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An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division--one that's coming from inside the agency. Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So whe An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division--one that's coming from inside the agency. Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the "human lie detector" and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered--including one of her own--and the CIA is convinced there's a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her. Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can't avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous "Red Widow," the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband's legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it...


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An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division--one that's coming from inside the agency. Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So whe An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division--one that's coming from inside the agency. Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the "human lie detector" and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered--including one of her own--and the CIA is convinced there's a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her. Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can't avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous "Red Widow," the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband's legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it...

30 review for Red Widow

  1. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I'm a big fan of Alma Katsu! This is sure different from her other books, The Taker series, The Hunger, The Deep; and I think that Red Widow is a hit! This book is all espionage and Russian spies. Who do you trust when everyone's lives are on the line? There are a lot of twists and turns and I "knew" who the double/triple/quadruple agent was in every single chapter. I really didn't, but it was sure a lot of fun thinking that I knew who did what. I have no idea if Ms Katsu is going to make this int I'm a big fan of Alma Katsu! This is sure different from her other books, The Taker series, The Hunger, The Deep; and I think that Red Widow is a hit! This book is all espionage and Russian spies. Who do you trust when everyone's lives are on the line? There are a lot of twists and turns and I "knew" who the double/triple/quadruple agent was in every single chapter. I really didn't, but it was sure a lot of fun thinking that I knew who did what. I have no idea if Ms Katsu is going to make this into a series, but I sure think that the possibilities for Lyndsey are endless! Many thanks to Netgalley and GP Putnam's Sons for this advanced readers copy. This book is due to release in March 2021.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amanda McHugh

    I've been a fan of Alma Katsu's work since I devoured The Hunger last year, and when I saw her latest novel announced on Twitter, I knew I had to request it. I was thrilled to be approved and quickly dove in. Still waiting the outcome of her career following her dismissal from Beirut, CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan is recruited by her former colleague and Chief of the Russia Division for a special investigation. Three informants are dead, and it's looking more likely that there's a mole in-house. Lynds I've been a fan of Alma Katsu's work since I devoured The Hunger last year, and when I saw her latest novel announced on Twitter, I knew I had to request it. I was thrilled to be approved and quickly dove in. Still waiting the outcome of her career following her dismissal from Beirut, CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan is recruited by her former colleague and Chief of the Russia Division for a special investigation. Three informants are dead, and it's looking more likely that there's a mole in-house. Lyndsey agrees to lead the search, not knowing that the lines of trust are fickle, and motives aren't always as cut-and-dry as they appear to be. I really enjoyed this book. First, as a protagonist, Lyndsey was dynamic and engaging. We get the mystery surrounding her dismissal, her obvious expertise in the field, and the rationale behind her approach to the investigation. We also get her budding friendship with Theresa, The Widow, and I found the moments that she debates where she should draw her personal boundaries to be both endearing and tense. At a certain point, we know what's happening behind the scenes, and watching Lyndsey's discovery process unravel the intrigue was that much more successful because Katsu's clever structuring. The plot is engrossing, an intricate web of deception that will leave you guessing until the very last page. I also think Katsu could have a successful series lead in the making, as I would definitely read the next installment of a Lyndsey Duncan narrative. I will say that this is more of a quiet thriller despite the action-packed lineup. Murders, poison, CIA, espionage--most of the in-your-face action happens off-scene, in a sense, and what we get is largely the intelligent mind-picking that follows. That's not to say this is a dry read--I think this will appeal to many readers in the vein of 24 or Homeland--but I'd expect more of a thinker-thriller than a constant string of explosions. Overall, Red Widow is captivating, smart, and fascinating, a study in loyalty, morality, ethics, and the lengths people will go to save the ones they love. Out in March, I can't wait for this one to hit the shelves. Big thanks to Putnam and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    Any book by Alma Katsu is an absolute treat. She can write in any genre and deliver the goods!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    *Source* Publisher *Genre* Thrillers / Espionage / Suspense *Rating* 3.5 *Thoughts* Alma Katsu's Red Widow is an espionage thriller which alternates between two women: Lyndsey Duncan, and Theresa Warner. On a flight from NYC to DC, a Russian businessman named Yaromir Popov dies under mysterious circumstances which sets off a series of alarm bells deep in the heart of Langley, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Lyndsey Duncan, a CIA agent who has been placed on administrative leave for her actions in Beir *Source* Publisher *Genre* Thrillers / Espionage / Suspense *Rating* 3.5 *Thoughts* Alma Katsu's Red Widow is an espionage thriller which alternates between two women: Lyndsey Duncan, and Theresa Warner. On a flight from NYC to DC, a Russian businessman named Yaromir Popov dies under mysterious circumstances which sets off a series of alarm bells deep in the heart of Langley, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Lyndsey Duncan, a CIA agent who has been placed on administrative leave for her actions in Beirut, is told that she has a meeting with Eric Newman, Chief of the Russian Division at the CIA. *Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews* https://gizmosreviews.blogspot.com/20...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    The review for this book was good. Unfortunately, the book was not. While the plot is intriguing and layered, the writing is anything but. Some 100 pages into the book, things should happen. Conversation and thoughts should be supported by events that move the narrative in a positive direction. Unfortunately that is not the case with this book and it’s author. Unfortunately what purported to be a spy thriller was a boring story going nowhere very slowly.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Machata

