Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow

A Novel

Book - 2013
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Now a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton!

"A great and dangerous spy-game is being played today between Russian intelligence and the CIA. Very few people know about it, but Jason Matthews does, and his thrilling Red Sparrow takes us deep inside this treacherous world. He's an insider's insider. And he is also a masterful storyteller. I loved this book and could not put it down. Neither will you." --Vince Flynn

In the grand spy-tale tradition of John le Carré...comes this shocking thriller written with insider detail known only to a veteran CIA officer.

In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a "Sparrow," a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency's most important Russian mole.

As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and--inevitably--forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate's game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.

Page by page, veteran CIA officer Jason Matthews's Red Sparrow delights, terrifies and fascinates, all while delivering an unforgettable cast, from a sadistic Spetsnaz "mechanic" who carries out Putin's murderous schemes to the weary CIA Station Chief who resists Washington "cake-eaters". Packed with insider detail, this novel brims with Matthews's life experience of espionage, counterintelligence, spy recruitment, and cyber-warfare. Brilliantly composed, Red Sparrow is a masterful spy tale. Authentic, tense, and entertaining, this novel introduces Jason Matthews as a major new American talent.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2013.
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781476706122
1476706123
Branch Call Number: F Matt
Characteristics: 434 p. ; 24 cm.

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j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

***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.
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Nate was average height and thin-framed, with straight black hair over a straight nose and brown eyes that kept moving, …

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

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.
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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.
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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.”

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

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.
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…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
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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.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

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.
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Put three teams on him. Wrap him in onionskins. Twenty-four hours a day.
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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.
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“No, I don’t believe you can meet agents. You’re now a shit magnet,” said Gondorf.
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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.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

“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.”
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“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.”

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

Dominika gave him a smile that only recently she had come to recognize had an effect on people.
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Two figures in a darkened room filled with vermilion Bach, two klikushy in a forest glen, planning mayhem.
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…different secrets nowadays, but the same as ever, secrets that needed stealing.
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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.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

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.
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“Your little girl shows the attributes of a synesthete. Someone who perceives sounds, or letters, or numbers as colors. Fascinating.”
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“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.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

The men in the room looked at one another and back to her, and she read them like a hymnal.
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Ustinov’s apartment sprawled on the top floor of a massive neoclassical building in the “Golden Mile” section of the Arbat.
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…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.
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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.
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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.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

They had told her the sidewalk outside Ustinov’s apartment was stained with the tears of his one-night stands.
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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.

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

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.
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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.
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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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t
timettial1
Sep 13, 2018

you must next read 'The Kremlin's Candidate'. On the book jacket it said that it was the second book in the 'red Sparrow' trilogy.

t
timettial1
Aug 30, 2018

very good spy novel, a real page-turner

j
jimg2000
Jun 22, 2018

The book is superior to the JL's film which left off the character's attributes of a synesthete who saw emotional content as colors, like Amos Decker in the book series by David Baldacci. However, The movie has a tighter plot with a bigger suspenseful twist at the end. Overall an excellent spy novel of unusual big personalities.
*Debut novel by a real ex-spy, first of the Sparrow trilogy.
*Good stuffs: Food recipes, many zingers, traveling in Europe, old time cloak and dagger schemes.
*Not so good stuffs: Too much details on eats, many cliches, unconvincing love story.

t
talk2terih
Jun 10, 2018

This book was a little bit longer than it needed to be, but that is often the case with new writers. As he goes along, he will learn to edit himself, or his publishing house staff will help him learn.
The very best thing about this book is the lesson in tradecraft it provides. Mathews' career in Intelligence allows the reader rare insight into a cryptic and cloaked world where even a simple glance means everything or nothing and that kindly old lady watering her flower garden may not be who you think she is.
Mathews has created some memorable characters and I look forward to reading the next title in the series and seeing their stories unfold.

a
agoldsby
Mar 16, 2018

Jason Matthews gave us an amazing, intriguing, smart, page turning thriller. I could not put this book down! Then I went to see the movie. I thought there’s no way Hollywood could mess this up. If you take the words from the book and put them in a script-it’s fool proof. Jason Matthews wrote a superb spy thriller like a cross between Salt & the female Jason Borne. In turn Hollywood gave us The Spy Who Shagged Me, bad accents and all. I could not have left that theater more dissatisfied. They cut sooooo many characters and left out everything that made Dominika the layered, nuanced heroine you cheer for as Jason Matthews intended. Poor Jennifer Lawrence if I read this , then read the script I would’ve been irate. Hollywood & JLaw eagerly turned Dominika into a flat, hypocritical, backstabbing weirdo. They really messed this up. Do not go see this movie. Just read the book because clearly the producers and director did not. The book gets five blazing hot stars , the movie gets half a star for casting Jeremy Irons but had to take the other half away because they barely used him and completely rewrote the character.
OH & thank you Jason Matthews for the receipes! At first I thought it was completely random then by the time chicken kiev came around I was planning my Red Sparrow receive blog.

c
cambridgedon
Dec 06, 2017

Well above average spy novel that reeks of authenticity since author was a former CIA operative. Very good plotline but doesn't quite have Tom Clancy's gift for storytelling. But to be fair it's very difficult to make following people or avoid being followed (SDR) sound interesting no matter what spin you put on it. Nonetheless, a very good first novel and looking forward to more in the series. Interesting that Matthews seems to be a foodie as he addends a recipe to each chapter.

c
Candaceb108
Nov 12, 2017

Fabulous. Great writing. Well researched, great balance, humor the best. And new things to cook. One of the best spy novels I have read in decades.

m
Manekineko_0
Oct 21, 2017

Fast-paced, wonderfully researched spy novel. It is well written and super thrilling, and if that's not enough to sell you, there is an authentic, delicious Russian recipe at the end of each chapter!

x
xiaojunbpl12
Apr 19, 2017

Ultimate spy game! First hand experience plus unusual writing skill, macho and sensual (1 recipe per chapter, a bonus).

r
rahmmie
Oct 11, 2016

This book was definitely entertaining but despite its length, I couldn't help feeling like I was reading the "light" version of a spy novel, the flavour was off and there was not enough substance. The characters are definitely likeable so maybe the next book will be better

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