime antagonist throughout The Secret Speech is the leader of a Russian criminal gang known as the vory.

The vory, or more officially the vory-v-zakone, is a criminal organization that arose in the gulags during the Stalin years. Over time this group has morphed into a powerful international organization referred to as the Russian Mafia. (The 2007 movie Eastern Promises, starring Viggo Mortensen, concerns a modern-day vory cell in London.)

Vory-v-zakone translates as "Thieves in Law" – i.e., thieves who follow a code. The organization of the 1930s to mid-1950s was based on a system of discipline, tradition and rank which originated in the Soviet labor camps in the 1920s. Any activity that suggested that the state had power over the vory was forbidden.  All proceeds had to be gained by theft and members were ...

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