(34. – 964.) The Kremlin’s Candidate by Jason Matthews – Can Russia get a mole appointed director of the CIA? An implausible premise has become frightenly realistic in the past two years.
At the same time could the CIA get a mole chosen to lead a Russian intelligence agency? I find it no more incredible than the Russian gambit.
Matthews, in the concluding volume of the Red Sparrow trilogy, has the U.S. and Russia each with a highly placed mole within the other nation.
The Russian’s code name for their American mole is MAGNIT.
The Americans identify Dominka Egorova as DIVA.
Egorova, as beautiful and tempestuous as she was in the first two volumes, has despite the chauvinism of Russian intelligence agencies continued to be promoted and is now a senior officer in the SVR. Her career has been boosted by the personal interest taken in her by President Putin. The CIA loves the information she provides but are uneasy she will be unmasked as a mole.
While Putin plays a lesser role than in Palace of Treason, the second in the series, Egorova anticipates Putin’s personal interest in her career is expanding to a personal interest in her.
Matthews continues to directly disparage Putin by name. After Palace of Treason drew no defamation action I expect Matthews and the publishers concluded the Russian President would not sue them.
Some years ago in Russia Egorova, using her Sparrow sexual skills, aided in the recruitment of Audrey Rowland, when she was a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the American navy. Rowland has benefited from the efforts of America’s military to become less chauvinist. She has been rapidly promoted in the Navy and is now a rear admiral. Egorova has no idea that Rowland has become the most valuable asset of Russian intelligence.
With each nation constantly searching for moles which nation’s mole will be the first to uncover the other’s mole.
Each nation’s intelligence leadership eagerly awaits the promotion of their respective mole to a position where they can reveal moles in the other nation.
At the same time, contrary to all logic but that of thrillers Egorova and Nate Nash of the CIA remain lovers. The beautiful Russian and the handsome American have a Hollywood appeal though the movie, Red Sparrow, was as set out in Wikipedia, a “modest box-office success”.
Nash remains a field officer in the CIA. He dreads becoming an administrator.
For some reason the focus of the plot shifts from the competing mole hunts to exploits of Egorova and Nash. They are well done espionage schemes but most are little connected to the primary plot.
Could it because of a reluctance to show the successes of a Russian mole in Washington?
It is a rare American in the book who is not good, let alone evil, and even rarer for a Russian character not to be bad.
Egorova and Nash are more complex characters in this volume of the trilogy. I wish the secondary characters were more dimensional.
There is one fascinating subplot. Nash is sent on a false flag initiative to attempt to recruit a Chinese general for the CIA. Using his Russian language skills he pretends to be a Russian agent recruiting the general to provide secrets to Russia. The Chinese intelligence services, hearing hints of the recruitment, invite Egorova to advise them in their efforts to gain from Nash the identity of their traitor. Adding a further layer of intrigue is that the Chinese are using their equivalent of the Russian Sparrow. Such Chinese agents are known by the highly descriptive title of a “poison-feather bird”.
Tension builds but not with equal intensity in the respective nations as the Russians and their mole do not know there is a mole within Russia hunting the American mole.
The plotting on both sides becomes more ruthless as the hunts close in.
Hollywood will never replicate the ending in any movie. I found the conclusion moving, not a common experience in a spy novel. Subtlety is appreciated in an American thriller.
****Matthews, Jason - (2013) - Red Sparrow and Recipes and Menus in Spy Thrillers; (2015) - Palace of Treason and Vladimir Putin in Spy Fiction and Libel (Part I and Part II and Part III)