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
Who says the Cold War is over? Sure, the Berlin Wall came down, the USSR is fractured, and Russia is no longer a communist state, but that doesn't mean the US isn't watching Russia very carefully––and vice versa.
Vladimir Putin, that old KGB operative and apparently now President-for-Life, has plenty of tricks up his sleeve––and I'm not talking about this week's news that he purloined Bob Kraft's Patriots Super Bowl ring. Vlad the Cad plans for Russia to return to being a superpower, and for that he needs excellent intelligence on the US government. Even more important for right now, he needs somebody to find out who is passing Russian secrets to the CIA's young agent, Nate Nash.
Enter Dominika Egorova, the former ballet dancer, turned into a spy by her conniving uncle, Ivan Egorov. Egorov, the slime, sends Dominika to "sparrow school," where Russian intelligence trains agents in the most effective techniques to seduce their targets. Nate is Dominika's target, and their dance begins. The first half of the story details this slow seduction and the development of Dominika's position within the Russian security apparatus.
It's unusual for espionage fiction to feature a female agent, but this is Dominika's story. She begins as a fervent nationalist, naïvely trusting that the servants of the motherland share her honor and devotion. Her own uncle's callously manipulative actions are just her first clues that Russian intelligence is a dangerous place. Dominika has some special help maneuvering through this snakepit. She has a form of synesthesia that gives her the ability to see colored auras around people that clue her into their real character or state of mind.
The second half of the story raises the stakes, as both sides play a no-limit game of Mole Hunt. The Russians need Dominika to get Nate to reveal their mole, while the Americans are in hot pursuit of someone highly placed in government who is funneling secrets to the Russians. Author Jason Matthews, a retired longtime CIA agent, constructs a a fiendishly clever plot, filled with characters painted in all shades of gray (or, for Dominika, yellow, brown, red, blue and purple), including one especially colorful love-to-hate villain.
Particularly for a debut novel, this is just a bang-up tale of modern espionage, with all the appeal of an old-fashioned Cold War yarn. Matthews does commit a few rookie errors. He uses too much alliteration in character names, he's not great with physical descriptions (what's a "willowy smile"?), Dominika's synesthesia can get a little gimmicky, and some plot elements rely on stupid mistakes.
More troublesome is Matthews' depiction of all FBI agents as jumped-up beat cops, and incompetent ones at that. I don't have any inside knowledge of the FBI, but the law of averages alone would suggest that it can't be 100% incompetent. No, this smells like a dramatization of the well-known animosity between the two agencies, told by a biased party, and it interferes with the story. Relatively speaking, though, my criticisms are nits. Matthews is a powerful storyteller and this is first-rate espionage fiction.
I don't want to forget to mention one of the most unusual aspects of the book. Every chapter ends with a recipe. Sure, we've all seen that plenty of times in cozy mysteries, but this is a first for me in serious espionage fiction. I've even made copies of some of the recipes and already prepared one of the dishes (a delicious soubise).
I hope Jason Matthews continues Dominika's story in future books––and keeps his readers stocked with new recipes.
ABOUT THE NARRATOR: Jeremy Bobb was an adequate reader, but no more. His pronunciation of Russian names and words wasn't good. His reading sounded like reading, too; he didn't bring the words to life.
Immensely satisfying rendition of what I thought was a familiar song called "the spy novel."
Red Sparrow reinvigorates the entire genre.
This will either destroy your weekend or see you through a terrible flu. Not only will you not be sorry, you will hear Jeremy Bobb's voice in your head, and you will insist that your favorite fellow readers (for me, my sister), buy it and kiss their weekend goodbye too.
Compelling read. Thoughtful, fully developed characterizations for leads. Subtle, deliberate interweaving of multiple plotlines. And there's a follow-up! I'm in.
The quality is surpassed by many romance novel plots. Character development was akin to a Madame's interview at a brothel.
Bland, trite, boring. All the interest of a 'user manual'
The quality of the writing being foisted on us is deplorable. These folks think sex, espionage, and superficial politics is a formula for literary credence.
Nonsense. Where are the true novelists? Any itinerant with a high school diploma could produce this tripe.
Is this culture so undeniably stupid? Of course it is. But where are our future champions of literature? Too busy with their iPhones stuck in their faces. Likely.
One good reason to have been born in 1947.
I list this book as tedious because I actually quit listening to it several times. The storyline starts off quite well, but then, without reason, the characters began to do things that made no sense. In fact, several times the word contrived came to mind. Inevitably, I continued listening more out of curiosity than out of true interest. The characters simply did things that made absolutely no sense and, thereby, lost any interest to me. The worst example was the author's obsession with making the FBI agents and, actually, anyone except the CIA employees look like buffoons all the way around. The bottom line is that I wanted to enjoy this book but came away sorely disappointed.
Jason Matthews 30 years experience as an agent in the CIA allows him to portray a very realistic scenario of modern spy craft. The story is fast-paced with many twisted, complicated plot lines. The characters are well developed. As in real life they often question the motivation of the people with whom they interact. They can be emotional and act out in sometimes counterproductive but very realistic ways.
All in all a great read!
I found the recipes at the end of each chapter a great counterpoint, although I would never make any of them as I absolutely detest beets, caviar and cooked cabbage…
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