Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews: A Predictor of Current Ukraine Conflict

I have had an enjoyable summer of reading.  Minus a major vacation, it is the most effective use of time for me.  In anticipation of a successful Eagles season, I have made it a point to read at least a book a week.  First of State by Robert Greer was an excellent read.  Stone Cold by David Baldacci took me into the world of espionage and contract killings.  Spartacus: the Gladiator and Hadrian's Wall, which I am currently reading, immerse me in the world of ancient Rome. The Man in 3B by Carl Webber was my turn into the world of intrigue and double cross.

Red Sparrow started off like a James Bond novel.  An American CIA agent setting up a clandestine meeting with a Soviet official.  He had spent time trying to become 'black'.  Not in the racial way.  Becoming black was an attempt to evade detection and surveillance.  In spite of Nate's ten hour exercise, the meeting was interrupted by a random sweep of street agents.  They had to do a quick exchange of information and the official, otherwise known as MARBLE, was able to evade detection.  Nate was almost plastered into a wall by a car but he made it to safety at the American Embassy.

One of my favorite characters in the book was Dominika.  She had an uncanny ability to detect peoples moods by seeing colors formed around their heads like a halo.  She was also able to relate to music in the same way.  Her father was a college professor and her mother was a professional musician who lost her career to a violent outburst against a colleague.  Dominika's dance career was sabotaged by a scheming classmate and she was recruited to the spy world by her uncle.  The threat of her mother losing a precious apartment was enough motivation for Dominika to accept her uncle's offer of employment.

Her first job involved sleeping with a billionaire who unfortunately had pissed off Vladimir Putin.  Yes, that Vladimir Putin.  She accomplished the task and the billionaire was murdered quickly.  In spite of her horror, she was now part of the machine.  She was sent to Sparrow School in anticipation of future assignments.  Sparrow School was another name for utilizing the art of seduction to obtain secrets.  The training was humiliating but single minded.  Use beauty to break down the defenses of unsuspecting, potential recruits.  Her beautiful eyes and dancer's body made her the perfect candidate.

Nate was the CIA agent who was her target.  They danced a dangerous dance of dating and seduction.  Meetings at the pool in Finland turned into dates at restaurants.  Their mutual admiration for each other delayed the process of turning each other for information.  Nate had a team of agents who did advance work on surveillance and trying to detect tails from Russian officials.  I can imagine that this type of fact finding still goes on.  The Russian informer eventually recruited Dominika to plan his exit strategy.  Fourteen years of spying had made him a little edgy and he feared the eventual mistake.  I won't reveal his fate in an attempt to encourage anyone reading this post to enjoy the book.

The U.S. dance with Russia now is based on their annexation of the Crimea region of the Ukraine and the recent invasion of this same country.  Vladimir Putin has brushed off sanctions and any perceived ostracism for this act of aggression against a sovereign nation.  I am imagining the behind the scene exchanges of information and espionage.  The situation in the Ukraine is especially challenging.  Russian speaking Ukrainians dealing with Russians.  Marriages that crossed ethnic lines being tested by the pressure from Mother Russia.  The fighting and blood shed are real.  The fiction expressed the Red Sparrow is the basis for real life conflict.  I still hope that the U.S. does not become overtly involved in this conflict.   

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