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Red Sparrow Trilogy #3

The Kremlin's Candidate

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The “exciting conclusion” (Entertainment Weekly) in the New York Times bestselling Red Sparrow Trilogy has Russian counterintelligence chief Dominika Egorova and her lover, CIA agent Nate Nash, on the hunt for a Russian agent working in the US government.

With a plot ripped from tomorrow’s headlines, Jason Matthews is “one of America’s most readable spy novelists” (The Washington Post Book World), and his high-powered, seductive third novel not only continues the dangerous entanglements of Dominika and Nate but reveals with chilling authenticity how Russian espionage can place agents in the most sensitive positions of power. The Kremlin’s Candidate opens with Russian president Vladimir Putin planning the covert assassination of a high-ranking US official with the intention of replacing him with a mole whom Russian intelligence has cultivated for more than fifteen years.

Catching wind of this plot, Dominika, Nate, and their CIA colleagues must unmask the traitor before he or she is able to reveal that Dominika has been spying for years on behalf of the CIA. Any leak, any misstep, will expose her as a CIA asset and result in a one-way trip to a Moscow execution cellar. Ultimately, the lines of danger converge on the spectacular billion-dollar presidential palace on the Black Sea during a power weekend with Putin’s inner circle. Does Nate sacrifice himself to save Dominika? Does Dominika forfeit herself to protect Nate? Do they go down together?

This dazzling finale to Jason Matthews’s New York Times bestselling Red Sparrow Trilogy “delivers a wallop on all fronts, from adrenaline-charged action to dark political intrigue to gripping emotional stakes…Readers will finish the book, but their memories of Matthews’s brilliant and fearless heroine will linger well past the final page” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review). The Kremlin’s Candidate is “a stellar conclusion…racing to a heart-pounding and unexpected resolution” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

435 pages, Hardcover

First published February 13, 2018

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About the author

Jason Matthews

10 books1,564 followers
Librarian's note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Jason Matthews is a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. Over a thirty-three-year career he served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in clandestine collection of national security intelligence, specializing in denied-area operations. Matthews conducted recruitment operations against Soviet–East European, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean targets. As Chief in various CIA Stations, he collaborated with foreign partners in counterproliferation and counterterrorism operations. He lives in Southern California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,218 reviews
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
794 reviews12.4k followers
February 28, 2018
4.5 stars

The final book in the Red Sparrow trilogy is intricately plotted, packed with tension, and filled with twists and turns. I am sad this series is over, but the good news is that it ends on a solid note!

Numerous individuals are trying to promote Putin’s agenda, while the CIA crew of Forsyth, Benford, and Gable work to take him down. Dominika and Nate fight to be together, but as always there are competing forces in their way. Do they serve their countries or give up everything to be together? There’s also a host of new characters, some of whom interfere in Nate and Dominika’s relationship in unexpected ways. So much happens in The Kremlin’s Candidate that I am not even going to attempt to recap!

When I first started reading this installment, I had a moment where I wondered if I was going to get through it. It’s very long and at times the CIA operational jargon went straight over my head. I feel like some parts could have been edited out. However, once I reached the 20% mark, I hit a groove and remembered just how much I enjoyed reading this series!

I didn’t love the ending, but at the same time I knew it was coming. There are some extremely violent moments and some events are hard to read. I didn’t realize how much I will miss these characters until I finished reading; I had tears in my eyes when I read the last page. I highly recommend this series if you like espionage, romance, intrigue, and current events.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Scribner in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for ChopinFC.
269 reviews74 followers
March 8, 2018
Boy this book pissed me off at so many levels!!

I guess I've yet to encounter a book/trilogy that profoundly disappointed me as much as this.
Based on the current 'Hollywood' "Red Sparrow' movie in theaters, the book continues the saga between Dominika a Russian operative and Nate, a CIA operative who fall in love and spend the best part of 3 books reconnecting in high secretive spy missions, etc.
I swear this last book was the best by far, I was close to giving it a 5 stars...until the author Matthews fucked it up!!! Bastard. That's all I'm saying without giving any spoilers.
Maybe I'll switch my opinion in the future. But I feel robbed of investing time and effort on all 3 books to have such a disappointing and mediocre ending.

1 star
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,606 reviews24.8k followers
May 24, 2018
Ex-CIA man Jason Matthews brings his considerable experience and expertise to this final part of the Red Sparrow trilogy, lending it an air of real authenticity in its echoes of events in our contemporary world. CIA agent, Nathan and Russian ex-ballerina, Dominika, return for the last time with the lovers facing the gravest of dangers in a setting that moves from one colourful location to another, including Moscow, New York, Sudan, Hong Kong and Turkey. Putin himself plays a critical, at times a humorous, starring role in the novel. The Russians have ambitions to replace the murdered head of the CIA with their own carefully cultivated agent, this sparks a desperate investigation to identify who the mole might be. Should the Russians be successful then CIA assets will be exposed, including Dominika, and become targets to be eliminated. This is a intense, suspenseful and thrilling tale of politics, high intrigue, the deadly repercussions of being involved in espionage, romance, cold blooded killers, all leading to a violent and harrowing finale. One of the highlights of this book are the insights it offers into the American and Russian intelligence agencies and how they work. I found this an entertaining and absorbing read although I felt a little disappointed with the ending. Many thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph for an ARC.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,730 reviews12.8k followers
June 14, 2018
In this, the final novel in a high-impact trilogy, Jason Matthews seeks to take the story in a new and interesting direction, while tying up some loose ends and leaving others to dangle without resolution. Dominika Egorova remains a highly-placed mole in the Russian Government, having climbed the ladder within the SVR and rumoured to be the next director. In an early chapter flashback, Dominika remembers using her wiles and other newly honed ‘Sparrow’ assets, and has been able to secure a mid-ranking female US Navy official, which could prove highly useful in the years to come. In the present, Dominika has been able to work with a North Korean nuclear scientist who has admitted that the country is on the verge of creating the necessary weapon to wipe the United States off the map. While conferring with others inside the Russian Intelligence inner circle, as well as President Putin, Dominika learns that her long-ago victim of sexpionage may hold a larger role in the overall Russian plot to bring down their former Cold War enemy, having sold this nuclear technology to the North Koreans. For the time being, it’s all about silently waiting, hoping to learn enough to send along to her CIA handler, Nate Nash in order to prepare for the worst. Dominika agrees to make a covert trip to America, where she can hopefully identify the mole’s Russian handler and allow Nate to extinguish that asset. Worried that Nate might be getting too involved in Dominika’s missions, he is sent to an obsolete American Embassy, only to realize that the Russians are wreaking havoc in an attempt to send a message and locate him through back channels. This serves only to strengthen Nate’s willingness to bring the Russian Intelligence community to the ground, through Dominika’s deception. Having curried enough favour with Putin, Dominika is handed the directorship of the SVR, but cannot shake that someone may be keeping a close eye on her. She is put in a precarious position when approached by a Russian ally, one that could place Nate in the crosshairs of a kill order that cannot be neutralized without compromising her own status. The chase is on to remove the Russian mole, who is positioning herself to be named into the American president’s Cabinet, where there is no end to the secrets she will be able to ship back to Russia, thereby leaving the country open for destruction. Nate has been able to remain one step ahead, but luck is finite and Dominika can only do so much! Another brilliant novel that furthers the complex espionage that Matthews has come to make all his own. A trilogy that impresses many, especially those who love a traditional novel of spy games, with an ending that is second to none. Highly recommended to those with the patience and interest in deep-rooted spy novels, à la John Le Carré!

I started this trilogy just over a week ago because of all the hype it was getting online. It was a slow start, but I had to remind myself that I am not one who normally reads well-crafted spy novels, which seek to forego the superficial banter and develop over time, enriching the reading experience. This novel offers a thorough review of the information to date and provides the reader with an impactful culmination of all in a high-stakes game of spying and trying to destroy the enemy. Nate Nash and Dominika Egorova may come from different spheres but their dedication cannot be discounted, especially towards the latter chapters of this book. Matthews offers up the most intense and impactful Nash yet, as he tries to get the Russians to come to their knees and lose everything, though that is surely not done in a single act. Matthews adds the complexities of Nash’s inability to treat Dominika simply as a mole and someone who is going to help bring Putin’s tsar-lifestyle to an end. Dominika’s secret synesthesia continues as an integral part of her character and is used throughout the narrative quite effectively, especially to allow the reader to better understand the emotional banter taking place in a realm (espionage) where the players remain neutral. Dominika’s struggle both to stay alive and to resurrect her ‘Sparrow’ persona with Putin creates a worrisome connection that could backfire at any moment. Matthews personalises the story by filling the narrative with his own experiences within the CIA. The reader can feast on a methodical understanding of the world of espionage with results dependent on the risks undertaken. Extensive mention of cultural dishes throughout the piece is complemented by Matthew’s addition of basic recipes embedded at the end of each chapter, which has been a central part of all three novels. Lighter fare in a novel full of dark plot development. I know this was a trilogy and the end has come, but I hope Matthews has more up his sleeve. Trust me, once you read these books, you will as well!

Kudos, Mr. Matthews, for another stellar novel. This series has won me over and I hope to spread the word to anyone who will listen.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
2 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2018
In my opinion, a five-star series with a one-star conclusion. I absolutely hated the ending - some may love it, some may say it's more realistic as to what really happens in the world of the CIA. That's probably true, but still, I hated the way it ended. The first two books I put up there as among the very best I ever read - but the ending of this book, well, I wish I would've stopped and pretended it didn't happen. I am very curious to see how others liked the ending - and I know I shouldn't let the ending color my whole perspective of the book. It does have excellent qualities, but for me, it is hard to separate those from the ending pages.
Profile Image for Tim.
2,133 reviews200 followers
March 28, 2019
I can't comment without providing spoilers, so just saying hoped the ending would be better. 6 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Christine.
831 reviews148 followers
January 28, 2018
The Kremlin’s Candidate concludes the fabulous Red Sparrow spy trilogy. I have spent the last week in the company of Nate and Dominika, slowly falling in love with this complex and global tale of espionage. Red Sparrow and Palace of Treason must be read before The Kremlin’s Candidate. They all follow on beautifully from each other and establish a base of characters in the Russian intelligence service and the American CIA.

I must admit that I feel sad to leave Nate and Dominika. I started The Kremlin’s Candidate with a sense of terrible anticipation. If anything, we learning that the spying game has deadly consequences. We know that spies have a limited shelf life. We know that the chances of death in service, as a spy, are high. I had a feeling that our heroic pair would be in for one final emotional and bumpy ride. I was right.

To recap, we first met Dominika back in The Red Sparrow. Dominika is the star of the trilogy. She is the strongest character and a total kick ass woman. She will kill and seduce. She has risen from ballerina to rising star in the Kremlin, with the eyes of President Putin upon her. She was sent to Sparrow School by her uncle, to learn the dark art of seduction. Sparrow School is the key to Dominika’s recruitment as a CIA asset, a double agent. Dominika was sent to seduce a young CIA agent, Nate. This did not go to plan. They fell into bed and in love. Dominika became one of the most important CIA assets, as she was promoted within the SRA. Over the years, Nate and Dominika have shared valuable information and met, on an irregular basis, renewing their love affair.

The story starts with the recruitment of a SRA asset with the involvement of Dominika, as a young sexually alluring Sparrow. This all happened many years ago. The effects are felt in the present day. The CIA head is murdered. Will the Russians get their way and get their mole into a position of great power? Failure will lead to CIA assets, like Dominika, being uncovered and destroyed. At the same time, Dominika is getting closer to Putin and his circle of power. This is dangerous. Putin has seen all of her Sparrow videos and wants to control her sexually. Nate finds himself in the Chinese Hong Kong, recruiting a new asset and trying to stay out of trouble. Events quickly conspire against Nate and Dominika. I really cannot say any more about the story and how it progresses. Be prepared for anything. Trust no one. This is not happily ever after land.

One of the funniest aspects of The Kremlin’s Candidate is the depiction of Putin. Putin feels very real as man desperate to hold onto power. I found it hilarious, when we were given the big Sparrow seduction scene. Shame there was no mention of a tiny penis or performance issues. They were expected. Matthews should send Putin a signed copy of his book. I am sure it would be appreciated.

I loved The Kremlin’s Candidate. It is modern. It is entertaining. It thrills. It raises the heart beat. I wept. I wanted more. Fans of espionage drama, you will not be disappointed.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Cori.
813 reviews139 followers
September 13, 2019
A brief synopsis of this trilogy:

Everyone: "No, Dominika!"
Dominika: "Yes, Dominika!"
Everyone: "Okay, Dominika."

In the spirit of the books, I'm just gonna go balls-to-wall right off the bat with this review (heh-heh!).

Pros: Jason Matthews is ex-CIA, and I honestly felt like this trilogy gave a behind the scenes peek at the inner workings of the CIA and Russian intelligence/counter-intelligence agencies. I ate the crap up, let me tell you. I feel like I have the edge on Russia. I know their game. And I can never look at Putin's doughy face the same way, that's for darn sure. This genre isn't my comfort zone, so maybe that's coloring my view of the plot (since I don't have a lot of prior material to reference in this area), but I thought it was original and well done. The accuracy breathed off the pages. The reader is invested and wants to know what happened to the characters, while wading through a lot of work to get there. Which leads into the cons...

