The start of a major career! A gripping, highly commercial espionage thriller written with the delicious insider detail and up-to-the-minute insight only known to a veteran CIA spook.
In today's Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 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 valuable mole in Moscow.
Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington - hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. 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.w
©2013 Jason Matthews (P)2013 Simon & Schuster Audio
For simply incredible prose and superb fiction check out the Louise Penny novels featuring Chief Inspector Gamache.
There are not a lot of reviews on this book which is why I will chime in with my thoughts.
This is a first time author, and he has done an excellent job. I will certainly be an early reader of his next offering.
The Publisher's Summary is a tad melodramatic, but it is designed to sell as we all know. Still, no major errors.
This is for sure a clever spy novel, but to compare it to John le Carré as did one reviewer? Nope... but that is NOT to say it is not a great read. It is just that le Carré expects a sophisticated and highly educated reader and allows the plot to develop in the readers mind, and for that reason, he writes for a far more narrow audience.
Jason Matthews is what I would call, “A writer for the common man”, and that is NOT a negative. John le Carré is a hard read for many. With Matthews there is no need here to have your dictionary nor a bucket of patience at hand awaiting plot development. Matthews does an excellent job of building suspense right from the start... something I learned early to my regret in Chapter 1 when I decided to be late to a meeting just see what happened to the protagonist Nathaniel Nash. Caught me nicely off guard.
If you have read the other reviews, you see some negative comments about the recipes. Oh geez people... get over it. This author ends each chapter with a recipe. So what! Sometimes they are what the characters ate in that chapter... other times just recipes more or less related to location/country. Any time an author uses his imagination to make his novel a bit different is, to me, a clever divergence from the norm. Just make sure you are not reading this book on an empty stomach... some of those recipes sound awfully good!
Ummm... I have no idea if all the details are authentic, and I doubt if there are many who do. Dominika (the Russian agent) supposedly was sent the Sparrow School where female spies were taught the sexual arts to use as agents. There seems to be no hard data to confirm the existence of a Sparrow School, but Tom Clancy did introduce the idea in one of his books. Who cares? It plays well in this book. As for all the other details? Same thing... I really read books like this for enjoyment. They call it fiction for a reason. It feels authentic and to me that is what is most important in a fiction novel. The CIA certainly does not come out looking much better than the old KGB, but that should probably not be much of a surprise.
OK... now I have your attention... Jason Matthews writes really good sex scenes! No raw nasty overdone fornication here. He gives the reader the passion without the need for vulgarity. I suspicion women will like this (though I may by just be inadvertently a sexist pig). In fact he writes it so well, especially from what I am guessing is the female point of view, that Jason Matthews is clearly in touch with his feminine side. Further, as sex between the lead characters is forbidden, it makes the wait all the better.
Jeremy Bobb tries. He really does. However, he just reads... That's it. He simply does not have the breadth to bring life to the many characters and makes no attempt to add the accents and characterization so important in a novel of this type. I would suggest someone like John Lee for future novels, though there are certain many who could master the accents and make the book even better.
The book offers lots of intrigue, action, suspense and enough humor that the other stuff does not overwhelm the reader. Unlikely to win any awards, but absolutely worth a credit and a few hours of your time. Get it.... oh... and be prepared for a follow-up novel. We leave a character nicely dangling!
I was not able to stop listening to this book. I loved the story line and the pace of the book. I hope there is a 2nd book need to know what happens next????
I really enjoyed listening to The Red Sparrow. While I usually listen to audiobooks while doing chores, the book called to me to pay more attention to it; often, I'd just lie down on the couch and relish the prose. It wasn't so much that I needed to concentrate on the action taking place, but I wanted to focus on the narrative, which was full of evocative imagery.
The Red Sparrow doesn't fit into the rubric of generic spy novel. There is no boiler plate here and that's why I'm looking forward to the sequel... a door which the writer clearly left wide open.
My only disappointment with the audiobook is that the regional food recipes included at the end of each chapter are not made available to Audible customers in print. This type of offering was available to listeners before Amazon owned the company. Now, one has to purchase a hard copy or Kindle book just to get the recipes in print. So, if you like to try new exotic recipes, listen with a pad and pencil handy.
First, thank you Melinda. I follow you eagerly. I don't read too many thrillers or spy stories but I trust your judgement and was not disappointed.
This book feels real and feels contemporary. I can imagine it happening now ~12 years later. The Служба Внешней Разведки and the CIA are still at it -not surprising but somewhat out of sight these days. This book is taut, entertaining, and generally well written -Mr. Matthews uses language well. And it makes one think about the geopolitics that for many of us are normally in the background (though Syria is kind of highlighting Russia's ever-present ambitions.) Serious implications for us what with Russia still holding 3000+ nukes. The two main characters, Nate and Domenika are somehat unbelievable but really, suitable for the story. At the end of each chapter is the recipe of something described earlier. A cute twist, not disruptive and it made me hungry.
History, historical fiction and mysteries are my faves, but a fan of all genres.
