Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been a dearth of spy novels set in current times. It seemed that it was hard to structure a spy story that made sense or seemed relevant when Russia became a democratic country. But Jason Matthews, a CIA insider, has now written a genre shifting book-a spy novel set in current times with all the suspense and excitement of the old genre. The Red Sparrow is an exciting and exceedingly well done spy novel in the le Carre’ style, that offers us a glimpse into the ongoing conflict and rivalry between Russia and the US since the fall of the Soviet Union and of the spies on both sides who are fighting in this silent war.
Nate Nash is a bright, young CIA agent who gets posted to Moscow and becomes the handler for MARBLE, the most important mole the US has ever had within the Russian government. Through an unfortunate series of event, however, Nate almost exposes this most precious of resources and as a result is removed from Moscow and consigned to desk duty until a seemingly random request sends him to Helsinki. There he meets Gable an older CIA operative who tries to help him get his career back on track.
On the other side Dominika Egorava is ballet dancer whose dreams were crushed when her foot was injured in dancing accident. Floundering for what to do next, she is asked by her uncle to get close to one of the multi billionaire Russian capitalists who has somehow offended the Putin and when he is taken care of in a spectacularly gruesome way, she is then recruited to go to Sparrow School to become a spy courtesan. Domnika struggles with the path her life has taken, but eventually, with very little choice she becomes what her uncle desires. As her first assignment she is to cultivate Nate and to try and find out who he is and who his source is within the Russian government.
In the meantime, MARBLE becomes more and more uneasy as it seems that it is only a matter of time until he will be exposed,
What makes this such a great read is the authenticity that comes through on every page. I echo what another reviewer has said, “Halfway through, I was afraid Vladimir Putin would find out I was reading Red Sparrow and have me arrested. I have not read a more exciting, gripping novel in a long time.” The story is well paced and Matthews gives us fully dimensional characters who struggle with the morality of what they are doing. His descriptions of the trade craft Nate , Gable and Dominka use rings true, as do the petty bureaucratic hoops that the characters must go through to satisfy their bosses. It is clear that Matthews “has been there, done that” on almost every page. And what is even more exciting is that the ending makes clear that we can look forward to another book with these same characters soon!
Brenda’s Rating: ****(4 Stars out of 5)
Recommend this books to: Sharon, Marian and Ken
Book Study Worthy: Not really…
Read in ebook format.