So while I was up North, my mother and step-father recommended that I read Red Sparrow. They had both read it and they know I like the Americans, so it was kind of like a human Amazon-type thing….
People who like The Americans also liked Red Sparrow….
Anyway, I borrowed their copy and they were right. It was really good. It is written by Jason Matthews, a guy who lived that life, and I found it a little unfair for a guy to have been an accomplished spy and write this well at the same time. It’s just very entertaining and a great read with great characters and a huge amount of tension.
Similar to Leaving Berlin, it is an incredible feeling to be transformed into a world where you are always being watched…where any slight deviation can expose you. Where being seen somewhere you didn’t belong could unmask you. Where you have to execute a two-hour series of maneuvers to ensure you are not being followed. It creates non-stop tension that makes for good reading.
The book has some tried and true elements, such as a drop-dead gorgeous Natasha type (Dommenika) who has some very special training from the Russians. There’s some sex and there’s the classic storyline of two spies trying to spy on each other at the same time.
Even better, whereas The Americans was set in the Soviet era, this book is set in the more or less present. Putin is trying to rebuild Russia’s intelligence and counter-intelligence to KGB-standards. Even better than that is that Putin himself appears in the story a few times, including a meeting held in his basement while he lifts weights with his shirt off.
One last item which is either an additional enticement or a warning. Like all the great books of this genre, Red Sparrow does not flinch from any of the gory details, from the training Domenika experienced to torture to murder to the experience of a self-inflicted pre-capture suicide. You’re getting a full look at all of that in this book, which I believe is some readers of this type of book secretly relish.
Gave this four-stars for sure and I will be working my way through the next book in the trilogy. For fellow Americans fans, this is a great read.