Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
A Novel

78%

24 Critic Reviews

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.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Now a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton!

In the tradition of John le Carré, the bestselling, impossible-to-put-down, espionage thriller that is “a primer in twenty-first century spying” (The New York Times Book Review), written with the insider detail that only a veteran CIA operative could know—and shortlisted for an Edgar Award.

State intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and, inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s most valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fateful double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the US military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller.

Taking place in today’s Russia, still ruled with an iron fist by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Red Sparrow displays author Jason Matthews’s insider knowledge of espionage, counter-espionage, surveillance tradecraft, recruiting spies, interrogation, and intelligence gathering. As The Washington Post hails, this is a “sublime and sophisticated debut…a first-rate novel as noteworthy for its superior style as for its gripping depiction of a secretive world.”
 

About Jason Matthews

See more books from this Author
Jason Matthews is a retired officer in CIA’s former Operations Directorate, now the National Clandestine Service. Over a thirty-three-year career he served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in clandestine collection of national security intelligence, specializing in denied area operations. Matthews conducted recruitment operations against Soviet-East European, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean targets and, as Chief in various CIA Stations, managed covert action projects against the Weapons of Mass Destruction programs of the world’s Rogue States and collaborated with foreign liaison partners in counter terrorism operations. He lives in Southern California.
 
Published June 4, 2013 by Scribner. 577 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Horror. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Red Sparrow
All: 24 | Positive: 21 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Good
on Feb 18 2013

The inclusion of a recipe at each chapter’s end...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.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Charles Cumming on May 31 2013

I think it was a mistake to give Vladimir Putin a walk-on part, and some of the character names (Korchnoi, Ustinov, Delon) are oddly chosen, given their real-life antecedents.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Feb 18 2013

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.

Read Full Review of Red Sparrow: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Book Reporter

Excellent
on Jun 04 2013

Brilliantly composed and elegantly constructed, RED SPARROW is a masterful spy tale lifted from the dossiers of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Authentic, tense and entertaining, this novel introduces Jason Matthews as a major new American talent.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Thom Geier on May 03 2013

Since Matthews is a 33-year CIA vet, the spycraft in his well-plotted debut has the scintillating whiff of authenticity. But he's given Dominika a version of synesthesia that lets her ''see'' emotions as colors...

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The Columbus Dispatch

Good
Reviewed by Julie Davis on Jun 02 2013

Nate and Dominika’s serpentine journey through classic spy landscape is fresh and gripping. The reader has a front seat to the painstaking art of mole detection and agent development...Excitement and tension build until a pulse-pounding finale.

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Scotsman.com

Above average
Reviewed by Charles Cumming on Jun 30 2013

This is not to say that Red Sparrow is perfect. I think it was a mistake to give Vladimir Putin a walk-on part, and some of the character names...are oddly chosen...These are minor faults, however. Although Matthews may have a rose-tinted view of the CIA, he is terrifically good on the turf wars and enervating bureaucracy of espionage.

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Daily Kos

Above average
Reviewed by Susan Grigsby on Jul 08 2013

If we put aside the politics, which I am usually able to do fairly well, this is a decent read. The spelling is correct and most of the grammar is acceptable. The plot is not terrible. If you liked Ian Fleming's James Bond, you will might enjoy this as a spy thriller.

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Shots

Good
Reviewed by Sara Townsend on Jun 04 2013

This is quite a dense novel with the emphasis on characterisation rather than action sequences which makes it a book that will appeal to people who would not normally read spy thrillers.

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Critics At Large

Good
Reviewed by Bob Douglas on Jul 27 2013

...The action scenes and violence in Sparrow will grab some readers’ attention, but human relationships are at the core of Matthews’ absorbing, compelling novel, along with its most memorable character, the double agent Dominika Egorova.

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CIA

Above average
Reviewed by James Burridge and Michael Bradford on Jun 23 2015

A couple of final observations: Matthews ends every chapter with a recipe for a dish associated with that chapter’s locale. Some reviewers have found this to be a distraction, but they're easily skipped. Finally, this novel has the most explicit sex scenes we’ve encountered in the espionage genre.

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Quick Book Reviews

Excellent
on Sep 19 2013

All in all, I would be very hard-pressed to find aspects of this book that deserve to be criticized; it is one of the most impressive, detailed, realistic and enthralling spy thrillers out on the market, and no fan of the genre can afford to miss out on this one.

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Men Reading Books

Good
Reviewed by East Coast Don on Jul 18 2015

Matthews spent his first lifetime in The Clandestine Service with postings all over the world so this rings of authenticity from the first SDR to a last sniper’s bullet. . This i’s not the ultra alpha male of Mitch Rapp. It’s more of a younger version of Olen Steinhauer’s Milo Weaver. More cerebral, less testosterone.

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All the Books I Can Read

Above average
Reviewed by 1GIRL2MANYBOOKS on Jun 20 2013

Matthews threw me a lifeline of hope and then viciously yanked it away from me in the dying pages. It made me feel a bit flat. But I have no doubt that it served the story well – I was meant to feel that way. It further reinforced the good vs evil message that the whole book was constructed around.

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Yummy Men Kick Ass Chicks

Excellent
Reviewed by Julie on Jun 04 2013

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews is the first book of its kind I have ever read and I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to read it. From cover to cover, the work put into this story is clear and presented like a silk spider web.

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The Lit B***h

Above average
on Apr 11 2018

If you can get past the weirdness of the recipes at awkward moments in the story line then it’s a great spy novel. I am excited to read more from this author….but only if there aren’t anymore recipes!

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Book Rap

Good
on Mar 29 2018

We also have a new successful writer on the scene. I understand he is working on his next story. This one his first, could lend itself to a sequel.

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Tzer Island

Good
Reviewed by TChris on Jun 26 2013

The recipes are an odd addition to a spy novel, but people who have more culinary skill than I do might find them useful. In any event, they don't detract from one of the most impressive debut espionage novels I've encountered.

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Mysteries and More from Saskatchean

Above average
Reviewed by Bill Selnes on Mar 31 2013

Red Sparrow is a good book. I will read future books of Matthews. I think he has the potential to be an excellent thriller writer. I hope he will consider toning down abit the sex and violence to concentrate more on the story.

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What Would the Founders Think?

Good
Reviewed by Martin on Jul 30 2013

Matthews’ characters are realistic and interesting. They aren’t larger than life. His protagonists falter and make mistakes, and his antagonists aren’t easily duped. Red Sparrow reads quickly and entertains from start to end. It’s a melancholy tale with a gritty ending.

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Emma Lee's Blog

Good
Reviewed by Emma Lee on Jun 19 2013

“Red Sparrow” is packed with spy tradecraft details but these don’t slow the pace. Although it’s not a book a reader would want to rush though but rather one to savour the details and flavours.

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Tales of the Inner Book Fantatic

Good
Reviewed by Erin W. on Jun 19 2013

Overall, RED SPARROW is not for the light-hearted or impatient people, but on a whole I thought the book felt really authentic and I love that considering the author himself was in the actual CIA in real life (I mean that's seriously cool because he knows his stuff!).

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Bookshipper

Good
Reviewed by Tina on Apr 18 2013

I always love to read books that feature smart, intelligent and intriguing female leads and this book delivers.

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https://www.dailykos.com

Above average
Reviewed by Susan Grigsby on Jul 08 2013

If we put aside the politics, which I am usually able to do fairly well, this is a decent read. The spelling is correct and most of the grammar is acceptable. The plot is not terrible.

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Reader Rating for Red Sparrow
83%

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Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

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