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Library Journal Review
Matthews brings to the table his 33 years as a CIA intelligence officer in his debut spy thriller. Dominika Egorova is a Russian spy and "sparrow," a trained master of "sexpionage," assigned to get information from Nathaniel Nash. Nash, a CIA officer, handles the high-level Russian mole whom Dominika seeks. The two spies get caught in a dangerous world of tradecraft, surveillance, defections, murder, and, perhaps the most dangerous for them, passion. -Matthews's lovebird spies must navigate a thick web of espionage while attempting to do what is best not only for their countries but also for themselves. The author's experience in the field gives listeners amazing insight into what goes on in the world of intelligence. Recommendations should take into consideration passages of greatly detailed sexual encounters and murders. Narrator Jeremy Bobb is masterly in catching the emotion and realism of Matthews's world. VERDICT Best for fans of spy literature. ["An excellent read with a continuously propulsive plot; Matthews's career in the CIA informs this with ass-kickingly real espionage details. Those craving le Carre style, cloak-and-dagger, cat and mouse realism will enjoy this and clamor for more," read the review of the Scribner hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 5/16/13.]-Sean -Kennedy, Cleveland Marshall Coll. Law Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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.
*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
Kirkus Book Review
Matthews' first novel, a globe-trotting spy thriller, features enough action to satisfy even the most demanding of adrenaline junkies. CIA field operative Nate Nash acts as the control officer for an invaluable Russian asset placed high up in Putin's administration. Nate chose to become a career spy despite pressure from his well-connected attorney father and two brothers to knuckle down and join the family business. Now, instead of filing briefs and golfing on weekends, he's playing tag with top-notch Russian intelligence teams out to expose Nate's source, known by the code name MARBLE. Meanwhile, another Russian, a beautiful ballerina named Dominika, raised by parents disenchanted with Russian politics but smart enough to realize that such an attitude could prove deadly to their only child, has been forced out of ballet school following an incident of sabotage. While contemplating her grim future, Dominika is approached by her loathsome uncle and top Soviet intelligence official, Vanya Egorov, to seduce an oligarch bothersome to the current administration. When a soulless killer becomes involved in the assignment, Dominika realizes she must quickly adhere to the party line in order to survive and asks her uncle to help her join the intelligence service, which he does. Soon, Dominika and Nate are set on a collision course, and the stage is set for a cat-and-mouse game that bounces from Moscow to Helsinki to Rome to Athens, a deadly assassin at their heels. The inclusion of a recipe at each chapter's end (for foods including chicken Kiev and kebabs), along with the not-so-subtle mentions of food wedged into the storyline, is unnecessary. This book is good and doesn't need the gimmicks. The author's CIA background and the smart dialogue make this an entertaining tale for spy-novel enthusiasts.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.