(said) Cons: The lazy side of me is glad they're over! Holay. Molay. I can rip through books like no one's business, but these. Were. Hard. Work. To maintain focus. Unless this is your field, I have a feeling anyone reading these books could start to feel like they were a lot of work. This series serves up a hearty helping of alphabet soup- so many acronyms. The terminology had me flipping back the pages a few times trying to remember what that meant again? Which is fine. I wanted to challenge my comfort zone, and that mission was accomplished without sacrificing a great plot or characters. One thing I didn't care for on a personal level was Nate [see also: Neyt, Nash, and that-guy-who-always-has-an-excuse-to-screw-the-girl-at-his-work] and his proclivity towards infidelity. We get it. Your tortured and horny. But for all your supposed love for Dominika, you certainly don't seem to have an issue making rounds at the office. It kind of started to feel like Matthews was looking for any corner of the plot to squeeze in another steamy scene. Which wasn't actually necessary in a book all about honey-traps and Sparrows. But hey, what did I expect? I mean...Domi did too, but that was somewhat to be expected given her profession...

And honestly, the ending felt entirely appropriate to me. Without spoilers, anyone who's read these obviously knows only one of two endings were possible, so I don't know why people are FREAKING OUT. AHHHH! LOUDNOISES!! Personally, given what the other ending would have had to have been, I was satisfied with how it left off. I would actually give the last third of the book a four star rating.

In conclusion, it deserves a higher rating, but I'm giving it a 3.5 for how hard I had to work to get through the series and the fact NEYT couldn't keep it in his pants for two seconds. He wasn't supposed to be the Sparrow. Yet he was like the male equivalent of a Sparrow in America. Bald eagle? *snicker* That'll work.

I'd rate this book an R for violence and gore, thematic elements, swearing, scenes of torture, and sex. Not for young readers. Or tender adults either.

EDIT: Here I am a year later coming back to edit this review. I woke up at 7 a.m. thinking about the ending, and I have to say I feel like this is one of the best surprise endings I've come across. It comes with a lot of controversy, but the longer I think about it the more I love it. Good call on the author's part.
Profile Image for kartik narayanan.
735 reviews205 followers
March 15, 2018
Read the review of the Red Sparrow Trilogy at my blog

The Kremlin's Candidate is an excellent conclusion to the Red Sparrow Trilogy. It has a great story, intricate plotting and an ending that will stay with you long after the book is over.

Without getting too much into spoiler territory, let me just that The Kremlin's Candidate is an exploration of the various themes that pertain to Dominika - her upbringing, Sparrow school, her rise in the SVR - from other spy agencies' perspectives. Her character development is also brilliant.

The book is good till the final act and the climax catapults it into greatness category. I found the ending to be almost Le Carre-like. It is realistic, brutal and essentially, the world moves on.
468 reviews24 followers
January 19, 2018
I put this book down with great regret and - without giving away any spoilers - not a few tears as well.

This is the final part of the great trilogy of novels relating the relationship between Nate (or Neyt), Nash and Colonel Dominika Egorova, the FSB Counter Intelligence chief who has been a CIA asset for many years.

The author's working knowledge of the espionage game is again apparent and shines through and the book is relentless in its excitement but is also sensitive in the way it portrays human emotions and relationships as well as the in-fighting, jealousies and backbiting within the top echelons of the respective intelligence services.

As always there is a mole to discover and neutralise before he or she can reveal Domenika's true identity to her colleagues and the denouement is taken to the wire.

It could work as a standalone read but why deny yourself the pleasure and relentless rollercoaster excitement of the two previous books in the series? Take my advice and start with Red Sparrow first, follow it up with Palace of Treason before tacking The Kremlin's Candidate.

I am an avid reader of spy thrillers and this is one of the best books in this genre that I have been fortunate enough to read.

Profile Image for Nick Sanders.
468 reviews5 followers
April 22, 2018
Not out with a bang, but with a whimper.... After two thrilling parts of the trilogy, the third part is a vast disappointment. It's written as if Matthews had a thesaurus for breakfast each morning, and the plot develops in an alarmingly predictable way. And then, in just a few pages, it ends. Disappointingly, I must say.

What a pity.....
Profile Image for RoseMary Achey.
1,357 reviews
March 3, 2018
There seemed to be a good deal of superfluous material that slowed or bogged down this read. The story had an engaging plot and I enjoyed reading about the internal workings of US and Russian counter intelligence agencies.
Profile Image for Barry.
364 reviews59 followers
August 6, 2018
The Kremlin's Candidate, which is the last of a trilogy by Jason Matthews, continues the story of the contest to outdo one another by the CIA and the Russian successors to the Soviet KGB. Since Matthews goes to great lengths to fill in the back story one needn't read all three books BUT you would be missing a great treat if you only read the latest.

