RED SPARROW

Written by Jason Matthews

Review written by Sara Townsend

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/


RED SPARROW
Simon and Schuster
RRP: £13.99
Released: 4th June 2013
Hbk

Dominika Egorova is beautiful young Russian woman who only ever wanted to be a ballerina.  When a broken foot ends her dancing career, her uncle Vanya – First Deputy Director at SVR – manipulates Dominika into joining Russian Intelligence and he sends her off to Sparrow School – a school in seduction, where young attractive Russian spies learn all they need to be ‘honey traps.’

Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, an American double agent, with the task of seducing and unmasking him.  But both Nate and Dominika soon feel they are pawns being played in a much bigger game, and they find themselves conflicted – with decisions to make that could jeopardise their careers, their feelings for each other and even their lives.

This novel is not your usual spy thriller.  It starts off on a bit of a slow burn, with a great deal of exposition and perhaps not as much action as one would expect from the genre.  It took me a while to get into it, and there’s quite a lot going on that might pass you by if you’re not familiar with spy thrillers.  But it’s also got a very strong female character in Dominika – a young woman whose secret synaesthesia, or the ability to see emotions and intentions as colours – becomes an important weapon in her battle to take control of her own life and escape the leash the SVR keep her on.  And even Nate, though initially coming across as not terribly likeable, reveals himself to be a much more complex character than you initially think.

The story unfolds itself in third person, alternating between Nate and Dominika’s viewpoint, as their motivations and emotions reveal their own personal story.  Each chapter has the characters having a meal somewhere, at some point, and at the end of each chapter is a recipe for something the characters were eating in that chapter.  I am not sure what purpose this structure serves – other than perhaps the author having an interest in cooking Russian dishes.  However, after a while I found myself becoming interested in what recipe would be featured at the end of the chapter, and making a game of trying to second guess it whenever the customary restaurant/café/coffee shop scene came up.

This is quite a dense novel with the emphasis on characterisation rather than action sequences which makes it a book that will appeal to people who would not normally read spy thrillers.

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