    Delightful spy thriller. Centered in Langley, Virginia, home of CIA headquarters, this is the first novel I have read filled with the bureaucratic in fighting that characterizes any huge governmental agency. Unraveling the truth is plausible at every turn. Main players are fleshed out realistically. A riveting read. Psychological aspects true to life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Clay

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Picture this: A young professional woman sits alone at a DC bar, sipping a glass of wine. An older man, clearly a DC player, puts his best moves on our heroine, who swats away his every attempt at impressing her by saying, "Mm. That's a lie." The player is flustered, becomes combative, but finally admits that she caught him out every time; she is a human lie-detector, and he's impressed, despite himself. "Bureau?" he asks, as she collects her things to leave. "CIA," she replies. "Until they fire Picture this: A young professional woman sits alone at a DC bar, sipping a glass of wine. An older man, clearly a DC player, puts his best moves on our heroine, who swats away his every attempt at impressing her by saying, "Mm. That's a lie." The player is flustered, becomes combative, but finally admits that she caught him out every time; she is a human lie-detector, and he's impressed, despite himself. "Bureau?" he asks, as she collects her things to leave. "CIA," she replies. "Until they fire me tomorrow morning." Pretty compelling opener to a spy thriller, huh? And it would have been nice to see Lyndsey Duncan -- RED WIDOW’s heroine (I guess?) -- actually put her skills as a human lie-detector to some clever use, even once, in this book; if we had been shown, not told, that they exist. Instead, we get this: The average person will tell three lies every ten minutes. I can predict when someone is lying with greater accuracy than a polygraph. And that's not even internal monologue, or the opening of the book; it's a line from...a PowerPoint presentation she once gave. And this particular skill isn't mentioned again for nearly 100 pages. Also, it rarely works to her advantage and in NO WAY lends itself to the book’s resolution, so it's not the hook you think it is. It’s such a nonsensical, tacked-on thing that I’m almost certain it was shoehorned in as an afterthought, possibly after an editor said, "Lyndsey is incredibly dull and pointless, give her some sort of Sherlock thing." Calling this book "RED WIDOW" is the equivalent of titling the greatest espionage thriller of all time "TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, BILL HAYDON"; it literally gives away the mole, on the title page, before the narrative confirms it outright not even a third of the way in. So there's our first source of tension out the door: the Red Widow is the mole. Shocker. Sort of guessed that because, you know, "red." So obviously the point of this book is not Mole Hunt, because we the reader know immediately who it is, and Lindsey spends 90% of the story sitting on ass searching CIA Slack Channels for clues. Where is the suspense, then? Being a "thriller," surely the author gives us a Ticking Clock -- someone or something at imminent risk should the mole go unwhacked -- to keep us perched on the edges of our seats, right? NOPE. Literally the only humans in any existential danger throughout this story are the faceless wife and daughter of a dead Russian spy (we'll get back to him later) -- known to us only via Secret Texting App -- and the author LITERALLY FORGETS ABOUT THEM by the end of the book. One minute their exfiltration is a moral imperative; the next, Lyndsey has forgotten about them completely and they vanish from the book. Some rando does tell Lindsey he'll do his best to get them out, but we inexplicably never learn if he did. Maybe they were both killed and dumped into the river, but who cares because we never meet them. So, we've got a mole hunt that isn't a mole hunt because "Red" Widow; we have no ticking clock (other than the Red Widow's impending departure for Moscow, which is supposed to happen in "a handful of days"; you know, that thrilling measure of time, the vague handful); we have no clear main villain or antagonist, because the moment we learn the Red Widow is the mole we must assume that this is now a redemption story; in other words, there is absolutely no thrill in this thriller. Literally none. Lyndsey almost never leaves Langley – no clever footwork, none of the Smileyesque tradecraft that leads from one fascinating character to the next – and when it’s time