My version: Hardback
Genre: Fiction Spy, USA, Russia
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin Random House)
First published: 2015
From the cover:
A young woman is cornered on a deserted boulevard. Moments later she walks away leaving her assailant for dead.
An elderly man walks into the American embassy with a story to tell.
The most unlikely of traitors is uncovered by the most dangerous of men.
A brilliant, unorthodox CIA agent must single-handedly connect the dots to stop an intricate house of cards from toppling in a cold war that’s taken a terrifying new twist.
All in all, seen as a whole, this second volume in the Red Sparrow trilogy, is probably actually better than the first, Red Sparrow (surprisingly enough). It hangs together better and is more thrilling and has a depth the first one was only beginning to scratch at. He’s obviously settled into the writing now, and learned a lot about writing tension, plot and thrillers in general, from Red Sparrow and so this being a better book, is a gratifying surprise, being the follow up to a well-received, and filmed, first.
The recipes are back. If you thought you’d suffered enough ‘sautés’ this that and the other. Enough ‘mix aggressively’ – there’s even an ‘aggressively sauté’ ffs – ‘ garlic’ this, ‘marinate’ that, ‘slather’ the other and general “Really?! That, with cheese?! That’s not healthy, surely?!” general artery-hardening mismatched ingredients – think again. Is there anyone who doesn’t groan when they get to the end of the chapter and see another one? Does anyone not groan when during a chapter the characters eat something – or even just smell food in one instance – knowing there’s gonna be a bloody recipe? Does anyone try one of them? And live? Is there anyone who doesn’t skip over to get to the start of the next chapter, hoping that what happened hasn’t been destroyed in their memory by the bloody recipe. Does anyone know what the effing point of them is? The answer friends, isn’t blowin’ in the wind, the answer is “no!”
Why they’re there, I have no idea. Even I, in my copywriting days who have written enough bollocks about things I didn’t understand, can’t think of a rational explanation I could bullshit a boss with. Any explanation. There is none. Unless he’s deliberately trying to break/sabotage any rhythm, suspense, momentum, the preceding chapter might have built up. Sure, he’s got hold of the Charles Dickens-idea of ending the chapter on a high, but then he sticks a dead zone of a recipe in between any built-up excitement and his reader. And, because he’s painted himself into a corner with them, it’s now the recipes, the need for the characters to have something to do with food in the preceding chapter, that is driving a good half of the plot. Visits to restaurants when staying in would be the spy-sensible thing to do, serving food at meetings, having Putin offer cakes and whathaveyou at every opportunity. And Mr. Matthews must have bleedin’ shares in eggplant-growing companies.
Then there are the colours. They’re back too. For me, they’re in the same class as people dreaming of bad events and people, that just happened, the night after they happened and gaining plot-worth-changing information out of them. Doesn’t happen. And she not only sees, but talks to – and gets replies from – dead people. Enough said about that sort of nonsense the better.
Those things apart, as I said at the top, the book as a whole, is actually pretty good. Them both having affairs is a sure sign of style over content, but I’ll give him that. And, as he seems to have also read The Company, I’m warming to the whole idea, and actually thinking the final one, after razorblading the recipes out, might actually be well worth getting hold of.