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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Tom Rob Smith - Agent 6 (and the trilogy as a whole)

Review by showhost july 2015
This is the final book in the trilogy which started with Child 44 and now I have finished it I feel bereft of a good intelligent,read!   All three books have the lead character Leo Demidov, a Russian agent, former KGB and his wife and adopted children. The trilogy starts in 1933, Ukrain, Soviet Union.  People are dying of starvation, the animals are gone –all eaten.  People boil shoes, eat the bark off trees & even each other.  Story jumps to Moscow 1953. and Stalins rule is brutally portrayed in this thrilling book, as Leo the in the secret police looks for a child murderer, against state protocol.
 Second in the trilogy is The Secret Speech.  The year is now 1956 and Stalin is dead.  The country is in turmoil with Kruschev writing a secret speech denouncing what the Stalin authority had done to its citizens (this is referring to Nikita Krushchev's indictment of Stalin at the CPSU Congress in 1956).  This causes riots within the prisons and the criminal element become the hunters and the named officers who carried out the tortures under Stalins rule, becoming the hunted.  The book also takes us back to 1949, to Leo as he was, a ruthless agent hunting those who speak out against the state.  To the events which started to prick at his conscience and to the reason he is being hunted by the underground movement and there is a danger to his wife and adopted children.  But he is also fighting to win the support of one of his children who turns against him and fights with those opposed to him.

Agent 6 is an addictive page turner with the action back where it belongs   It goes back to 1950 Russia, Leo is in the Secret Police.  American negro singer Jesse Austin who is a Communist and a key figure to the plot, has come to Russia.  Leo’s job is to keep an eye on him and try to make sure he only sees the Russia the government want Jesse Austin to see.  Leo also finds the diary of a young artist, who is subsequently arrested and punished after he reports his find.

Fifteen years later Leo, his wife Raisa and their two adopted daughters are living in a cramped apartment.  Raisa and their two daughters are leaving for America. Raisa is leading a diplomatic mission and has organized a concert in New York - a joint choir of Russian & USA school children.  Unexpectedly their daughter Elena wants to go.  Leo can’t go as he is not allowed out of Russia, he is not now a secret agent.  When he finds Elena’s diary his initial reaction is to read it but he stops himself as that was what he would have done in his former life, a life he has left behind.  Had he given in to the impulse, he would have forbidden his daughter to go and stopped the chain of events which are about to unfold.

On American soil we meet unsavoury FBI agent Jim Yates who is another central figure to the plot.  The Russians try to get Jesse Austin, a broken man since his Russia visit, to attend the concert but he is warned by the FBI what might happen to him if he does.  Tragedy happens in America with espionage and counter-espionage. 
The change of events is sudden and dramatic and what follows is Leo's journey to reach America to avenge the tragedy.   Leo is sent to Afghanistan to train communist agents.  Leo has immersed himself in Opium and work.  He attempted to get to USA once but failed.  The Opium is the only way he can live in the present.   He lives in squalor.  But there is finally a way to reach America - as a spy !  Finally he may learn the true events of that fateful day in New York and who Agent 6 really is.

This is a story of political intrigue, political change and it’s effect on the people and Leo's unconditional love for Raisa and his daughters.
Of all the three books Secret Speech is the weakest.  Maybe it was overly political and had Leo living through the kind of torture that would kill anyone else let alone be fit enough to fight back and escape.  Don’t get me wrong I still enjoyed it but not as much as first and last in trilogy.  But what a read.

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