Matthews does a fabulous job in creating and developing truly memorable characters, both American and Russian. I will never forget some of them and, in fact, they were developed so beautifully that I pictured, in my mind's eye, not just their appearance, but also their way of speaking, moving and emoting. I haven't seen the movie that was made of the first first, Red Sparrow, but I will be very disappointed when I see and someone other than Lewis Black plays Benford!

Each of the intelligence services has crafted and is executing a plan to place a mole (no, no, not the little furry one) in a high level position of the other service. The plans are well crafted and have been put in places many years ago and, for all intent and purpose, seem to be working well. The problem is that when each achieves the next position, the other's identity will become evident.

Lots of cleverness, violence, lovemaking, ingratitude, conspiracy, collusion and other multi-syllabic things are woven together to create a truly compelling story. In fact, I stayed up until past 5:00 AM to finish it.

I do have a complaint about something that I do not believe Matthews did in either of the preceding books. Either he wrote the book with his thesaurus in hand and, in doing so, found the most obscure words imaginable or he has a massive vocabulary and was determined to make sure that the reader knew that. My own vocabulary isn't gargantuan by any means also it is none too shabby either. I read quite a bit and have several degrees, one of which is a doctorate but I constantly had to look up the meanings of words that I had either not encountered before or whose meaning I couldn't remember. Edwin Newman would have hated the book. I found this self-aggrandizing behavior sufficiently annoying that I gave the book only four stars. That'll teach Matthews to our vocabularize me!!
Profile Image for Kristine.
2,376 reviews28 followers
February 18, 2018
I"M ANGRY! I even read the reviews before I started this last book, there were no warnings. I would have been perfectly happy to stop at the second book. There was no warning with the direction that this book was going to go.

Not cool.
Profile Image for Scott.
425 reviews48 followers
September 13, 2018
“The Kremlin’s Candidate” is the third book in the highly regarded Red Sparrow spy and espionage trilogy by Jason Matthews, a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. He completed the trilogy earlier this year along with the release of the first one as a major Hollywood movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton in the lead roles. Coming into this read I also was made aware of some warnings that as amazing as the first two books were, there would be some disappointment with the third one. I’ll deal with those thoughts later in the review.

The first book, “Red Sparrow”, tells a post-cold war story seen through the eyes of two characters – Dominika Egorova and National Nash – who are forced together by their opposing governments. Dominika is a Russian state intelligence officer. Nash is an American CIA officer who handles Russian intelligence, including the most valuable mole the U.S. has ever had in Moscow. The story moves back and forth between them, as their governments engage in high espionage games of one upsmanship, as well and back and forth between the past and present to reveal how their pasts have brought them to the front lines of deadly operations between Moscow and Washington, DC.

The second book, “Palace of Treason”, picks up several months following the previous book, with Captain Dominika Egorova returning to Russia and the Russian Intelligence Services (SVR) shaken up by personal loss. Whether or not she will spy for the Americans anymore is up in the air. Dominika is faced with new challenges including the extra attention she is gaining from Russian President Putin and various political members of his cabinet. Even more dangerous is her new line boss, Colonel Alexei Zyuganov, an evil man trying to climb the Kremlin chain of power. While Dominika fights through her challenges, Nate Nash, her love and CIA handler, is also dealing with his own. He is assigned another mole. This time it’s an angry old Russian general who doesn’t like the new Putin leadership and wants to share all that he can, but only on his terms.

“The Kremlin’s Candidate” picks up about 18 months following the previous book, when Russian President Vladimir Putin himself plans the secret assassination of high-ranking U.S. government official that will be replaced by a mole that Russian Intelligence Services (SVR) has prepared and groomed for this mission for twelve years. When Dominika Egorova and National Nash discover this plot, their CIA team must find out the identity of the mole before he or she finds out that Dominika has been spying for years on behalf of the CIA. Any mistake or misstep will expose her as a traitor and the outcome would be a one-way trip to Moscow’s famous interrogation and torture chamber.

Like the previous books, the story unfolds in waves that build to several crescendos throughout, leading to a confrontational climax at the Russian President’s presidential palace during a political celebration of Putin’s inner circle of leaders. Matthews introduces new characters, including an American military officer spying for the Russians closing in on Dominika’s identity, a retired U.S. field agent pulled back into duty trying to save both Dominika and Nash, and a Chinese female assassin assigned to interrogate and kill Nash. The story hits several high moments along the way, although it seems to take a bit longer to set up the transitions between locations and missions than the previous books.

