An espionage thriller written by a CIA insider. In today's Russia, a state intelligence officer begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as a spy.
Lord knows how he got the manuscript of Red Sparrow past the redacting committee at Langley, but he has turned his considerable knowledge of espionage into a startling debut ... What distinguishes Red Sparrow from so many of its ilk is not merely Matthews’s skill as a writer. He is smart and fluent, with a terrific ear for dialogue and a gift for quick, effective characterization ... As you might expect, the author also possesses an extraordinarily deep knowledge of his subject. I have rarely encountered a nonfiction title, much less a novel, so rich in what would once have been regarded as classified information.
Matthews keeps the trouble popping in Red Sparrow, but relentless drama is just one of the high points of this sublime and sophisticated debut ... Red Sparrow may sound like some hodgepodge of the fantastic (seeing emotions?) and the prurient ('an Upper Volga Kama Sutra') amid a series of spy vs. spy shenanigans. But the novel is far more grounded. The stakes here are high, with agents on both sides desperately following streams of sensitive information, but Matthews focuses on the people and the intelligence community’s day-to-day routines ... Red Sparrow isn’t just a fast-paced thriller — it’s a first-rate novel as noteworthy for its superior style as for its gripping depiction of a secretive world. While many former CIA agents and MI6 operatives have turned to writing fiction in retirement, Matthews joins a select few who seem as strong at their second careers as at their first.
Matthews writes a smart, intriguing tale rooted in his own experience as an operative. He does it so well that fans of the genre's masters including John le Carré, creator of George Smiley, and Ian Fleming who gave us James Bond, will happily embrace Matthew's central spy ... This is a global story, packed with foot pursuits, car chases and safe houses. It shifts quickly and breathlessly from the U.S. embassies in Moscow and Helsinki to post-Soviet basement torture chambers in Russia to Putin's dacha west of Moscow to the elegant Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens. A sizzling plot, high-octane characters and a scorching finish run through this perfect summer novel.