The Secret Speech

Written by Tom Rob Smith
Review by John R. Vallely

Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 detailing of the monstrous crimes of the Joseph Stalin era had an enormous impact on both the Soviet Union and communists all over the world. One Soviet citizen affected is Leo Demidov, a policeman who is one of many who participated in the arrest of thousands of innocent fellow citizens, two of whom were the parents of his adopted daughters. Demidov is consumed by guilt and a justifiable fear for his future as he confronts the post-Stalinist world inhabited both by communists and by those seeking vengeance for the bestial acts of the ruling cliques. His path to remedy his sins would lead him ever deeper into the nightmarish world of Soviet security, the twists and turns of the dead hand of Soviet bureaucracy, the brutal and unforgiving world of the dreaded Gulag, and an exhilarating climax in the Budapest of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Dealing with the horrors of the Gulag and the security system that underlay every facet of Soviet life are serious challenges for the historical novelist. Tom Rob Smith allows us to experience them in all their clarity and frightfulness through the eyes of the tormented and tragic Demidov and his family.