For the most part, Matthews continues his incredibly ability of blending his characters, plotting, and locations together into an artistic tapestry. Like the previous books, he exudes the style and feeling of a great John Le Carre spy thriller. It has the descriptive international flavor and sense of the classic Ian Fleming. And it has the crisp beauty of flawless storytelling that often reminds me of John Grisham. However, Matthews is not your semi-clean Grisham storyteller. Matthews is more like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones view – a revealing look at the underbelly of real-world government and back-street politics in the new cold war era. Matthews world is raw, violent, sensuous, provocative, and full of intellectual gamesmanship. He relies on his unique background and experience as an ex-CIA agent to share a spy story in a special way that makes you feel like you are there and intimately involved with Dominika and Nash’s story.

The first two books were some of the most excellent reads I have ever enjoyed. That’s saying a lot because I have read a lot of mystery / suspense/ thrillers over the years. Those two books easily belong at the top of that list. They were the kind of books where you stay up late and skip whatever you had planned to just escape with an excellent book. I can’t remember having this tingling feeling since reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and becoming acquainted with Lisbeth Salander, one of the most unique literary characters ever created. Dominika and Nash were that kind of story.

This third and final book in the trilogy continued a lot of those same excellent qualities. But it also included a couple of surprises. Two primary plot twists – one somewhere near the middle of the book and the other at the end – surprised and bothered me. My guess is they will cause the same reactions in others. I will not give away any crucial plotline details in my reviews. Spoiler free is my philosophy. The first plot twist was rather a wasted action that ruined some things for me and didn’t help to propel the plot forward. However, the second one left me with a high level of emotional impact. It was not something I saw coming nor expected. I even spent most of last night (after finishing the book) pondering my feelings about it and whether I agreed it was the right thing for Matthews to do. I have seen a variety of reactions on the bulletin boards ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. I will leave each reader to decide his or her own thoughts and feelings. Either way, it was a strong ending that will leave the reader reflecting for months to come.

Overall, this book is almost as awesome as the first two. Although it comes up a bit short, I absolutely think it is worthy of a 4.5-star rating. For me, the “Red Sparrow” trilogy delivered a uniquely classic spy story in the best ways possible. Thank you -Jason Matthews - for writing it…
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,225 reviews212 followers
December 7, 2020
The final book in the Red Sparrow trilogy kicks it up a notch with both the Americans and Russians racing to uncover spies at their highest levels of government.
Job prospects are looking up for Dominika as Putin grooms her to be next head of SVR, the Russian equivalent of the CIA, and looks forward as well to establishing intimate ties with the former red sparrow. In the process of being vetted for her new role Dominika learns that a Russian mole known as MAGNIT is on a short list of candidates for next Directorship of the CIA. Irascible Simon Benford the senior Headquarters officer is tasked with providing briefings including a list of American assets abroad to each of three candidates, assets which includes their most prized spy Dominika code name: DIVA. As time runs out the CIA team cooks up a labyrinthine operation that will put both Dominika and Nate's lives at risk.
At this point I have to add that the CIA never lets a good metaphor go down the toilet. Be prepared for a few eye-rolls and chuckles. I thought that the plot careened out of control at times and seemed a tad unrealistic, but rooting for the prickly CIA crew, Nate and Dominika made this a page turner. If you are a fan of the first two books then don't miss this heart-stopping, conclusion. It will leave you breathless!
-Amy O.
Profile Image for Pamela Small.
430 reviews36 followers
September 11, 2022
The Kremlin’s Candidate is the final installment in The Red Sparrow Trilogy….how I am going to miss these richly drawn, multi-dimensional characters! I savored every word!

The Red Sparrow trilogy depicts 21st century spy craft in all its intrigue, dangers, and suspense. All the scenarios ring true ( even Russia’s ploy to cause disruption and chaos in elections)! The author has nailed it!

This series is complex; the language and vocabulary is complex. Yet, if you enjoy a deeply intriguing spy story with espionage, chills and thrills, it is a must read. A compelling read indeed! I was engaged with the characters and immersed in the storyline. Mr. Matthews is a superb author with his ability to elicit such an emotional response. It was a sad yet satisfactory, realistic ending.

Kudos to Mr. Matthews! My regret: the series has ended! I will not soon forget these characters you have brought to life and the political scenarios that are so true in “real” life.
Profile Image for Lacey.
209 reviews343 followers
January 21, 2021
I'm giving back the fifth star because enough time has passed that I can finally think about the ending without feeling entirely hopeless and wanting to scream until my voice gives out. This book (and this series as a whole) deserves no less. Besides, the only reason I didn't give it five stars from the start was that I was pissed off about the ending and felt like being a petty-ass bitch.
Profile Image for Jill Mackin.
345 reviews159 followers
May 29, 2018
Definitely a great CIA/FSB thriller. You can certainly tell it was written by a former CIA Operations officer. Lots of twists and turns.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,371 reviews920 followers
April 19, 2018
“The tenets of espionage were immutable—go forth and steal secrets—but technology was changing the Game.”

