by Red Sparrow: A Novel
Book list *Starred Review* Many spy novelists, including Ian Fleming and John le Carre, actually worked as intelligence agents. Add to that list Jason Matthews, whose 33 years as a CIA field operative enriches his first novel with startling verisimilitude, from griping about meddling, deskbound bureaucrats at Langley to the flat statement that Russia's SVR, successor to the KGB, sees the Cold War as alive and well, and that in Putin's Russia, nothing has changed since Stalin. Perhaps this is novelistic license, but it feels genuine. That sense of authenticity, along with vividly drawn characters, much detail about tradecraft, and an appropriately convoluted plot that centers on moles in both the SVR and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence make this a compelling and propulsive tale of spy-versus-spy. Matthews' characters are variously fascinating, eccentric, and truly odious, including a beautiful Russian woman with the gift of synesthesia, forced into sparrow school to learn espionage through seduction; a brilliant and flamboyantly odd head of CIA counterintelligence; a poisonous dwarf whose reveries always return to torture and murder during Russia's Afghanistan debacle; and many more. Locales including Moscow, Helsinki, Rome, and Athens seem knowingly evoked, and each brief chapter concludes with a recipe for some food a character has just eaten. Red Sparrow is greater than the sum of its fine parts. Espionage aficionados will love this one.--Gaughan, Thomas Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publishers Weekly Matthews's exceptional first novel will please fans of classic spy fiction. In Moscow, CIA agent Nathaniel Nash is running the most valuable asset in the CIA's stable, a major general in the SVR, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. After Nate nearly blows his agent's cover, Nate's chief reassigns him to the CIA station in Helsinki. Meanwhile, SVR deputy director Ivan "Vanya" Egorov decides to use his beautiful 25-year-old niece, Dominika Egorova, as bait in a honey trap designed to kill a Russian mobster who has publicly feuded with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Dominika likes this assignment well enough to ask her uncle to send her to spy school, where she excels. Diagnosed as a synesthete as a girl, Dominika has an unusual gift: she perceives sounds as colors and can tell if someone is lying by the color of his or her aura. After training, she sets out to find the Russian traitor Nate was running. The author's 33-year career in the CIA allows him to showcase all the tradecraft and authenticity that readers in this genre demand. Recipes at the end of each chapter for a dish a character has eaten lend a homely culinary touch to the complex, high-stakes plot. 7-city author tour. Agent: Sloan Harris, International Creative Management. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal The malicious injuring of a ballerina starts a train wreck that ends in the unmasking of highly placed moles in the United States and Russia. The dancer is inveigled into service as an agent but must first attend a graphically described "Sparrow School" where recruits are taught the art of sexual seduction. Her target is an American agent whose defeat obsesses Russian leader Vladimir Putin himself. The author, a veteran CIA field agent, liberally salts his thriller with realistic tradecraft, horrific villainy, and stunning plot twists as the opponents vie for control. VERDICT An intense descent into a vortex of carnal passion, career brutality, and smart tradecraft, this thriller evokes the great Cold War era of espionage and adds startling touches such as recipes and a main character with synesthesia. Readers of bloodthirsty spy and suspense will welcome this debut from a writer who supersizes his spies. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.