Red Sparrow

By Jason Matthews

Red Sparrow is a captivating spy vs spy thriller with elements of gratuitous sex made “understandable” by the nature of the intelligence agent, Dominika Egorova. 

Egorova, a beautiful Russian ballerina, is “recruited” (forced) by her uncle to become a Sparrow, a Soviet Agent trained to manipulate and entrap enemies of the state through the use of sex. Dominika is pitted against the talented young CIA officer, Nate Nash. Matthews’ story is rife with intrigue and suspense. 

I read a number of novels in this genre each year. This one “rings true,” which is not surprising given it’s author was a 33 veteran of the CIA. Mr. Matthews book has the feel of someone who has been in the business. His knowledge about the inner workings of Russia, Capital Hill, and about spy tradecraft, make this book very very believable. 

Red Sparrow was Matthews first novel, for which he received the “Edgar Allen Poe Award” in 2014 for “Best First Novel.” He has since turned out two others.

The more I reflect on Red Sparrow the more I appreciate — not only his understanding of geopolitical relations and spy craft — but his understanding of human nature. 

Yes, this book will teach you about the spy business, but it will also teach you about life — it’s crookedness and glimpses of redemption.

Five reasons to read:

1. Matthews knows his stuff. This is a spy book written — and well written at that — by a spy.
2. Matthews grasp of geopolitical relations and their broader implications. He paints the harsh realities of nations at odds and the extent they go to infiltrate and capture each other’s secrets.
3. His descriptive powers and attention to details. They are so good you can miss them because he employs them so well to create his captivating story. 
4. His insight into the human condition. “He collapsed in the back seat contemplating the disasters that lurked in the career of ambition.” “They used her, were using her still as a little chess piece, a little pawn.”
5. This is the first in a trilogy.