In The Kremlin’s Candidate, the race is on to identify the Russian spy who is one of three individuals currently in the running to become the next CIA director. This was hands down my favorite plot line of the trilogy and is by far the most thrilling in how Matthews brought everything full circle. Retelling Dominika’s time when she was still just a Sparrow, she was instructed to compromise U.S. Navy lieutenant Audrey Rowland and get her to agree to work with the Russians back in 2005. The mission was a success and Audrey’s been feeding information to them ever since. Flash forward back to the present, Audrey is in place to become the next CIA director and if she gains that position, she’ll be able to obtain the name of the Russian mole, Diva, who she knows intimately well as Dominika Egorova.

Matthews doesn’t settle for that one, immense plot, unfortunately, and it ends up far more convoluted than necessary. In addition to American and Russian spies, North Korean and Chinese spies are also thrown into the mix. There’s even mention of the Chinese version of the Russian “Sparrow” and while I understand we’ve been drilled on assassin and seductresses going hand in hand for three novels, this bit of added detail came off as cheesy more than anything. Sections certainly could have been omitted for a more streamlined story. The build-up to the grand finale does, in retrospect, feel like something I should have anticipated but it still managed to astonish. A lot of the details makes you question whether Matthews is including his actual knowledge from his own personal spying days, or if it’s simply randomly added detail. Either way, it was most convincing. This is the third and final story of the Red Sparrow trilogy and while it is obvious that Matthews has developed a formula by this point, it doesn’t matter, because it’s exciting and it works. In looking back on the near 60 hours I spent listening to the ordeals of Dominika Egorova and Nathaniel Nash, it was easy to lose yourself in the intricate web of the spy world. It was a most enjoyable thrill ride and I’ve never laughed harder at my new favorite insult: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you but I bet it’s hard to pronounce.”

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,333 reviews118 followers
July 23, 2018
Who better to write a superb spy versus spy novel than Matthews who has 33 years of experience working for the CIA Operations Directorate. This is the third installment in the Red Sparrow series and it does not disappoint. His descriptions of surveillance-detection runs have the ring of authenticity rarely achieved in other spy novels.
Dominika Egorova began her career as a sparrow, an operative trained in the sex arts. But she has risen up through the ranks of the SVR as a result of her intelligence, and has become the CIA’s most important asset in Russia. The Russians have their own mole in the United States—one that is just as well-placed as Dominika. Indeed, their mole is being seriously considered to lead the CIA. Both countries race to find out who the moles are in their respective governments.
In the meantime, there are operations in Turkey and China that are as action-packed and tension-filled as the written word can allow. Fortunately, Matthews quirkily ends each chapter with the recipe of some dish unique to that chapter, thus relieving the building tension for at least a moment or two. Highly recommend for spy novel enthusiasts.
[Of note, Given Matthews’ descriptions of Vladimir Putin’s character and Russia’s modus operandi in spycraft, it is pretty clear that he fully believes that Putin would love to manipulate Trump and do everything he can to undermine our intelligence agencies.]
11 reviews
February 16, 2018
I am disappointed! It is no “I am Pilgrim”...

I was eagerly looking forward to the release of Mr. Matthews’ book, and once it appeared in my kindle I devoured it! It took me longer to think about writing this review than actually finishing the book. The writing, the story, the characters all flowed and stayed true to the story. Indeed, the amount of minutiae, CIA lingo, hopelessness directed this tale towards a tragic future where nothing but deceit, treachery, and prostitution of ones values worked as a tactical defense. The narrative made the ultimate case for the creation of an Anti-Putin who holds the former’s same beliefs and morals - a US mirror image. We already voted in a Hitler-Putin in the making, thus making this scenario a horrific reality.

I wish this book got a rewrite for the Red Sparrow’s conclusion story had immense potential for greatness.
March 4, 2018
Why only three stars