Very with the times espionage tale, very believable IMHO, not many far fetched moments in this book. The first book of his I've found and was a pleasant surprise, wasn't expecting too much going into it. Highly recommend for contemporary espionage fans.
No but still it was fascinating.
I almost never write reviews but I had to write one for the Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews. Regretfully, grudgingly, I'm giving this book 4 stars although many parts of this book deserve solid 5 stars. This is a very good espionage thriller, superbly written in a literary sense, with riveting, sometimes even mesmerizing plot, strong characters, either positive or negative, and appropriate, well-timed insertions of humor. In a word, all what in my opinion any good book should have. All this evoked from me strong associations and sentiments. And yes, it' true that this book is reminiscent of some of the early John Le Carre's works although I think it's somewhat better. And I think in its politics it's closer to Tom Clancy. However, despite all this I gave this book only 4 stars because there're many significant sometimes even ridiculous and preposterous blunders:
1. This is supposed to be a spy thriller so the recipes at the end of each chapter were really annoying. This is NOT a cook book.
2. I didn't like the author frequently using pseudo-russian words especially when many of them were totally wrong. Some of them didn't even sound like Russian, more like Polish or Czech. And I would know since I'm half Russian myself and Russian is my native language. E.g.: the author uses "Russian" word "dushka" almost on every page, figuratively speaking. First of all, to my knowledge, there is no such word in Russian. There's a word "dushenka" which roughly means sweetie or darling but the last time it was probably used in 19th century so obviously it's very obsolete. And it's only one of such numerous examples.
3. Author's obvious prejudice against Russia and Russians unfortunately somewhat diminished this book making it condescending and sometimes even unrealistic and ridiculous. And it's when judging from the text events in the novel occur in the early 2014. E.g.: SVR, Russian foreign intelligence service, uses Russian made PAZ buses to transport its cadets from Moscow to Sparrow school. Once more, last time I saw a PAZ bus it was in the 80s. If they still exist then it's only on very distant rural routes, like "in the deep of Siberia". Furthermore, these buses would have never been used to transport Russian intelligence operatives in Moscow. Another ridiculous example representative of author's prejudiced attitude towards Russia: when he writes about SVR Helsinki station he describes that there were only a couple of computers but on every desk was an 80th era typewriter. I accept that Russia may be technologically inferior to US but this is simply ludicrous: I mean, we live in the 21st century and Russians aren't medieval barbarians.
And these aren't the only such occurrences.I don't want to spoil the novel for other readers so in conclusion I will only say that I got a strong feeling that the author's main purpose was to write this book as soon as possible and along make it highly commercial. Actually, that's what the publisher's blurb says. So he wrote a pretty good outline and then threw in a mishmash of various bits and pieces. And yeah, forgot to do his due diligence on the research. It could've been much better. It has a lot of potential. But still, overall it's a good novel. I recommend it to anyone who likes espionage fiction. Hopefully, Mr. Matthews will improve in his future books of this genre. I will look forward to them.
A man's got to do what a man's got to do..
A number of great reviews pushed me to buy and read (or rather to "listen to") this book . What a disappointment ! The story moves along stereotypes : "our" guys are all good, corageous smart & fighting for a better world (except a couple of top CIA bureaucrats) ; "theirs" guys (the Russians) are so unbelievably stupid, mean and corrupt (except those of are willing to betray their country). Modern Russia is like URSS (the Evil Empire) , if not worse. The reader does not develop empathy for the main characters as they are lacking depth and originality ; the plot moves fast , but gets boring after a while.
On surface it sounds and looks like a Le Carré cold war novel , but it is only a pale imitation. Stay away !!
Photographer, nature & water geek, music lover, book fiend.
This is one of those rare books that stuck with me for months after reading it. The sometimes monstrous nature of what our respective espionage agencies do and justify in the name of security are well represented here, & while this is certainly a pro-western read, it doesn't shy away from illustrating dirty deeds on all sides. That said, the entire concept of sparrow school- what it entails, & what the "training" must do to its students- stuck with me for months & left its mark on me. Great listen the first time, & I've just re-read to prep for the second novel, & it's even better this go- round.
I'm an avid listener always searching for another good book and willing to share my thoughts with a pithy review.
Clearly, this writer is very knowledgeable in spy parlance and the Russian language. And this provides a sense of authenticity not commonly found in weaker novels of the same genre. Unfortunately, this rigor of sticking to the real life descriptions of real spies and for the most part, their boring routines makes for a lot of boring pages. Yes, you will find some action, but it lacks the spice of attitude. And attitude makes for entertainment.
Matthews has all the legitimacy he needs to turn a tasty tale...what he lacks is the imagination to combine this detail with some hard hitting fictional characters that act out and become our villains and heroes. Personally, I don't want my novels to read like newspaper articles. If he can combine his authenticity with some entertaining story lines, he can be a novelist with a big future.
Author supposedely is a former CiA officer but is silly and illogical with his romance story, leaps of credibility and BEYOND BELIEF heros murderous fights....Everybody is an idiot except for CIA
Nothing...I expected insight into a CIA agent and got NONE
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