Tom Rob Smith's debut, Child 44, was an immediate sensation and marked the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction. Named one of top 100 thrillers of all time by NPR, it hit bestseller lists around the world, won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and the ITW Thriller Award for Best First Novel, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
In this spellbinding new novel, Tom Rob Smith probes the tenuous border between love and obsession as Leo Demidov struggles to untangle the threads of a devastating conspiracy that shatters everything he holds dear. Deftly capturing the claustrophobic intensity of the Cold War-era Soviet Union, it's at once a heart-pounding thriller and a richly atmospheric novel of extraordinary depth....
Leo Demidov is no longer a member of Moscow's secret police. But when his wife, Raisa, and daughters Zoya and Elena are invited on a "Peace Tour" to New York City, he is immediately suspicious.
Forbidden to travel with his family and trapped on the other side of the world, Leo watches helplessly as events in New York unfold and those closest to his heart are pulled into a web of political conspiracy and betrayal-one that will end in tragedy.
In the horrible aftermath, Leo demands only one thing: to investigate the killer who destroyed his family. His request is summarily denied. Crippled by grief and haunted by the need to find out exactly what happened on that night in New York, Leo takes matters into his own hands. It is a quest that will span decades, and take Leo around the world--from Moscow, to the mountains of Soviet-controlled Afghanistan, to the backstreets of New York--in pursuit of the one man who knows the truth: Agent 6.
Spanning decades, the ambitious final volume of Thriller Award winner Smith's trilogy set in the Soviet Union (after 2009's The Secret Speech and 2008's Child 44) takes former KGB agent Leo Demidov from Moscow to Manhattan via a gripping, relentless whodunit plot. In 1950, the Soviet authorities plan to exploit the arrival in Moscow of Jesse Austin, a Paul Robeson like American singer and dedicated Communist, for propaganda purposes, but Austin's refusal to play along creates complications. The full implications of Austin's behavior don't become apparent until the action shifts to 1965, when Demidov's wife and two adolescent daughters travel to New York City as part of a delegation intended to ease cold war tensions, and tragedy ensues. Most readers will reach the final page with regret and in awe of Smith's uncompromising vision of the realities of a police state and the toll it takes on those caught in its meshes.
By turns a rip roaring tale and a mournful saga, Agent 6 spans decades of the tragic life of a Soviet secret police officer. His story of love and loss feels uniquely Russian with sorrow and courage becoming intertwined with smoldering hatred and dissipation.
Historical events create a realistic backdrop for our antihero whose life span cuts an arc of servitude and freedom. Not a life lived well, but perhaps lived in full appreciation of circumstances that can be changed and those forces which are beyond any one man's control.
You can decide how right Leo is from your vantage point, safe in the knowledge that Leo is resolute in his decisions. You can learn much from him.
I'd suggest reading Child 44 before this one to put you in touch with Leo's mindset and motives.
I was really looking forward to this book after reading CHILD 44 and THE SECRET SPEECH. I loved both of those books. I even loved the beginning of this book but after that it was a let down. This was missing the excitement and the depth of the first two. I do not think the author knew how to deal with bringing Leo and his family to their final stages.