I anxiously awaited the final book of this trilogy only to discover that the author has changed his style of writing. I gave the first two books five stars each because they beautifully brought the reader along for the ride with clarity. The verbiage in this last book was rediculous! I'm an avid reader and have never had to research the meaning of a word more than once or twice in a book. When even kindle has no definition I know I'm in uncharted territory. I'm not sure if the author was trying to show off his command of language or just took some crazy language course and decided to give it a try. This book just didn't do what it should have so readers would be excited for the release of his next book. Note to author.....stop writing like a snob!!
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
388 reviews113k followers
September 18, 2018
Another excellent thriller to conclude this trilogy. I think the first and third books were best, but I powered through all three. The author is a legit former spy, so this series felt very realistic from the spy side, and then wove a nice love story in too. And the descriptions of Putin and how he operates Russia were fascinating.
Profile Image for Rick.
102 reviews231 followers
February 21, 2018
Fantastic, surprising ending to the Red Sparrow trilogy. Early on I was worried that Matthews was stretched too thin, but as the book progressed, I found the numerous plot lines to be wonderfully executed. I loved that actions had consequences, that just because someone's a good guy it doesn't exempt them. Didn't want it to end!
Profile Image for Michael Martz.
853 reviews20 followers
April 7, 2018
'The Kremlin's Candidate', the 3rd in the Red Sparrow series by Jason Matthews, is yet another intricately crafted thriller with strong writing, good dialogue, and great 'tradecraft'. I'm sad to see this series end but getting there has been very satisfying.

The plot involves a bit of a race to see which spy, Russia's or our's, ascends to the top spot in their respective country's spy organization first. Whoever 'wins' is in a position to identify and expose the biggest traitor on the other side. The American, a female USN admiral who has spied for the Russians for years, is on the short list to succeed the CIA director who had been assassinated to set up her possible promotion. On the other side, 'our' Russian agent, an ex-Sparrow (specialist in sexual 'honey traps') who has climbed the ladder in Putin's organization, is under consideration for the top spot in their version of the CIA. Whoever succeeds first will have access to information that will expose their infiltrator. A little romance, some Chinese contact, a lot of violence, tons of spy stuff, and a few 'barium enemas' ensue. The ending is tough but you'd have to say the outcome was positive.

Unlike previous entries in the series, I had a bit of a problem with a few situations that just didn't seem very believable. Almost everything in the first two novels rang true, yet the passages related to the 'Wolverines' in particular didn't pass the smell test, and several other minor sequences just didn't seem very believable. I also continue to dislike the whole 'aura' thing that our Russian agent has going- she can 'read' people by interpreting the colors she sees surrounding them... too much of a gimmick for me but a good shortcut by the author to eliminate pages and pages of the work that would be needed to actually have her learn about people through 'normal' means.

All in all, a good finale to what's been a great series.

Profile Image for Patrick .
447 reviews43 followers
June 12, 2018
What, What, WTF just happened? It ended, that's what, suddenly and abruptly. No spoilers here, just a quick recap of the final installment of the trilogy. "The next CIA director could well be U.S. admiral Audrey Rowland, a mole working for the Russians, in bestseller Matthews’s stellar conclusion to his Red Sparrow trilogy. If selected, Rowland would learn the identity of Diva, the code name for Gen. Dominika Egorova, a spy for the Americans who has caught Vladimir Putin’s eye and is on track to head the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service. The action shifts among such exotic locales as Istanbul, Khartoum, Hong Kong, and Putin’s compound on the Black Sea, where CIA agent Nate Nash goes undercover on a daring mission to prevent Dominika’s exposure. Dominika and Nate’s romance, which has been smoldering since they parted ways at the end of 2015’s Palace of Treason, creates complications. Meanwhile, back in the States, the CIA operation planners must contend with hostile politicians seeking to end the dirty, underhanded methods the agency uses against the country’s enemies. Matthews, a 33-year CIA veteran, provides a chilling portrait of the cold-blooded Putin, while saying almost nothing about the fictional current and previous U.S. presidents, in a suspenseful thriller that races to a heart-pounding and unexpected resolution."
Profile Image for Ron S.
420 reviews27 followers
January 10, 2018
Retired CIA officer Jason Matthews wraps up his Red Sparrow trilogy centered around Russian counterintelligence agent Dominika Egorova. The first two books received high critical praise and comparisons to le Carre; the plot is plausible, the characters compelling. Unfortunately, the seeming sheer implausibility of the current U.S. political climate is such that fiction with authenticity seems dull by comparison. A movie version of Red Sparrow, the first book in the trilogy, starring Jennifer Lawrence will likely be more successful in delivering thrills. It's too bad, because by any normal measure, this is a solid series for those that enjoy suspense thriller espionage titles.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
701 reviews29.1k followers
July 6, 2018
I really enjoyed this trilogy. Matthews does a good job of weaving romance with all the trappings of a spy novel: heart-breaking treachery, double-crossings, lots of suspense, plus fun gadgets and cutting-edge technology. I powered through all three books and would probably read more of them. The first and the third novels in the trilogy were the best.
Profile Image for Mary-Beth.
345 reviews24 followers
March 10, 2018
A fitting end to the trilogy, but it turns out that I don't really want to hear as many grody details about Putin as this novel had to offer. Now I'm curious to see the movie of Red Sparrow as well!
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