for she and the Red Widow to become friends we’re simply told that it has happened: Lyndsey is aware that today will mark a change in her relationship with Theresa. We aren’t shown these changes through subtle and telling bits of prose and left to our own decisions about their friendship, we’re just told. They’re friends now, let’s get on with it. So frustrating, and like everything else about this "plot", so lazy. So why is Lyndsey back on the job after a dalliance with a British agent in Berlin put her Agency career on the skids? Well there’s the mole hunt, sure (which wouldn’t even be a thing if the Russians hadn’t be so galactically and inexplicably stupid as to immediately roll up two Agency spies back-to-back, thus alerting Langley that they must have a mole; good one, FSB), but Lyndsey is most interested in Mr. Dead Russian Spy, the one with the wife and kid we never see. His sudden death is supposed to be a catalyst, the inciting incident that sets Lyndsey in motion, but on both its surface level and in the final reveal of why Dead Russian Spy is dead, it fails completely as a plot point. Let’s work backwards from the utterly insane revelation that the CIA’s own head of Russia Section eliminated Dead Russian Spy with a Russian poison as bait to lure Lyndsey into the mole hunt. Ridiculous at face value but made ludicrous when it’s revealed that his poisoner – a comically trite ex-SEAL thug - GOT ON THE PLANE WITH HIS MARK AND USED HIS REAL NAME ON THE MANIFEST. That's right: instead of poisoning his victim in the airport and fucking off to literally ANYWHERE ELSE, this goon gets on the same plane, under his own name, just begging to be found out. Oh, and somewhere in the Agency files there's a literal receipt for his wetwork, damning evidence against Lyndsey's boss if found but yet another plot thread that goes absolutely nowhere. Absolute insanity. What's so incomprehensible about Dead Russian Spy is that he only serves the plot, not the characters. The only motivation Lyndsey needs to come back and front the mole hunt is her own redemption in the eyes of the Agency; her boss need only hang her previous failure over her head to motivate the action, and in so doing the book could have made a powerful statement about the dynamic between men and women in government service: When men fuck their secretaries it's just another day at the office, but when women exercise their own sexual freedom, they're pushed out the door. This book never once touches on those subjects; Lyndsey spends the entire story mooning and fretting over her own reckless behavior with a British agent - who we never see, know nothing about; again, all off the page, told, not shown - instead of righteously fuming at the injustices done her career. I would expect that sort of behavior from a woman written by Robert Ludlum in the 1980s; that it's a character in a post-#MeToo 21st century world, written by a woman, is flabbergasting. The Red Widow herself is another colossal character failure; like Lyndsey, she just moons over her lost husband - YET ANOTHER CHARACTER WE NEVER COME TO KNOW - and plots his salvation at her own cost. I kept waiting for there to be some sort of clever double-bluff; a switcheroo to explain why she'd risk her career, her child, her freedom over a husband we never meet, about whom we know next to nothing, but no: like everything else in this book, it's a straight line with no curves, much less hairpin turns. She just wants her hubby back, full stop; and she's so careless in her spycraft that she leaves clues all over CIA Facebook just waiting to be found. She's caught through clumsiness, ho-hum. It's fair to say that I've read probably 85% of the existing canon of Spy Fiction. My father served the Intelligence Community for his entire career in DC and abroad, and so I grew up nestled in stacks of le Carre', Deighton, Forsythe, Ludlum, Greene; I cut my reader's teeth on espionage, the language of the genre is deeply embedded in my DNA. There is absolutely nothing in this book that feels cut from that storied cloth. Zero tradecraft (for the absolute best of breed see Red Sparrow, a masterpiece of actual CIA tradecraft); not a hint of the brilliant detective work of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; not even a handful of quirky, memorable characters like the cast of the phenomenal Slough House series (which I cannot recommend more highly). It's stunning how often, and in how many curious ways, RED WIDOW misses its genre mark. God this book made me angry.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ray Palen

