Palace of Treason

Many former spies have turned to writing novels, most famously John Le Carré, but none has had a background that compares with Jason Matthews’ 33 years as a CIA officer serving in multiple hostile hotspots where capture meant prison or death. Now retired, Matthews has used his deep knowledge of tradecraft to write two harrowing novels—Palace of Treason and its predecessor, Red Sparrow—that are brilliantly authentic depictions of spying as it’s practiced today, in particular by the United States and Russia. At the heart of both novels is Dominika Egorova, a highly trained Russian spy who, disgusted by what Vladimir Putin and his thuggish cohort are doing to her country, becomes the most valuable American asset inside the Kremlin. She’s at great risk, even more so because she’s fallen in love with her CIA handler, Nathaniel Nash—a relationship that’s surprisingly believable. Less believable, now that terms like “black sites” have entered the lexicon, is Matthews’ depiction of his CIA agents—most of them, anyway—as enlightened do-gooders.