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
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.
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.
Maine Colonial 🌲
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.
Overall, I enjoyed the story and the narrator's Russian language skills. The only complaint I have is the ridiculous sex scenes. The author is a good writer but sensual writing is not his forte. He also overuses the adjective "elemental." Other than that, I enjoyed the book.
I struggled to finish this book because it was so detailed, but once I started I had to finish. It was a very intricate and beautiful story. I think, had this been a book I had to read myself I wouldn't have finished it because I am a strong "F" on the Meyer Briggs, however it had just enough emotion to keep me intrigued! I highly recommend this for anyone who is a strong "T". Happy reading!
This was a thoroughly captivating spy story, reminiscent of John Le Carre... old-school cold war espionage, lies, deception. It's a slow burn, concentrating on the characters and their motivations more than the action. The gimmicks, the recipes between chapters and the synesthesia, were charming to me, rather than annoying.
Jeremy Bobb, however, was a bore, almost monotone. He doesn't give the characters different voices, which sometimes makes it difficult to tell who is speaking. It may be considered trite, but I prefer foreign characters in audiobooks to have foreign accents. During periods of action, it adds to the listeners excitement to hear excitement in the narrator. There was none of that here.
Overall, great, but it could have been even better with a more interesting reader.
I am what you might call a literary philanderer...
This book was incredible.
I read spy novels like Michael Jordan scores points. Rarely am I this impressed by a spy story. It retained all the elements you expect from good espionage fiction but this book adds things to that list almost unseen anywhere else.
I cannot say enough good things about the characters, the storyline or the writing style. I would write more in this short review, but I can't, because I already have book two and I'm busy.
Yes, Matthews nails street tradecraft and the thrill of operating in someone else's territory
Not necessarily, it is better to savor it a little at a time.
The spy craft of Jason Matthews would be tasty, sexy and entertaining if not so revolting. Also, the large number of absurdly mispronounced Russian words complicates and confuses the reader. The culinary culminations over grotesque violence and sex are only repulsive.
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