Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/
Palace of Treason is the second book in the spy thriller series featuring Russian double agent Dominika Egorova and her CIA handler Nate Nash. Like the first, it has a lot of dry exposition and rather too many characters to get a handle on, and also like the first book, the end of each chapter features a recipe, generally for a Russian or Polish dish that has been mentioned somewhere in the chapter.
Dominika is a former ballet dancer trained as a ‘sparrow’ – at a school that trains young Russian women in the art of seduction before setting them to work for the KGB as ‘honey traps’. A trusted member of the Russian Intelligence Service, she is working towards direct access to President Putin – which is exactly what the CIA want her to do. Dominika is a strong female protagonist and a likeable character, and in my view the strongest feature of this series. Dominika’s exploits in this novel get particularly tense, as she is in real danger of being exposed as an American spy. Her relationship with Nate Nash, established in the last novel, also adds an additional complication. The two of them are in love with each other, a decidedly unwise situation for a double agent and her handler to be in, and at the start of the novel they have not been in contact with each other for rather a long time.
The story takes a while to get going, and as previously mentioned there are rather a lot of characters in the story – the vast majority of which are decidedly unlikeable – but the tension ramps up nicely to a genuinely exciting conclusion.
Jason Matthews is a former CIA agent and knows the subject matter of this novel well, but the more I learned about Russia as portrayed in this book, the less I want to go there. All the men in the Russian Intelligence Service are portrayed as misogynistic, lecherous oafs. Putin appears as a character, portrayed in the same, decidedly dim, light, which I would consider a risky decision to take but presumably Matthews knows what he’s doing.
Those who love spy thrillers will find much to like in this book, but it’s probably best to start the series from the beginning, and I would recommend reading the first book, Red Sparrow, before moving on to this one.