Red Sparrow
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Red Sparrow

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  2,455 ratings  ·  542 reviews
In today’s Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 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 m...more
Hardcover, 431 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Scribner (first published 2013)
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The Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
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Best books of May, 2013
45th out of 118 books — 570 voters

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Community Reviews

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Maybe we Americans were just a little bit hasty when we said that we won the Cold War? ‘Cause it’s seeming more and more like that we were really just leading at halftime.

Modern Russia with Vladimer Putin running the show is essentially the Soviet Union with a better public relations department, and the old spy games between their Foreign Intelligence Service and the American Central Intelligence Agency are back with a vengeance. Young and ambitious CIA officer Nate Nash is the Moscow handler o...more
Bob Milne
Like the coldest, most diligent of intelligence officers, I have been patiently sitting on the secrets of this book for nearly 6 months now. I was quick to accept when Simon & Schuster Canada proposed the mission - to review, and to be a part of the tour - and gave it a read almost as soon as the ARC arrived on my doorstep. It reminded me of the cold-war espionage thrillers I read growing up, and I drafted my review right away, while the source material was still fresh in my brain, safe from...more
4 1/2 Stars -- Definitely Worth Reading But You'll Need To Be Patient With It

I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley and the publisher in return for an honest review, which follows.

I am an avid reader of thrillers and am particularly of espionage thrillers. So, I figured that Red Sparrow would be "right up my alley." However,the book's slow pace during the first hundred pages orso kept me undecided as to whether I was liking it or not. This is because it took me awhile to get used to the...more
While I was reading this, I kept going back to my Goodreads account and looking at the reviews, perplexed, but coaxed to keep reading. I finally came to the conclusion that this is one of those books that appealed to most, but not to me. Dominika is a training to be a Red Sparrow, a Russian female seductress agent, and she also has the gift of synthesia, or seeing colors in an aura around people that reflects their spirit, a mood ring sort of thing. Promising. Where the author lost me is the sex...more
I very nearly despaired of finishing this book a couple of times.

In one review they compared this book to John Le Carre, I don't think so! That was the MAIN reason I picked it up and gave it a go.

So slow, so boring, so full of words that said almost nothing. Sometimes you get a book very rich in words which tells a rich story, this was not the case, it gave me the impression of the author's infatuation with his capacity to link words in sentences, then in paragraphs, pages, chapters and so on.
4.5 stars. An excellent spy thriller. To quote the NY Times: "there hasn’t been a first-rate American spy novelist who claims to have worked as an intelligence officer ... until now ... he has turned his considerable knowledge of espionage into a startling debut." A newly trainer Russian spy, Dominika Egorova, is supposed to recruit Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer, handling the Agency’s most important Russian mole. However, she is an independent thinker and refuses to do as she is told. Well...more
Max Rudenko
I almost never write reviews but I had to write one for the Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews. Regretfully, grudgingly, I'm giving this book 4 stars although many parts of this book deserve solid 5 stars. This is a very good espionage thriller, superbly written in a literary sense, with riveting, sometimes even mesmerizing plot, strong characters, either positive or negative, and appropriate, well-timed insertions of humor. In a word, all what in my opinion any good book should have. All this evoked...more
What do spies really do in the real world? They really spend their time recruiting another country's government employees, soldiers, officers or those with access to its secrets to work against their own national interests for the spy's country. Sometimes the spy lures in a potential asset with money. Sometimes a potential asset comes to a country with secrets because of his agenda or because the secrets are perceived to be destabilizing. There are many reasons to betray one's country. To the US...more
James Hollis
Jason Matthews’ Red Sparrow has been described as being in the grand-spy style of John le Carré. Indeed, Matthews has crafted a complex tale of intrigue, twists, turns and convolutions that undoubtedly inhabit the intelligence/counter-intelligence world.

Red Sparrow is an exciting read. Although it is as deep and rich as a le Carré novel, the masterful pacing will easily catapult this author into a category whose books are a challenge to put-down once started. With Matthews’ real-life experience...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
"It isn't about money or ideology, it's your self worth... Then something screwy happens. You realize that you thrive on this life, on the risk and the trickiness, and the ice, and the deception and the secret in your head every day.... What are you going to do without all of this?"

