The Kremlin’s Candidate (Red Sparrow Trilogy #3), by Jason Matthews

Nine stars

In this, the final novel in a high-impact trilogy, Jason Matthews seeks to take the story in a new and interesting direction, while tying up some loose ends and leaving others to dangle without resolution. Dominika Egorova remains a highly-placed mole in the Russian Government, having climbed the ladder within the SVR and rumoured to be the next director. In an early chapter flashback, Dominika remembers using her wiles and other newly honed ‘Sparrow’ assets, and has been able to secure a mid-ranking female US Navy official, which could prove highly useful in the years to come. In the present, Dominika has been able to work with a North Korean nuclear scientist who has admitted that the country is on the verge of creating the necessary weapon to wipe the United States off the map. While conferring with others inside the Russian Intelligence inner circle, as well as President Putin, Dominika learns that her long-ago victim of sexpionage may hold a larger role in the overall Russian plot to bring down their former Cold War enemy, having sold this nuclear technology to the North Koreans. For the time being, it’s all about silently waiting, hoping to learn enough to send along to her CIA handler, Nate Nash in order to prepare for the worst. Dominika agrees to make a covert trip to America, where she can hopefully identify the mole’s Russian handler and allow Nate to extinguish that asset. Worried that Nate might be getting too involved in Dominika’s missions, he is sent to an obsolete American Embassy, only to realize that the Russians are wreaking havoc in an attempt to send a message and locate him through back channels. This serves only to strengthen Nate’s willingness to bring the Russian Intelligence community to the ground, through Dominika’s deception. Having curried enough favour with Putin, Dominika is handed the directorship of the SVR, but cannot shake that someone may be keeping a close eye on her. She is put in a precarious position when approached by a Russian ally, one that could place Nate in the crosshairs of a kill order that cannot be neutralized without compromising her own status. The chase is on to remove the Russian mole, who is positioning herself to be named into the American president’s Cabinet, where there is no end to the secrets she will be able to ship back to Russia, thereby leaving the country open for destruction. Nate has been able to remain one step ahead, but luck is finite and Dominika can only do so much! Another brilliant novel that furthers the complex espionage that Matthews has come to make all his own. A trilogy that impresses many, especially those who love a traditional novel of spy games, with an ending that is second to none. Highly recommended to those with the patience and interest in deep-rooted spy novels, à la John Le Carré!

I started this trilogy just over a week ago because of all the hype it was getting online. It was a slow start, but I had to remind myself that I am not one who normally reads well-crafted spy novels, which seek to forego the superficial banter and develop over time, enriching the reading experience. This novel offers a thorough review of the information to date and provides the reader with an impactful culmination of all in a high-stakes game of spying and trying to destroy the enemy. Nate Nash and Dominika Egorova may come from different spheres but their dedication cannot be discounted, especially towards the latter chapters of this book. Matthews offers up the most intense and impactful Nash yet, as he tries to get the Russians to come to their knees and lose everything, though that is surely not done in a single act. Matthews adds the complexities of Nash’s inability to treat Dominika simply as a mole and someone who is going to help bring Putin’s tsar-lifestyle to an end. Dominika’s secret synesthesia continues as an integral part of her character and is used throughout the narrative quite effectively, especially to allow the reader to better understand the emotional banter taking place in a realm (espionage) where the players remain neutral. Dominika’s struggle both to stay alive and to resurrect her ‘Sparrow’ persona with Putin creates a worrisome connection that could backfire at any moment. Matthews personalises the story by filling the narrative with his own experiences within the CIA. The reader can feast on a methodical understanding of the world of espionage with results dependent on the risks undertaken. Extensive mention of cultural dishes throughout the piece is complemented by Matthew’s addition of basic recipes embedded at the end of each chapter, which has been a central part of all three novels. Lighter fare in a novel full of dark plot development. I know this was a trilogy and the end has come, but I hope Matthews has more up his sleeve. Trust me, once you read these books, you will as well!

Kudos, Mr. Matthews, for another stellar novel. This series has won me over and I hope to spread the word to anyone who will listen.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: