Red Sparrow a rich and interesting read
By Derryll White
Matthews, Jason (2013). Red Sparrow.
I don’t normally read spy thrillers; haven’t felt the urge since reading perhaps the best in Le Carré’s George Smiley novels. I didn’t think the genre would get any better than that. But my neighbour pressed ‘Red Sparrow’ on me, said “I got it at Lotus Books and it is really good.” So I read some of the introductory material and learned that Matthews was an insider with 33 years as a CIA operative. This made me think ‘Red Sparrow’ might have some promise as a real challenger to Le Carré’s body of work. The question was, could Matthews write?
Jason Matthews loads an inordinate amount of tradecraft and excitement into the first chapter, and that hooked me. He tempers it with lots of texture and detail, building characters and drawing the reader in. Who would have thought that learning tradecraft included ‘Whore School’?
This is an exceptionally good first novel. The writing is tight and Jason Matthews takes the time and patience to masterfully develop his characters. The thwarted love affair between the beautiful Russian-trained spy Dominika Egorova and her handler, CIA agent Nathaniel Nash, was a surprise to me. It does, however, provide a very interesting core around which the international intrigue circles and evolves.
It would seem that ‘Red Sparrow’ will evolve into a series of novels. I would recommend that readers start at the beginning as this book is a rich and interesting read.
Excerpts from the novel:
THE RUSSIAN VIEW – The irony was that America was in decline, said the lecturers, no longer the high-and-mighty U.S. Overextended in wars, struggling economically, the supposed birthplace of equality was now divided by class warfare and the poisonous politics of conflicting ideologies. And the foolish Americans didn’t yet realize they would soon need Russia to hem in a galloping China, they would need Russia as an ally in a future war.
RISKS – If Dominika was caught, the SVR would kill her. It didn’t matter how she was caught: a mole in Headquarters, a mistake in handling, hostile surveillance, or simply bad luck, the lights coming on with her standing in front of an open safe drawer with a rollover camera. Nate turned over in bed.
There would be an interrogation and a trial, but they wouldn’t care about the facts.
SHARING – Dominika felt a sudden, excruciatingly sweet expansion, and the moonlight was rocketing around behind her eyelids, and she hoped he could keep her heaving body from blowing away like a piece of paper. She felt the hollow rush expand inside her, and then a rogue wave rose up from the deep, bigger than the others, hanging, curling, and she said, “Bozhe moj” from way back in her throat, and a white-eyed state of grace rolled through her like the wind bends a wheat field.
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.
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