I think Jason Matthews asked this question when he retired from the CIA to southern California. There was nothing left other than writing a spy novel, right? He throws in his favorite things - descriptions of food are...more
Amorak Huey
A decent spy story hampered by an excruciatingly slow start. Takes 100+ pages for the two main characters -- Nate of the CIA, Dominika of some Russian agency -- to end up in the same city, and even longer before they end up in the same bed. It's a tedious courtship.

The third act is pretty exciting, with the high stakes and cool tradecraft stuff you want in a spy novel, but there's far too much backstory before we get there. And Matthews seems unsure of whose story he's trying to tell, offering t...more
Valerie Frankel
No, this author is not the next Le Carre, Graham Greene, or Len Deighton. Yes, he does have considerable knowledge of CIA operational strategies and techniques. But that isn't enough to craft a good story - you also need some believable characters that you can get involved with. I found too much of this book to be trite and stereotypical, from the dark, menacing, unattractive Russians to the fatherly, dignified, handsome Americans. And too many Russian phrases dropped through the narrative, as i...more
Jim Leffert
People often praise a book by saying “I couldn’t put it down”. My experience is that the better books are the ones that I’m not tempted to plow through in a single sitting. Happily, Red Sparrow is a book that I could put down, first because it is a well-plotted, character-driven, and authentic sounding spy novel, and second, because if I had continued to read it too close to bedtime, I would have been too jumpy to get to sleep! Jason Matthews had a 30+ year career as a clandestine agent with the...more
Nuno Peralta
Um excelente romance de espionagem, daqueles que se devora até ao fim e se fica à espera que venha a ter sequela.
Um enredo bem pensado, suficientemente sólido para ser credível, suportado em personagens interessantes e igualmente credíveis.
Apenas um pormenor que não gostei e um alerta para futuros leitores:
Não gostei da forma como uma personagem real (Putin) é transformada numa personagem literária, mas do lado americano todas as personagens são fictícias. Tinha sido mais correcto inventar outr...more
Yay! I haven't read a spy novel this good in years. We all bemoan the loss of the cold war as spy literature just hasn't been the same. Well Jason Matthews delivers a great ride with this classic spy story of a mole hunt in the Russian Spy Agency (SVR). The story pits two young spies, Nathaniel Nash and Dominika Egorova against each other with great back drops of Moscow, Helsinki, Rome, Washington, and Athens. Great read and it helps that Matthews, like Ian Fleming was a spy himself! There is a...more
Just a great spy romp. Appealing characters and a lot of suspense, the book as a whole is better than one would expect given that the plot is pretty conventional--Russia/US spy wars in the present day. The ending leaves the door to a sequel wide open, and I no doubt will read it.
This jewel was a recommendation by my Goodreads friend Dr. Shiv. Good call, Shiv. One of my favorite genres is "Action Thriller" and this is an espionage thriller of the first order. The author is a retired CIA Clandestine Service officer and obviously knows his stuff. We have CIA and SVR (formerly KGB) agents, double agents, assassins and espionage and counter espionage activities. Mr. Matthews does a fine job in drawing and fleshing out his characters into "real" people that the reader can rel...more
Paul Pessolano
“Red Sparrow” by Jason Matthews, published by Scribner.

Category – Mystery/Thriller Publication Date - May, 2013

Excellent, one of the best spy novels I have read in a long, long time. Jason Matthews is a retire CIA officer with over thirty-three years service and obviously speaks from experience.

Red stands for the Soviet Union, and Sparrow is the name given to women who are enlisted by the Russian Secret Service to be trained to seduce either men or women to reveal intelligence secrets. They are...more
Awful Writing and No Command of Fiction Craft

I abandoned this book after 90 pages. I don't care if the plot eventually improved; the writing is terrible. For one, there is a lot of needless description. He describes plateware and names the fancy cologne a character is wearing. Who cares? Don't waste my time with the research you did on trivial nonsense. He even describes an airport terminal as containing shops and restaurants. Really? Why waste words on describing an airport? We all know what th...more
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The next generation of spy-turned-spy novelist is here. Joining Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Ian Flemming, John le Carré, James Church, (and maybe -- if my suspicions are correct -- Robert Littell and Olen Steinhauer too), Jason Matthews shows that most of the best spy fiction is actually written by former spies.