    When it comes to espionage novels, in my opinion, there are three types that complement the genre. First, you have authors who are terrific writers and create something that is fun to read, but it is not full of enough deep detail that some curious minds might want to experience. Then, you have authors who have had a stellar career serving in the intelligence community but are a little stiff on the story-telling side, so you get something full of detail, but it eventually reads like an espionage When it comes to espionage novels, in my opinion, there are three types that complement the genre. First, you have authors who are terrific writers and create something that is fun to read, but it is not full of enough deep detail that some curious minds might want to experience. Then, you have authors who have had a stellar career serving in the intelligence community but are a little stiff on the story-telling side, so you get something full of detail, but it eventually reads like an espionage textbook. Then, you have the perfect blending of the two styles, which is what we have with the novel RED WIDOW by Alma Katsu. Katsu has had huge success with back-to-back horror novels --- THE HUNGER and THE DEEP --- prior to her current release RED WIDOW. This novel goes there when it comes to espionage and I was pleasantly surprised at how easily Katsu slipped into the genre. This surprise quickly turned to awe and respect when I became further acquainted with her bio that provided detail of her background in the intelligence community that included thirty-five years as an intelligence analyst for agencies like the FBI, NSA and global think-tank RAND. Quite simply, this author knows her stuff and has already proven that she can write an engaging thriller. A very over-weight gentlemen is clearly showing discomfort during a flight to Washington D.C. After intervention by flight attendants, pilots, and eventually, EMT’s, the gentlemen succumbs to whatever condition he was suffering from. We quickly learn that this was no ordinary passenger but one Yaromir Popov --- a member of Russian intelligence for thirty years and also a double-agent for the U.S. Lyndsey Duncan is awakened by a late-night phone call while she was on home leave. The caller was her division head, Eric Newman. He apologized for the late call and disturbing her leave time, but he needed her to come back into the office at once. As soon as Lyndsey arrived, Eric informed her that the foreign agent she had once turned and who she looked at as a father figure had passed away suddenly, Yaromir Popov. It was now Lyndsey’s assignment to rejoin the Russian Division of the CIA and find out what happened. If foul play were involved with Popov’s death the CIA would need to know whether it was the Russians behind it or if there was a mole within their own ranks. One of the first colleagues to welcome her as she settles into her extremely small office was a woman named Theresa Warner. Lyndsey is later informed that Theresa had been given the nickname the ‘Red Widow’ not only because of her love of the color red but due to the fact that she was still mourning the loss of her husband, Richard, who was himself a CIA Director. Lyndsey is briefed by a small group of CIA leaders that her role was to ferret out the potential mole in their own backyard by taking a hard look at each of her CIA colleagues. It’s not long before she learns of the untimely death of Yaromir Popov’s teen-aged daughter, who she also knew, from an alleged drug overdose. As Lyndsey looks further into Popov, she finds an email he sent her just days prior to his death where he indicates that he really needed to talk to her. Guilt overwhelms her and drives her forward to avenge his death. Toxicology reports indicate that there was nothing suspicious in his system at time of death, but the hint of a certain chemical might show that he was killed by someone who knew how to hide the fact that he was drugged. The body count continues to rise when another Russian agent they worked with named Kulakov is found dead. Eric Newman now knows that this is an all-out attack on the CIA’s Russian Division and Lyndsey must step it up before more allies fall. She is also warned off by someone in the office about befriending Theresa ‘Red Widow’ Warner as she was not to be trusted. Lyndsey does not initially take this advice to heart as she finds Theresa to be genuine and even spends time with her and her young son Brian outside of the agency. She needs a friend as a rumor is spread about her having had an illicit affair while she was on assignment in Beirut prior to her home leave. She understands that this was only planted in order to deflect her from the goals of the mission she was given, but it still hurts. Lyndsey also meets up with the most recent ‘handler’ of Popov, an agent named Tom Cassidy. She does not feel that he was a threat but also cannot completely rule him out. RED WIDOW shines the spotlight on both Lyndsey and Theresa with its’ narrative and one very telling bit of information Katsu shares with us is that Theresa may have learned from another agent that her husband was actually still alive, just captured and off the table. When she confronts Eric with this, he denies the allegation and will not give it any credibility. However, a Russian Agent named Tarasenko had met up with Theresa and made it a point to show her a picture of her husband, indicating he was not being harmed in any way. How can she now believe anything her own agency or government is claiming when she has information like this to ponder? In the cult that is the spy game this is, unfortunately, par for the course. As Lyndsey’s mission converges with Theresa’s own agenda that primarily includes finding her missing husband, things will get very muddled. The reader’s head will be spinning, along with Lyndsey’s, as there is a web of deceit so well-spun it may be impossible to untangle without herself falling victim to those who spun it. RED WIDOW is serious espionage business and Alma Katsu handles it in true thriller form with a plot that never allows you to catch a breath as the wheels keep turning with every new bit of information uncovered and nothing is as it appears to be. Reviewed by Ray Palen for Book Reporter

