Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews, author; Jeremy Bobb, narrator Red Sparrow shines a light on the methods used by the American Intelligence Services and the Russian Intelligence Services. Nathan Nash and Dominika Egorova are agents working for their government's intelligence services in the interest of national security. Sometimes they are able to turn unsuspecting rubes into spies and traitors. Nate is American. Nate did not want to become part of the long list of lawyers in his family. He defied his father and went to work for the CIA. He became the handler of a Russian spy called Marble. Marble is a gentleman, soft-spoken and well mannered. He is a General, placed high up in the Russian government. He is part of the Russian Intelligence Service known as the SVR. He became disillusioned with his country when his wife was ill. When she was refused treatment outside of Russia, treatment that might have saved her life, he turned against his homeland and became a spy for the CIA. He did not like the direction his country was going in with Putin as its head. Putin is demanding and self absorbed. He expects his orders to be followed to the letter. Disobedience is not tolerated, nor is criticism or dissent. Dominika is Russian. She had adored her father, a professor. When he passed away, she and her mom had financial problems. Both her parents had encouraged her to think freely and follow her heart, but in Russia that was more easily said than done. In Russia, you followed the rules if you wanted to live. Her dad's brother, her Uncle Vanya, the Deputy Director of the SVR, offered her a job as his assistant. She had been a professional ballerina with a promising career. When she was deliberately injured, so severely that her ballet career was ended, she had no career, no financial support. Vanya was an evil man who was in charge of a branch of the Russian Intelligence Service that engaged in brutal methods of investigation and interrogation. Dominika had little choice, but to obey him. He said he would make sure her mother could stay in her home, receiving the same benefits as if her dad had not died. She told Vanya that she wanted to work in the service as an agent, not an administrative assistant. He was not happy; women were not recruited for that kind of job. Still, she convinced him to allow her to do so, and she did so well that she bested all of her competition. He plotted to betray her behind the scenes, and merely used her to his advantage. When her career was deliberately sabotaged again, Vanya forced her to go to Sparrow School, against her will. He promised to continue to take care of her mother if she went, otherwise, he could guarantee nothing. Sparrow School, however, was known by all to be a training ground for prostitutes. The women were looked down upon as they were trained to use their bodies and their wiles to set men up in honey traps in order to "persuade" them to be spies for Russia, or to get their secrets while they whispered in each other's ears in intimate moments. Sometimes they were unaware that they were betraying their own country. As time passed, the more that Russia betrayed her, the more she wanted to betray Russia. Marble, the double agent handled by Nash, becomes somewhat of a mentor for her, especially when she is assigned a job with him. Neither knows the other is a double agent, at first. Dominika has synesthesia and she sees Marble with a calm purple halo. She trus ts him. Dominika is assigned to discover the name of the high level Russian spy that Nate is handling. She sees Nate with the same purple halo around him. It signifies his basic goodness, his honesty and lack of deception when he communicates with her. Her goals become conflicted. At this same time, Nate is assigned to try and turn her into a spy for America; so both of them are working each other without realizing it. Dominika is known as the Diva. Both Nate and Dominika are really attracted to each other, but their cat and mouse game, seeking to find out what each was doing, prevented them from fully realizing their feelings until Dominika grew truly disgusted with the way her country was treating her. To Nate's surprise, she reveals her job to him. She works with the Russian SVR, the feared secret intelligence arm of the government. The novel reveals the brutal nature of the Russian intelligentsia as well as the sometimes callous way the CIA treats its informants. Often, different branches of the services work against each other. The ends seems to justify their means. There are well placed influential spies in both Russia and America. There are no shortages of traitors on both sides. In Russia, though, the mere suspicion of guilt exposes the subject to torture until a confession is given. There is no presumption of innocence. The treatment of prisoners by sadistic guards and interrogators is barbaric. The book is long and sometimes there is too much dialogue, but overall, it is exciting, and it holds the reader's interest. It certainly kept me wanting more. Several of the characters really appreciated good food, and at the end of each chapter, a brief description of a delicious sounding recipe is provided. The narrator does a very good job delineating each character and the author , a former CIA agent, has identified each so well that recognizing them when they speak is not difficult. The part that is confusing is trying to keep track of them, because there are many. This was the first in a series of three books and I am looking forward to the second and third.