A NoveleBook - 2013
In the tradition of John le Carr#65533;, 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."
From the critics
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***Please read quotes after having read the book unless not concerned with spoilers. There are 61 quotes posted in goodreads as of this morning. Mine are collected as I read the novel and likely many duplicated***
Twenty-seven-year-old Nate Nash was two minutes away from meeting the legend, the jewel in the tiara, the most valuable asset in CIA’s stable. Only three hundred meters from the quiet street where he would meet MARBLE: sophisticated, urbane, in his sixties, major general in the SVR, which was the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the Kremlin’s overseas spies.
Nate was average height and thin-framed, with straight black hair over a straight nose and brown eyes that kept moving, …
MARBLE was short and stocky, with deep brown eyes separated by a fleshy nose. He had bushy white eyebrows, which matched his full head of wavy white hair, giving him the appearance of an elegant boulevardier.
The middle-aged Muscovite was gone, replaced in eight seconds by a creaky old pensioner wearing a cheap cloth coat and hobbling along with a cane.
Khrushchev visited a pig farm and was photographed there. In the village newspaper office there was a heated discussion about the photo caption. “Comrade Khrushchev among Pigs”? “Comrade Khrushchev and Pigs”? “Pigs around Comrade Khrushchev”? None will do. The editor finally makes a decision: “Third from left—Comrade Khrushchev.”
He was active and prominent in the changeover from KGB to SVR in 1991, chose the right side during Kryuchkov’s abortive 1992 KGB coup against Gorbachev, and in 1999 was noticed by the phlegmatic First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a blond scorpion with languid blue eyes.
…he personally suggested that Putin blame Western—specifically US—interference for the demonstrations leading up to the elections. The candidate loved the suggestion, eyes unblinking, as he contemplated Russia’s comeback on the world stage
Today’s Kremlin was suits and ties, press secretaries, smiling summit meetings, but anyone who had been around for any length of time knew that nothing had changed since Stalin, really. Friendship? Loyalty? Patronage? A misstep, an operational or diplomatic failure, or, worst of all, embarrassing the president, would bring the burya, the tempest, from which there would be no shelter.
Nate’s liternoye delo, the operational file: Young, active, disciplined, good Russian. Behaves himself regarding women and alcohol. No drugs. Diligent in cover position in the Embassy Economic Section. Effective while on the street, does not telegraph his operational intent.
Put three teams on him. Wrap him in onionskins. Twenty-four hours a day.
Gondorf had a dummy hand grenade mounted on a wooden base on his desk. The plaque on it read COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT. PULL PIN FOR FASTER SERVICE.
“No, I don’t believe you can meet agents. You’re now a shit magnet,” said Gondorf.
The Rodina, sacred Motherland of black earth and endless sky, would have to endure a while longer, as the chain-wrapped corpse of the Soviet was exhumed, hauled dripping out of the swamp, and its heart was started again, and the old prisons were filled anew with men who did not see it their way.
“Energy, population decline, natural resources, client states. Forget all that. Russia is still the only country that can put an ICBM into Lafayette Square across from the White House. The only one, and they have thousands of nukes.”
“The kid who pulls the tablecloth and smashes the crockery to get attention—that’s Moscow. They don’t want to be ignored and they’ll break the dishes to make sure it doesn’t happen. Sell chemical weapons to Syria, give fuel rods to Iran, teach Indonesia centrifuge design, build a light water reactor in Burma, oh, yeah, people, nothing’s out of bounds. “But the real danger is the instability all this creates, the juice it gives the next generation of world-stopping crazies. People, the second Cold War is all about the resurgent Russian Empire, and don’t kid yourselves Moscow is gonna sit back and see how the Chinese navy handles itself when—not if—the shooting starts in the Taiwan Strait.”
Dominika gave him a smile that only recently she had come to recognize had an effect on people.
Two figures in a darkened room filled with vermilion Bach, two klikushy in a forest glen, planning mayhem.
…different secrets nowadays, but the same as ever, secrets that needed stealing.
Like all Russians, he had lost family in the 1930s and 1940s to Stalin, resisting the Germans, the purges, the katorga. But more than that. He rejected the imbalance and illogic of the Soviet system, he despised the top-heavy favoritism of the cheloveki, the insiders’ sloth and self-indulgence that crushed the human spirit and had robbed Russians of their lives, their country, their patrimony.
Dominika gravely explained that when the music played, or when her father read aloud to her, colors would fill the room. Different colors, some bright, some dark, sometimes they “jumped in the air” and all Dominika had to do was follow them. It was how she could remember so much. When she danced, she leapt over bars of bright blue, followed shimmering spots of red on the floor.
“Your little girl shows the attributes of a synesthete. Someone who perceives sounds, or letters, or numbers as colors. Fascinating.”
“Her synesthesia appears to extend to human reactions. Not only words or sounds, she also sees emotional content as colors. She spoke to me about what sounds like halos of color around people’s heads and shoulders.” Vassily stared at his friend. “Perhaps she will develop into something of a savant in matters of human intentions.
The men in the room looked at one another and back to her, and she read them like a hymnal.
Ustinov’s apartment sprawled on the top floor of a massive neoclassical building in the “Golden Mile” section of the Arbat.
…in one corner hung an abstract reclining nude, fingers and eyes and toes pointing in all directions, a Picasso, Dominika guessed. That will be me in fifteen minutes, she thought wryly.
The physical act was easy enough, she was not a prude. But she wondered what she would lose if she seduced this man. Nothing, she told herself. Ustinov couldn’t take anything away from her, neither could the leering briefers from the Service, nor lavender-scented Uncle Vanya with his mouthed condolences.
Ustinov pulled away and looked at Dominika through tunnel-visioned eyes. His body was an exposed nerve; his brain was detaching itself from the anchor points inside his skull.
They had told her the sidewalk outside Ustinov’s apartment was stained with the tears of his one-night stands.
Informally, he was a chistilshchik, a “mechanic,” an executioner of the Russian secret service. In the KGB years, this department was known variously as the Thirteenth Department or Line F, or simply as mokroye delo, “wet work.” During the height of the Cold War, Line F had managed kidnappings, interrogations, and assassinations, but in the new SVR such things were said not to be even remotely contemplated or condoned. Granted, fractious Russian journalists were found shot in Moscow elevators, or regime critics succumbed to high concentrations of radionuclide polonium in their livers, but that had nothing to do with the modern Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. The age of the “umbrella pokers” had passed.
The only women involved in field operations were the co-opted wives of rezidenturi officers, and the vorobey, the trained “Sparrows” who seduced recruitment targets.
Russia’s elite, the Sword and Shield of yesterday, the Globe and Star of today. Her youthful ideology had once horrified her freethinking father—she knew that now—and she no longer totally accepted the ideology.
The campus was a kilometer off the four-lane Gorkovskoye shosse, screened first by a tall wooden palisade, painted green to blend in with the trees. Past this “forest fence,” three kilometers farther into the woods, ran two additional wire fence lines, between which black Belgian Malinois hounds ran free. The dog run could be seen from the windows of the small classrooms, and from their rooms in the two-story barracks the students could hear the dogs panting at night.
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