Scribner/Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 468 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-9374-0
Is there any doubt amongst well-informed people, that the tectonic plates of government spheres of influence are being shifted these days in ways we couldn’t even imagine as little as twenty-five years ago? Would you have thought for example, back in 1990 when the Soviet Union was collapsing and the U.S. led coalition was busy kicking Sudan Hussein out of Kuwait, that by the year 2015 a resurgent Russia would be superseding America in critical areas of the globe as the dominant world power? Or that we would be smack-dab in the middle of an emerging cold war, vying for world hegemony with a renewed sense of urgency . . . because the potential for a nuclear catastrophe is growing exponentially as more nations, some of whom are politically unstable, or run by fanatical regimes join what is ruefully called a Club? . . . meaning of course, the nations who possess nuclear weapons. It’s the kind of conflict that makes for the absolute best spy yarns . . . those which are based in fact and take place on a world stage while civilization itself teeters on the edge of destruction. MBR No. 220 covers just such a novel. It rings with veracity and authenticity because the author was a real-life, card-carrying CIA case officer for more than thirty years, working in denied-access areas of the world such as Russia, eastern Europe and the Middle East. He’s retired now and has turned his hand to writing novels about the clandestine services. Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews Edgar Award winning debut novel, electrified readers and hit the New York Times best seller list a little less than a year ago. It featured a brave and fearless woman espionage agent named Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) and American CIA agent Nate Nash in a classic spy novel that left readers wiping sweat from their faces and begging for more. I’m happy to say our wishes have been granted.
Palace of Treason, by Jason Matthews is now out and continues the story, picking up where the first novel ended. Egorova, now promoted to captain in the SVR, has been incommunicado for nearly a year. Nash, stationed in Athens, Greece, doesn’t know if she’s alive or dead. But Dominika is not only healthy and well . . . she’s come to the attention of President Putin himself . . . which has put her in conflict with a sadistic, jealous and sociopathic SVR colonel who’s bent on destroying her. He’s obsessed, hunting for the mole he thinks is giving away state secrets, but hasn’t been able to catch, and believes is Dominika Egorova. The tension begins in the first chapter and never lets up, intensifying with each new revelation. The plot is serpentine, the tradecraft exact and the action non-stop—with treachery, double-agents, mole hunts, sex, danger, venality, double-crosses and gunfights enough to make Palace of Treason stand as an equal to any of the greatest spy yarns ever written. Huge praise indeed, but it’s so well done I doubt that anyone will be able to stop reading once they get to the last seventy-five pages. Jason Matthews will soon be recognized as one of the greatest thriller writers ever. He’s that good!