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Red Sparrow (Dominika Egorova & Nathaniel Nash #1)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,943 ratings  ·  698 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 May 7th 2013)
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48th out of 122 books — 594 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Steven Z.
If you were going to create the proto-type writer of espionage thrillers you would want someone with experience in the art of spy craft. Someone who had engaged in clandestine collection of national security intelligence, who recruited operatives in the Soviet Union, Middle East, and East Asia. You would want a person who had been a CIA Station Chief, managed covert operations, and worked with American allies in counter terrorism over a career that spanned thirty three years. A person with this ...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
I really wanted to like this book, since I feel like I've exhausted all the great espionage and this was getting a lot of buzz because the author is former CIA. I made it just past the halfway point before I had to give up.

The initial 100 page of setup was a struggle because virtually every paragraph about the heroine mentions how sexy she is. Then she goes to sex school to really sex up her sexiness. She also has a nearly magical power to read peoples emotions and intentions, which the author
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
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
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.
I liked how this book kept you on the edge of your seat and in a way bringing back the cold war. I loved how some of the characters were so smart, how they made hard decisions (Marble I'm looking at you), and how some of them were so stupid (yeah Swan I'm talking about you) they were just screaming to get caught. Then there is Diva, who was played by everyone around her. I felt bad for her, I wanted just one person to have her best interests in heart. It's too bad that they all under estimated h ...more
Red Sparrow is one of the finest espionage books that I have ever read. Jason Matthews is, in my fragment of a mind, the equal of Daniel Silva and Jean Le Carre', although their styles are all very, very different. The plot is intricate, complex and satisfying to read, the characters are richly crafted, realistic and diverse and the writing is straightforward yet eloquent.

Red Sparrow does not rely on countless shootings, chase scenes, ambushes, killings and other types of assorted violence (to
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.
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy Oakes
Aug 06, 2013 Nancy Oakes added it
Recommends it for: readers of cold war spy novels
On a scale of 1 to 10, this is about a 7.5. I'll give an abbreviated version here; if you'd like the long one, it's here. Considering that this is Matthews' first novel, it was for the most part, very well done and I wouldn't hesitate at all to recommend it to other readers of spy fiction

The post-WWII Cold War era may officially be over, but one of the main ideas that runs through this book is that while Russia's system of government may have changed on the outside, underneath the facade the sa
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
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
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Factual error - Scandinavia 2 30 Jan 05, 2014 08:18AM  
How author's experience in the CIA probably played in writing such a good spy novel 3 44 Dec 03, 2013 08:59AM  
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Jason Matthews is a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. 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. As Chief in variou ...more
More about Jason Matthews...

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