"It's not good, but I can't stop reading it," is how one of my friends recently described this series to me. The "Red Sparrow" trilogy falls squarely into the "guilty pleasure" category for me... and I got a lot of guilty pleasure out of it!
Written by a former CIA officer, the series is bursting with details on tradecraft and counterintelligence (although I found the technology aspects suspect). It seems like half of the series is devoted to SDRs (surveillance detection routes)!
The other half is composed of clever dialogue, graphic sexpionage, brutal violence, and - curiously - exotic cooking recipes. It's a potent mix.
The last book is by far the best and Matthews does us all a solid by delivering a satisfying (although surprising) conclusion to the trilogy.
GoodReads rating: 4 stars - "Red Sparrow" is a sexy spy thriller set in modern day Russia. The sexpionage expert Dominika Egorova and CIA operative Nathaniel Nash play a risky cat and mouse game as a desperate mole-hunt is waged for a top-level Russian intelligence officer. Dominika's origin story at "sparrow school" is shocking, brutal, and acerbically self-aware. Playful, sexy, violent, and packed with counterintelligence tradecraft, "Red Sparrow" is a solid modern entry in the spy genre.
GoodReads rating: 3 stars - "Palace of Treason" picks up where "Red Sparrow" left off. Unfortunately, this is Mathews's sophomore slump. There's an unbelievable love triangle and a cartoon villain. Fortunately, he hits his stride by mid-book and manages a strong finish. Gable and Forsyth's hilarious dialogues were also a redeeming factor.
GoodReads rating: 4 stars - "The Kremlin's Candidate" delivers gut-punches all around. I respect that. This final book keeps us on the edge of our seats all the way up to an unexpected ending. There were a few veiled criticisms of Obama's Russia "reset" in here too. And although the Putin porn made me queasy, Matthews redeems himself with the horrific "I've got something to 'Putin' you" joke.