Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Palace of Treason, by Jason Matthews

The best spy novel I've read in decades. Instead of relying on a hero's absurd capabilities or connections, or on unbelievable plot bridges, Mr. Matthews wrote an intelligent and captivating story. There's terrific character development and well paced suspense.

The stars of the book are CIA agent Nate Nash and his covert spy, Russian Intelligence Service's Dominika Egorova. Apparently there's a prior novel with the back story on Egorova and Nash, but not having read it did not get in my way at all. Egorova hates the kleptocracy of modern Russia, and has no issue revealing secrets to the US. Many of the Russian characters are portrayed as pigs, and many of the CIA brass are also portrayed as incompetent fools who are in place only due to political reasons. There are heroes on both sides; Mr. Matthews takes shots at Russia's leadership and crooked oligarchy, but not its people.

(Probably a Russian novelist could draw the same dreary picture of US Congressmen in the pockets of their lobbyists and PACs, or awkwardly crooked deals like the President's placement of the former attorney for the railroad industry as the head of the Federal Railroad Administration... but I digress.)

There is ample suspense. It is quite difficult to put down, so I recommend allocating a long session to read the book through.

With the right handling, this would make a terrific movie.

Palace of Treason: A Novel

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