Friday, October 23, 2015

Agent 6, by Tom Rob Smith

For Agent 6, the third book in the Child 44 trilogy, Tom Rob Smith goes darker, more international, and more epic.  Leo Demidov is back, but for the first part of the book he takes a back seat to his wife and daughters, who visit the U.S. with their choir for a goodwill tour.  Unfortunately, forces much bigger than they know are at work, and Raisa ends up murdered and accused of killing a famous American communist singer.

Leo's life spirals downward.  Attempting to soften the blow of his loss and to cope with his helplessness in his inability to seek redemption for Raisa, he turns to drugs and escapes to serve the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.  When he finally does get to New York to investigate Raisa's murder, answers don't come easily.  Was Raisa murdered by the FBI?  The KGB?  What exactly was going on?

The tone of Agent 6 is bleak.  The action is spread out over a long period of time and bounces from continent to continent.  Agent 6 seemed more cumbersome and plodding than the first two books in the trilogy.  It's less focused, and Demidov, in his despair, becomes a character with whom I was much less sympathetic.  I do enjoy the way Smith blends history and fiction.  There is no sense in which Demidov is portrayed as a historical character, but in the course of Demidov's story, Smith weaves in life in Soviet Russia, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and early hints of the U.S. role aiding the Afghans, and the state of Soviet/U.S. relations.

If I were to rank the 3 novels in this trilogy, the order of release would correspond to their rank: 1. Child 44, 2. The Secret Speech, and 3. Agent 6.  Further, this is less a trilogy than three books with the same main character.

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