The Secret Speech - Tom Rob Smith
This is the second book in this series, featuring former secret policeman Leo Demidov, following on from the phenomenally successful '[b:Child 44|11247638|Child 44|Tom Rob Smith||2167258]'.

In the previous book, Leo found himself unexpectedly hunting something that wasn't supposed to exist in the Soviet Union - a serial killer preying on children - and in this book some of his former actions working for the secret police continue to come back to haunt him. As something of a penance, he and his wife have adopted two girls despite the fact that Leo was responsible for their parents' arrest and execution and that troubled relationship plays a pivotal role in the storyline of 'The Secret Speech'.

Unexpectedly, too, the people who were once safe to undertake that work and those who informed on their neighbours find themselves the subject of persecution; in a slightly freer environment, where Stalin is being criticised for the first time, the powerful become the powerless. As for Leo himself, another arrest he made as a young man has an impact on his new dysfunctional family, leading him to take a dramatic trip first to the gulags of Siberia and then to revolutionary Budapest in search of a solution.

It's hard to empathise with Leo even as he is engaged in an obvious search for redemption, not to mention his wife Raisa's struggle to balance the things her husband has done in the past with the man he is now, and it's to the author's credit that he doesn't try to justify anyone's actions while still showing the dimensions of each character. I'm glad to say that there's another book due in this series, '[b:Agent 6|10438746|Agent 6|Tom Rob Smith||13367518]' and I look forward to seeing where the author takes these characters next...