Palace of Treason

Palace of Treason (Dominika Egorova & Nathaniel Nash, #2)Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book feels very much like a continuation of the first book, Red Sparrow. Even the recipes are continued at the end of each chapter. The title is a slang term for the Kremlin. It could possibly stand alone, but I would recommend reading in order. The first book was brilliant. This one feels not as tightly plotted. Some of the quirks of the characters, like Dominika’s synesthesia, are interesting, but this time around it seemed to have no bearing on the plot or her actions. Likewise, her ability to see the ghosts of dead friends. If there is a point to this, perhaps it will come out in the third book. Strong on characterization, insider knowledge, pacing, and humor. Warning for some readers – there is graphic sex and torture, and the action can be quite chilling at times.

Book description: Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service despises the oligarchs, crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia—but what no one knows is that she is also working for the CIA. Her “sparrow” training in the art of sexual espionage further complicates the mortal risks she must take, as does her love for her handler Nate Nash—a shared lust that is as dangerous as treason. As Dominika expertly dodges exposure, she deals with a murderously psychotic boss, survives an Iranian assassination attempt and attempts to rescue an arrested double agent—and thwart Putin’s threatening flirtations.


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.

The Madonnas of Leningrad

The Madonnas of LeningradThe Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A relatively short and easy read, full of vivid descriptions of art, and war, and aging. I would have loved some photos of the museum and the artwork, but I suppose the museum holds the copyright to such things. It could have been fleshed out more. I was left with unanswered questions about large parts of Marina’s life.

Book Description:
Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina’s grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories–the details of her grown children’s lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild–yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind’s eye. Vivid images of her youth in war-torn Leningrad arise unbidden, carrying her back to the terrible fall of 1941, when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum and the German army’s approach signaled the beginning of what would be a long, torturous siege on the city. As the people braved starvation, bitter cold, and a relentless German onslaught, Marina joined other staff members in removing the museum’s priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, leaving the frames hanging empty on the walls to symbolize the artworks’ eventual return. As the Luftwaffe’s bombs pounded the proud, stricken city, Marina built a personal Hermitage in her mind–a refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more.