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Red Sparrow: A Novel | [Jason Matthews]

Red Sparrow: A Novel

Drafted against her will to become a "Sparrow" - a trained seductress in the service, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

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©2013 Jason Matthews (P)2013 Simon & Schuster Audio

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  •  
    Melinda UT 06-13-13
    Melinda UT 06-13-13 Member Since 2009

    So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.

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    "Sexy Saucy Spies"

    After a 33 year career working as a covert operative with the C.I.A., Matthews no doubt could have written an intriguing best seller about his days of espionage. But evidenced by this debut novel, Matthews not only knows his tradecraft, he has the writing chops to produce better than a one time tell-all. In the tradition of other great former spy-turned-novelists, Fleming, McCarry, le Carré -- Red Sparrow is a smart, tightly constructed novel that lays out such an information-packed, step by step foundation, that the listener feels complicit in the Cold War cat and mouse. Worthy of comparisons to the aforementioned authors...and with just enough playfulness to apparently keep it out of the Federal shredders.

    This is the caliber of novel you expect from a veteran author -- or should I say "seasoned" author? Included at the end of each chapter is the recipe for some exotic dish that one of the characters has been noshing on -- an addition that has some critic's calling the bonus recipe a distraction and an unnecessary and gimmick. (I say if James Bond can have Pussy Galore, a razor brimmed bowler hat, and exploding toothpaste - Matthews can give his readers recipes.) Ignore these effete literary snobs; Matthew intentionally provided them with a bull's eye, saying in an interview he did, "The real world of intelligence work is a lot of waiting, analysis, research, so I had to insert some excitement in the fictional plot." Until reading the interview, I had wondered if a clue was provided in each recipe; every element of this story is so well constructed it would make sense--but not so...sometimes a red herring is just a red herring.

    Also raising a critical eyebrow is the synesthete seductress (she sees colors around people), Russian intelligence officer Dominika. Her aura-enhanced vision however, is blessedly not an X-man-ish superpower, but an actual phenomenon that some people claim to experience (including author Vladim Nabokov). The condition is used as an ineffectual trait that adds interest to her character without really affecting her performance or the story. This was a bigger issue than the recipe, and I'm still chewing on that element being thrown into classic spy fiction...wondering if Matthews has future plans with this fascinating female spy.

    The detail here is absorbing; the treachery and deceit will have you wide-eyed and tense, paranoid about dotting an "i" (the dot could be the message!). Maybe the recipes were at least a hint about how to enjoy this novel...This kind of from the ground up detailing takes time; the tension builds slowly, like the warm kettle of water that slowly comes to a boil and catches/cooks that proverbial frog...when it starts to bubble it is fast and furious. And unblinkingly vicious.
    A difficult novel to narrate, with the Russian characters, dialogue, and terms, and Jeremy Bobb adds an understated panache to the story with his reading. Great read/highly recommend to fans of spy fiction. Best case scenario: Matthews continues with this character and his unique style and *packaging* (I, for one, would love the cookbook).

    118 of 123 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 06-24-13
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 06-24-13

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

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    "Next generation of spy-turned-spy novelist is here"

    The next generation of spy-turned-spy novelist is here. Joining Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Ian Flemming, John le Carré, James Church, (and maybe -- if my suspicions are correct -- Robert Littell and Olen Steinhauer too), Jason Matthews shows that most of the best spy fiction is actually written by former spies/spooks.

    While not a perfect espionage novel (using recipes to separate the chapters seems a little overcooked and trite), the Red Sparrow is still an amazing debut novel. When the novel gets away from acrobatic sex and ethnic food and instead sticks with spy craft, agent development, mole detection, etc., it is brilliant. 'Red Sparrow' easily fits into the same stature of post-Cold War spy thrillers that are currently only produced by le Carré, Steinhauer, Littell, and Church.

    So yes, it isn't exactly spy literature, but it is a fun and diversionary summer read that mixes a low brow Bond (sexy limping vixens and absurdly wicked villains) with more high brow Smiley (complexity of motivations and opacity of belief). This mixture could have almost sunk the novel, but Matthews pulls it off with a bold flourish that is both surprising and enjoyable. Thanks @Melinda for the recommendation.

    41 of 46 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gretchen 06-08-13
    Gretchen 06-08-13

    Use books for escape- typically avoid nonfiction. Enjoy action-romance, espionage/military, sci-fi. Skilled writing is most important.

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    "6 stars - intelligent and very well crafted"

    Summary- solid writing, interesting characters, captivating story, but not appropriate for everyone due to sometimes violent situations

    Well researched, concise yet rich writing, and intriguing characters make this one of my favorite audio books. Nearly 18 hours long, I expected to get impatient before reaching the end; but, the pace of this spy thriller kept me invested until the last word. Matthews does a beautiful job providing details without 'data dumps'. In other words, the reader learns about the characters, situations, and locales naturally through dialog and action rather than monotonous descriptions. This writer reminds me of Ken Follett.

