Red Sparrow

Red SparrowRed Sparrow by Jason Matthews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4 1/2 stars. Not my usual genre, but I enjoyed this a lot. This is contemporary Russia under Putin, told with all the insider knowledge of a former CIA operative. We follow the careers of two young people – Nathaniel Nash with the CIA and Dominika Egorova with the SVR trying to recruit each other, a CIA mole looking to find and train his replacement, a senator’s wife who is a Russian mole, and a ruthless Russian assassin. The characters are fascinating, and even minor characters are well developed. Dominika is a synesthete who can read emotions by the colors around people. The author certainly knows his stuff. My eyes glazed over a few times from all the acronyms, and the procedural details. He also clearly loves food, and describes meals in great detail. Somewhat incongruously for a thriller, there are brief recipes given at the end of each chapter, and I found myself trying to guess what the recipe would be as I listened to this audiobook. I will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series with Nash and Dominika.

Book description: State intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and, inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s most valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fateful double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the US military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller.

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