5 of 5 stars
Series: Leo Demidov 3
My version: Paperback
Fiction USSR, USA
Simon & Schuster
Moscow, 1965. When Leo Demidov’s worst fears are realised and a tragic murder destroys everything he loves, he demands only one thing: that he is allowed to find the killer who has struck at the heart of his family.
Crippled by grief, his request denied, Leo sees no other option than to take matters into his own hands, even though he is thousands of miles from the crime scene.
In a thrilling story that takes us from the backstreets of 1960s New York to the mountains of Afghanistan in the ’80s, Leo will stop at nothing as he hunts down the one person who knows the truth: Agent 6.
Positively the best of the Leo Demidov trilogy, Agent 6, if you’ve been with us the whole way from Child 44, will make absolute heartbreaking sense. It’s been quite a journey we’ve been on, as Leo has been through pretty much – short of death, obviously – the absolute worst that Stalin’s Soviet regime could throw at him. And survived. Physically, anyway. Where the real damage has been done, where the real torture has been, all the way through, is inside his head. He might have a semblance of freedom viewed from the outside, but inside, he’s never free.
The whole series may well have been conceived as a possibility of looking at what Stalin’s Soviet system did to its people. Maybe. This book starts even before Child 44, if I remember rightly, and goes right up to towards the collapse of the whole communist system in the USSR. It’s hardly believable now, reading this (before Dumb and Trumper Apocalypse started anyway), sitting in the peace and calm, freedom and the hygge, that is 21st Century Denmark. But, even the small amount I’ve read about Stalin’s usurpation of the revolution, the ideals and the hopes of the Russian people, means I know all this did happen. Leo is perhaps lucky, he’s got a job and some semblance of control over his life, as a policeman. That helps him to survive, mostly intact. What he can’t control, is the USA. This book looks at the USA at the same period as the Soviet regime was at its height. And really, there isn’t a lot of difference. The suspicion first, guilty until, or even if, proved guilty, paranoia is pointed to as being just about equal in both countries.
The writing throughout, has been spot on as well. Not too much, never too little. The sense of dread, of hopelessness has, on many occasions, been so vivid, you can almost smell the fear. Here, there is the added ‘who done it’ angle, making it more of a thinking thriller than perhaps number two was. In the end, without, hopefully, giving anything away, Leo has cut himself away from the regime’s grips, but can’t escape completely. He has lived with the mantra that the individual citizen must give themselves up for the sake of the system’s continuing success, and even when ‘free’ he finds that is exactly what he must do, so that others can survive.
Brilliant, moving, though-provoking and thoroughly recommended. But start with Child 44, then The Secret Speech, then Agent 6 and you’ll get the full effect.
You can buy Agent 6 at Booksplea.se
Related reviews on Speesh Reads: