Dominika harbors a simmering hatred for Putin’s rapacious regime
A former ballerina, blue-eyed Dominika is a rising star in the SVR, the Russian intelligence service, and a favorite of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose interest in her is not entirely professional. Early in her career she was dragooned against her will into the infamous Sparrow School, where she learned the sordid art of sexpionage. Dominika harbors a simmering hatred for Putin’s rapacious regime, and for his corrupt circle of oligarchs who are plundering Russia’s patrimony.
Dominika has another secret: she was recruited by the CIA as a penetration of the Kremlin. In the process, she fell in love with her recruiting officer, young Nathaniel Nash, an irresistible affair that is mortally dangerous to them both. Risking exposure at every turn, Dominika is working with Nate in a mad false-flag operation to sabotage the secret nuclear program of Iran.
The news that a mole in Washington has learned of her recruitment by CIA, and intends to sell her name to the Russians, plunges her and Nate into a race to intercept the traitor before he utters her name, and she ends up in the basement execution room of Moscow’s Butyrka prison.
Dark, intense, and a wizard operations officer on the desperate streets of Moscow teeming with hostile surveillance, Nate Nash made the signal accomplishment of his young career by recruiting beautiful SVR officer Dominika Egorova. There’s one problem: He and Dominika fell in love and their passionate affair is screamingly against CIA regulations, and wildly insecure for her.
Nate is torn between proper tradecraft, and losing his reason every time he sees her cobalt blue eyes. His superiors insist he stop the affair and begin behaving. All he can do is try to keep her safe at all costs, even as she is driven in her personal campaign to unseat the lynx-eyed master of the Kremlin.
It’s a full-time job, protecting his agent, the woman he loves. He has to lead her out of the Danube marshes to escape an Iranian assassination squad. He waits, appalled, as Dominika tries to rescue another CIA source in a vintage Cold War midnight exfiltration off a Saint Petersburg beach. The last time he sees her she is chasing the one Russian on the planet – a murderous psychopath – who knows about her CIA recruitment. Nate doesn’t know whether Dominika is alive or dead, or whether he’ll ever see her again.
He started his career in the Russian service as a ‘wet works’ executioner in the old KGB
Alexei Zyuganov is the five-foot tall chief of Line KR, the counterintelligence directorate of the SVR. He started his career in the Russian service as a ‘wet works’ executioner in the old KGB. A polite term for what ails Zyuganov might be malignant narcissism, but that’s omitting his abiding love of the Lubyanka punishment cells with their sloping floors and drains. His only other passion is serving President Putin, who he worships like an Aztec worships the sun.
Alexei’s new officer in Line KR is the elegant Dominika Egorova who, apart from having logged a stunningly successful operational record abroad, has attracted the itchy eye of the President. Zyuganov’s jealousy stirs him to secretly plot against his statuesque subordinate. He orders thugs to assault her in Paris; he dispatches a female assassin to eliminate her in Athens; and he informs the vengeful MOIS, the Iranian intelligence service, that Dominika is meeting an Iranian nuclear boffin clandestinely, with fatal results.
A ravening Zyuganov begins suspecting his beautiful nemesis is working for the hated Americans. All he needs is her name confirmed from the lips of a mole inside the CIA. He doesn’t have long to wait.
Marty Gable is a veteran CIA case officer who’s forgotten more about clandestine operations than most other spooks know. He’s recruited rebels, saboteurs and terrorists in every dust bin capital in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. He has a human-skull ashtray in his office that came either from Cambodia or Miami – he can’t remember which.
Crew-cut, knuckly, irreverent, Marty Gable is loyal to his sources, then to his colleagues, then to the CIA, in that order. Years ago Gable took young Nate Nash under his wing, kicking his butt to get out on the street looking for asset candidates to recruit, telling Nash to ‘take his time, in a hurry’. Gable was well-pleased with his protégé’s epic recruitment of SVR officer Dominika Egorova, but quickly guessed at Nate’s and Dominika’s impossible love affair. Even though Dominika considers him a big brother, Gable constantly bellows at both of them that keeping up their affair at a minimum will eventually cause them heartbreak, and may even wind up killing Dominika. None of them know that Dominika’s life is already balanced on a knife edge. Not even the prescient Gable.
A disheveled, misanthropic, splenetic genius who lives in a wilderness of mirrors
Simon Benford is the legendary Chief of Counterintelligence in CIA, a disheveled, misanthropic, splenetic genius who lives in a wilderness of mirrors. His world is populated by spies, traitors, turn-coats, sleeper agents, and rats. He has managed byzantine mole hunts, exposed Russian penetration agents burrowed into the halls of Washington, and bedeviled opposition services with convoluted double- and triple-agent operations.
Unrelievedly profane, Benford is reviled, feared, extoled, and admired by allied intelligence services: after one cringingly acrimonious visit to London, MI6 threatened to revoke Benford’s UK visa.
From CIA Headquarters, Benford directs Nate Nash in handling his star asset, SVR officer Dominika Egorova. But when Benford receives evidence that there is a high-level mole inside CIA itself, and that Dominika is a breath away from discovery, the veteran spy catcher cannot find the well-camouflaged traitor. He devises a desperate plan to trap the SVR chief in Washington, an intuitive savant who has been impossible to fool on the street. It is Benford’s last chance to catch the mole and save Dominika.
Things are progressing well for the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. His kleptocracy is secure, his foreign adventures successful, his domestic approval ratings sky-high.
He has his eye on young SVR officer Dominika Egorova, a striking former ballerina. Egorova’s early spy career has been spectacular: she unmasked an American mole who spied against Russia for 14 years; she escaped from detention in the West; and she recently began a promising operation against Iran. But can the clairvoyant Putin read her mind? Does he know she works for CIA? Can he feel her hate for him? If so, he doesn’t show it. Putin likes how she handles herself both during somber Kremlin meetings, and at a glittering weekend party in Saint Petersburg’s Constantine Palace.
His patronage expands during an eerie midnight visit – in red silk pajamas – to Dominika’s opulent guest room. But to more fully ensnare her into his ghoulish inner circle, to make her loyal and compliant, he orders her to do something monstrous, something impossible. The new tsar of Novorossiya, new Russia, tells Dominika to return to the West and kill two men.
Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service has returned from the West to Moscow. She despises the men she serves, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington’s most sensitive penetration of the Kremlin. As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; faces assassination attempt and counter-intelligence ambushes, and must rescue a compromised agent and somehow spirit him out of Russia from under the noses of her pursuers. Complicating it all is Dominika’s relationship with her CIA handler, Nate Nash. And when a mole in Moscow finds her name on a classified list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence …
With the brilliant Palace of Treason, CIA veteran Jason Matthews confirms his position as the most exciting spy writer alive. This is as good as it gets.
“Dominika Egorova, of the Russian Intelligence Service, is one of the most complex and compelling heroines to grace the espionage genre…Palace of Treason is enthralling…That Matthews, who served in the C.I.A. for 33 years, knows the world of espionage and its darkest corners is never in doubt…Whether in Vienna, Moscow or Washington, Matthews’ scene-setting is superb, and he has a fine eye for telling details…Palace of Treason shimmers with authenticity.”
New York Times