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02 September 2013

Jason Matthews: Red Sparrow

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Outstanding, exciting, chilling espionage thriller
This is undoubtedly the best espionage thriller I have read this year, and probably for several years. The Cold War is over but espionage between the US and Russia (under Putin) continues. While the KGB morphed into the SVR in 1991 many of the old operators moved on to the SVR, notably the ambitious and unscrupulous Deputy Director, Vanya Egoravov. On the surface things may seem to have changed but with the elevation of Putin a lot of things stay the same.

Nathaniel (Nate) Nash is a junior at the CIA Moscow Station but with natural streetcraft skills to be able to meet and collect information on the streets of Moscow from MARBLE, the most important mole in the Russian government. After an accidental contact with Russian operators Nate gets moved to Helsinki Station.

Dominika Egoragov is a beautiful ballerina student, who has a unique personal skill as a synesthete where she sees the emotions and intentions of others as colours. After an accident stops her dancing career, she  is recruited into the SVR under pressure by her Uncle Vanya. She undergoes intense training as an SVR agent, including at "Sparrow School" which specialises in the art of espionage seduction. Vanya then sends her to Helsinki to try and recruit Nate and find the identity of MARBLE. As she becomes closer to Nate she is humiliated by her controllers and turns more and more to him for support.

Jason Matthews is a masterful storyteller who takes us inside the treacherous world of espionage on a switchback trail of lies, disinformation, deceit, treachery, violence and torture. The story has real authenticity as during Matthews' 33 year career with the CIA he was involved in many of the spycraft and recruitment activities that are a key element of this amazing tale.

This is a great espionage thriller which will keep you absorbed throughout as the plot twists and turns in unexpected ways.  It is highly recommended for anyone looking for a really intelligent, realistic, exciting and sometimes chilling thriller.

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