While not a perfect espionage novel (using recipes to separate the chapters seems a little overcooked and trite), the Red Sparrow is still an amazing debut novel. When the novel get...more
Occasionally I like to change up my reading routine with a good spy thriller. Enter Red Sparrow; the debut effort from Jason Matthews who is a 33-year veteran of the CIA. Red Sparrow is not filled with action sequence after action sequence but it does not need this to completely engage the reader. I love Ludlum's Jason Bourne series like everyone else but Red Sparrow is at another level. More similar to le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Psychological, crafty, multi-layered. There is super...more
I won this in a giveaway and was struck by how perfectly Matthews' writing style matches the bleak atmosphere of the novel. The colorful characters of this tale embody the loneliness and personal confusion experienced by spies.

As the quotidian reality of the Cold War years vanishes generationally into the past, documents like this provide grim reminders of the atmosphere that prevailed at that time.

Along with providing grim atmosphere, the book has strong characters and an ingenious, twisting...more
Audiobook from Simon & Schuster Audio
Narrated by Jeremy Bobb
Length: about 18 hours

When Jason Matthews retired from the CIA, he was able to provide the spy-thriller genre with a book that probably rings truer than most for how things actually work. I have to think that the main character, Nate Nash, is based either on Matthews himself or on someone he was close to.

Red Sparrow is a fairly typical spy-thriller. It opens with the main character, Nate, meeting one of his agents inside Russia, M...more
Terrific spy thriller. Written by a CIA veteran, it is filled with all kinds of fascinating, authentic-seeming spy stuff and a complex, nuanced, intricate plot.

But what really elevates Red Sparrow above your average international intrigue-type thriller is the impressive writing. The writing here is far, far above average for this type of book. Instead of the usual workmanlike thriller prose, with a new chapter every 2 pages and lots of one sentence (or even one sentence fragment)paragraphs as a...more
The Cold War is long gone but the remnants of that time reverbirate Americas relationship with the former Soviet Union and that coolness is used to great effect in this pulsating read. Author Matthews a former CIA opperative writes an intriguing story built on his own experiences. Fans of Ian Flemings James Bond will happily identify with the main protagonist spy.

One thing though her name is Egorova. Dominika Egorova and she never says "shaken not stired". She is a Russian intelligence agent wit...more
Ooh, so fun! A modern Russian spy novel written by a guy that knows his stuff. Felt a little bit "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo-y" in parts, which is always welcome. I learned so much about how targets get surveilled on streets-- will be watching my back more now.
Robert Intriago
I decided to read this book because I like the genre and the author was nominated for an Edgar for the best new book. After reading some of the reviews and seeing some bad reviews because it did not read like a Le Carre book, it gave me more of an incentive to read it since Le Carre's last 4 or 5 books were, in my opinion, terrible. This book reads more like a Robert Littell cold war spy novel, something in the order of "The Company".

Mr. Matthews is a master of the spy trade craft and his knowl...more
Carla  (cbr)
Grande livro!!

Fiquei fã do autor e das personagens.

Estou ansiosa por saber se Jason Matthews vai continuar a história da fantástica Dominika Egorova!
A spy thriller with a recipe at the end of each chapter? Sounds cozy, but it's not; it actually works (and so do the recipes). Lots of good Russian foods (and some Afghan), each recipe written in a back-of-a-cocktail napkin style, maybe 3 sentence maximum. My favorite part of the book was figuring out which food item mentioned in the chapter would be the recipe at the end. The CIA analyst's spicy vinaigrette? The Russian mole's cheese pancakes?

The actual story--characters, plot--was a mixed bag....more
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Factual error - Scandinavia 2 22 Jan 05, 2014 08:18AM  
How author's experience in the CIA probably played in writing such a good spy novel 3 39 Dec 03, 2013 08:59AM  
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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,...more
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