The Kremlin's Candidate, by Jason Matthews

Matthews Trilogy

Posted on April 20, 2018 - 2:38pm

I am a new staff member in a new position at the Marion Public Library. I was thrilled when the library hired me to do marketing communications for an organization 1) I already wholeheartedly believed in and 2) in which I was already what I call an “incognito regular.” (You know, the type who dashes in, goes right to the area she knows, grabs a book or three, and races back out while tucking her library card back into an easy-to-find spot.)

Here I am now, surrounded by all these wonderful books and all these co-workers to advise me about which ones to read, both in the place I am now spending a great deal of time.

I thought it just couldn’t get any better, and then it did. When I confessed that I have read all the “classics” I want to read for now and had no heavy WWII recap waiting to be opened on my nightstand, my new librarian friends didn’t bat an eye. When I said that I especially love well-written suspense materials (mystery, spy—fiction or non-fiction) they pointed me toward a few new authors and then did what librarians do, they kept moving. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that librarians really don’t care what any of us reads or watches or listens to, as long as we do it regularly.

With the relief that I need not be a specialist in the classics to share my love of reading and learning, I am eager to share my thoughts on the final novel in Jason Mathews’ Red Sparrow Trilogy, The Kremlin’s Candidate, which was released earlier this year.

After stumbling upon and devouring Matthews’ first two books (Red Sparrow and Palace of Treason), I remember thinking that Matthews wasn’t just a master writer, but he must have been a master spy, as well.

Just the right character flaws and just the right “oops” in precarious moments made the plotlines believable. They didn’t just speak to me and keep me on the edge of my seat, turning pages, or forgetting to breathe (and any other trite, overused descriptive phrases you can think of), they sometimes literally got my adrenalin flowing enough to stimulate bad dreams.

So, I eagerly awaited the release of The Kremlin’s Candidate and dived into it with the full knowledge that I might be up all night. And then about 1 a.m., something happened that we all fear for sequels: I realized it was losing my interest. I put the book down and went to sleep.

In The Kremlin’s Candidate, Matthews’ solid storytelling went by wayside and launched way too many side streets that couldn’t be fully explored in an already lengthy novel. I went into this wanting to know more about the fate of the primary characters from the first two books, with some of those plot twists and turns with which Matthews kept my attention. They were there, but there were too many sidebars to the core story. Interesting tracks popped up and then dead-ended. And then, much to my dismay, we were rushed to the conclusion.

No spoiler alerts here about the novel’s U.S. and Russian spy game, or the love affair between two key players, but suffice it to say that the finale we had long awaited let me down. It wasn’t the outcome that disappointed me, but the lack of development surrounding it.

Those are my thoughts. I always hesitate to share issues I have with books because I certainly have never found the nerve to write a novel and put it out there for everyone to critique. That said, I’d like to know what you think. Did this installment in the Dominika/Nate relationship meet your expectations or leave you trying to fill in some blanks?

Or, did Matthews just wisely leave the door open for a fourth book in the series?

Since we don’t currently have the interactive capability on our library blog, send me an email ( if you have an opinion and, let me know if you want it posted on the Marion Public Library’s blog. I’ll just copy and paste, I promise!

Have suggestions on what to read next? Interested in becoming a regular book reviewer/opinion provider for Footnotes on materials you’ve read listened to or watched? Let me know and we’ll talk about how we might make that happen.

--Sondy Daggett, Marketing & Development Coordinator