    The plot takes absorbing turns. I won't say anymore on that to avoid spoilers - but it was exceptional. Some might not enjoy this sometimes grim story of hard people who survive by telling lies and remaining emotionally distant.

    The narrator's voice and speaking style fits the story. His Russian was convincing, a real professional.





    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Philip Los Angeles, CA, United States 01-10-14
    Philip Los Angeles, CA, United States 01-10-14 Member Since 2005
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    "One of the Best Espionage Thrillers I've Ever Read"

    Smart and offering authentic spycraft detail accompanied by literary and psychological complexity and craftmanship,. With the boldness and sophisticated story-telling that made it cat-nip for a major film studio auction, Jason Matthews pulls off a rare combination of tension and romance. The menu of dishes at the end of each chapter, featuring a surprising blend of communist and capitalistic cuisine, is a playful and amusing counterpoint to the tension and real-life drama of the story. The narrator is brilliant in not overplaying the characters yet managing to convey the essence of each.person's life force. Perhaps, the best espionage thriller I have ever read!

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Prashant Yorktown, VA, United States 10-22-13
    Prashant Yorktown, VA, United States 10-22-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Reminds me of Homeland but offers so much more!"
    What made the experience of listening to Red Sparrow the most enjoyable?

    Constant mind games keep the listener thinking of the next possible move. This book almost puts you in the shoes of the young intelligence agents. Very gripping and very well written. Two thumbs way up.


    What other book might you compare Red Sparrow to and why?

    I'd compare it to the TV show Homeland


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    both


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis Mazama, WA, United States 12-08-13
    Dennis Mazama, WA, United States 12-08-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Excellent spy noir novel"

    I'll start with the important stuff; Written extremely well, interesting style with a great inside feel, characters are great and the chemistry built between them works and brings you into the lives of the players on an emotional level, the narration is a perfect match for this book and feels right for the age and position of the characters, there is suspense and a lot of effort put into the character development phase, and it does not bog down as some books do, instead it helps you understand the trade craft involved in this very delicate and dangerous game. This book has all the elements to make it a classic of the genre, one of the best like it out there for international espionage - Highly recommended.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Houston, TX, United States 10-10-14
    David Houston, TX, United States 10-10-14 Member Since 2008

    Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.

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    "Solid,slick,up-to-date spyfare devoid of suprises"

    Jason Matthews is a very competent story teller, maintaining tension and interest throughout this very contemporary treatment of the nearly century old Russo/American espionage tango. He very effectively ushers us into the world of spying trade craft and introduces us to the grey scale palette of motivation and ethical rationalization which goes with it. I had no problem relaxing and letting his developing plot carry me along for eighteen hours. I believed the story; I liked the characters I was supposed to like and I detested those I was meant to despise. All very neat and effective.

    Still, when I reached the end, I realized that I had never been either surprised or intensely engaged. Nor was I ever challenged or unsettled in the way I have come to expect from Greene or le Carre. This is story telling as diversion, and even though it spends a lot of effort explaining the emotional turmoil of the protagonists, it never really managed to bring me closer than arms length to the characters. This in spite of consistently expert reading by Jeremy Bobb.

    I suspect we will be hearing more from these characters, and I will probably read the next installment if there is one. There are not that many espionage authors out there who write with this level of command, and this is a beginning. Who knows where it may lead.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John tallevast, FL, United States 02-22-14
    John tallevast, FL, United States 02-22-14 Member Since 2011

    List of favorite books: Woodcutter - Reginald Hill, Consent to Kill, First Deadly Sin - Lawrence Sanders, Sniper Elite - Scott McEwen

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    "Four across - But not exactly sure why."

    To try and put it words...... It wasn't enough of any one thing. I see why people liked it - But I don't know why it was loved by most. It was a spy novel without too much mystery. A CIA novel without enough assassinations. A love story that didn't have enough connection. I didn't hate it - But I surely didn't love it...... What can I say?

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MDT CA 10-28-13
    MDT CA 10-28-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Great spy novel"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would strongly recommend this book. The plot and characters are well developed.


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    Yes. The author adds some great twists to the plot including the ending


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I am moved by the character Korchnoy (sp) and the relationship he develops with Dominica


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Clement Jackson, MS United States 09-05-13
    W. Clement Jackson, MS United States 09-05-13 Member Since 2005
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    "I cannot say enough good things about this book."
    If you could sum up Red Sparrow in three words, what would they be?

    Gripping to end


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    I kept finding excuses to drive errands so that I could keep listening.


    Which character – as performed by Jeremy Bobb – was your favorite?

    Gable was my favorite character.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    KGB sparrow goes raptor.


    Any additional comments?

    Great characters and plot.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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