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.
This novel keeps you guessing & enjoying from the opening to the very end. Just when you think you can guess what will happen next you discover that you didn't see it coming. An excellent listen (or read).
The ending. I won't give it away.
I will look for his performances in the future. An excellent rendering of the characters.
Too long for one sitting, but you definitely look forward to you next opportunity to "tune in" and continue following the story.
While the reader was a tad dry, the spy story had all the elements it needed. With the Cold War in our past, the good spy stories have faded. I enjoyed this one!
Great story! Great narrator. But for an audiobook
We could do WITHOUT THE DARNED RECIPES!
If you're reading you can SKIP THEM.
Why is there Dill Weed in every recipe?
No wonder Nadh was puking all the time!
Overall, a thoroughly good listen. Character development far better than in many contemporary 'thrillers'.
This is a long listen - which I normally enjoy. There were points in the final chapters that I felt there was a cumbersomeness that the majority of the tale did not possess.
Give a listen - you will not be disappointed!
I tend to read the more action-packed superhero style of spy novels (a la Vince Flynn or Ludlum) so this story was different than I had expected. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it's focus on the (more realistic) relationship aspect of the espionage world.
This book was too long. My friends who read the book said the Russian names were difficult. I told them they should be listening to the names if they wanted to be confused. It made it very difficult to track characters, as the names sounded so similar. The lead characters were not that likable. I just don't get what all the critics thought was so wonderful. I wanted to scream when the 2 main characters got together and wouldn't speak what was on their mind. Why recipes in a spy book??? And recipes with no amounts in the ingredients???
Good narration. About the only thing I liked about the book.
Very disappointed in book, not audio.
The plot was ok, and had potential, however, there were too many other annoying things that ruined the book for me. I definitely did not like the recipes that were given at the end of each chapter. Could have done with out them.
I also did not like the lead female character, Dominika, that much. She was just too egotistical and so into being a Russian spy - a good depiction of Russian spies by the author I suppose. Furthermore, her ability to see emotions that appear in bright colors around people was TOO MUCH!! Why the author added that to her character was silly.
I did like the lead male character, Nate. I wish the author had focused more on him than the female lead, Dominika!
If this were a book series, I would not read the next book.
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