Friday, January 11, 2019

Jason Matthews Red Sparrow

I read and liked Jason Matthews' Red Sparrow, the first novel in a trilogy (and also a movie). It is a spy novel about Russia and the U.S., with all the intrigue, double-crossing, and violence you associate with the genre. A Russian woman, Dominika  Egorova, is trained as a sparrow, or a sex spy, and her experiences lead to her being recruited by the CIA, specifically the agent Nate Nash (and then you get a romance there). She can actually see colors around people that indicate their mood, which is an intriguing addition to the narrative. There are American being paid by the Russians to spy as well.

The story moved along well, with plenty of twists and good descriptions of all the places they were. The odd thing about the novel is that there is mention of food in every chapter, then at the end is a short recipe for one of the dishes they ate. It was distracting to begin with, but then I got used to it and liked seeing what these dishes (many of them unfamiliar to me) were like. As you might expect from a spy novel written by a former CIA agent, the U.S. (and its spies) are all good and all the Russians (except those that spy for us) are bad. Indeed, one downside to the book is that the Russians come out much less nuanced.

The CIA itself gave it a favorable review, with this tidbit:

The amount of tradecraft, particularly surveillance and countersurveillance, will make the in-house reader wonder how he got all this past the Publications Review Board.
 I enjoyed it enough that I plan to read the sequel.


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