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    When it comes to espionage novels, there are three types that complement the genre: those that are fun to read but not detailed enough that some curious minds might want to experience; those whose authors have had a stellar career serving in the intelligence community but are a little stiff with their storytelling, so you get a fully detailed work that reads like an espionage textbook; and those that perfectly blend the two styles. Fortunately, RED WIDOW falls into the third category. Alma Katsu When it comes to espionage novels, there are three types that complement the genre: those that are fun to read but not detailed enough that some curious minds might want to experience; those whose authors have had a stellar career serving in the intelligence community but are a little stiff with their storytelling, so you get a fully detailed work that reads like an espionage textbook; and those that perfectly blend the two styles. Fortunately, RED WIDOW falls into the third category. Alma Katsu has enjoyed enormous success with back-to-back horror novels, THE HUNGER and THE DEEP, but slips into the espionage genre so easily with her latest effort. My surprise quickly turned to awe and respect when I learned of her background in the intelligence community, which included 35 years as an intelligence analyst for agencies like the FBI, NSA and global think tank RAND. Quite simply, she knows her stuff and already has proven that she can write an engaging thriller. An overweight gentleman is clearly showing discomfort during a flight to Washington, D.C. After intervention by flight attendants, pilots and eventually EMTs, he succumbs to whatever condition he was suffering from. We quickly learn that this was no ordinary passenger; the deceased is Yaromir Popov, a member of Russian intelligence for 30 years and a double agent for the U.S. Despite being on administrative leave, Lyndsey Duncan is awakened by a late-night phone call from her division head, Eric Newman, who needs her to come back to the office at once. As soon as she arrives, he informs her that the foreign agent she had once turned to and considered a father figure has passed away suddenly. It is now Lyndsey’s assignment to rejoin the Russian Division of the CIA and find out what happened. If foul play was involved, the CIA would need to know if the Russians were behind it or if a mole is within their ranks. Theresa Warner is one of the first colleagues to welcome her as she settles into her extremely small office. Lyndsey is later informed that Theresa has been given the nickname “Red Widow,” not only because she loves the color red, but because she is still mourning the loss of her CIA director husband, Richard. Lyndsey is briefed by a small group of CIA leaders that her role is to ferret out the potential mole in their own backyard by taking a hard look at each of her colleagues. It’s not long before she learns of the untimely death of Popov’s teenage daughter, who she also knew, from an alleged drug overdose. As Lyndsey looks further into Popov, she finds an email he sent her just days prior to his death where he expresses his desire to talk to her. Guilt overwhelms her and drives her forward to avenge his death. Toxicology reports indicate that there was nothing suspicious in Popov’s system, but the hint of a certain chemical might show that he was killed by someone who knew how to hide the fact that he was drugged. The body count continues to rise when Kulakov, another Russian agent with whom they worked, is found dead. Newman now knows that this is an all-out attack on the CIA’s Russian Division, and Lyndsey must step it up before more allies fall. Lyndsey is also warned off by someone in the office about befriending the “Red Widow” as she is not to be trusted. She does not initially take this advice to heart as she finds Theresa to be genuine and even spends time with her and her young son outside of the agency. She needs a friend as a rumor has spread about her having had an illicit affair while she was on assignment in Beirut prior to her home leave. Lyndsey understands that this was only planted in order to deflect her from the goals of the mission she has been given, but it still hurts. She also meets up with the most recent “handler” of Popov, an agent named Tom Cassidy; although she does not feel that he is a threat, she cannot completely rule him out. As Lyndsey’s mission converges with Theresa’s own agenda, which primarily includes finding her missing husband, the situation will get quite muddled. The reader’s head will be spinning, along with Lyndsey’s, as there is a web of deceit so well-spun that it may be impossible to untangle without herself falling victim to those who spun it. The plot never allows you to catch your breath as the wheels keep turning with every new piece of information uncovered, and nothing is as it appears to be. Reviewed by Ray Palen

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Alma Katsu typically writes horror novels, so imagine my surprise when I find out that her latest novel, Red Widow, is a spy thriller. Not only that but she used her 35 years as a spy/analyst in the CIA as fodder. With that type of experience, I had high hopes for this look at modern-day spycraft. Unfortunately, much like her last horror novel, I found Red Widow a bit of a slog. I imagine that some of my disappointment with Red Widow stems from the fact that I pretty much guessed the plot a quart Alma Katsu typically writes horror novels, so imagine my surprise when I find out that her latest novel, Red Widow, is a spy thriller. Not only that but she used her 35 years as a spy/analyst in the CIA as fodder. With that type of experience, I had high hopes for this look at modern-day spycraft. Unfortunately, much like her last horror novel, I found Red Widow a bit of a slog. I imagine that some of my disappointment with Red Widow stems from the fact that I pretty much guessed the plot a quarter of the way in. This meant that there was nothing about it that was a surprise, which is not exactly what you want when you are reading a spy novel. I mean, spying is all about keeping secrets and things not being what they seem. I don’t want the secrets too easy to discern. Also, I find it rather frustrating that Russia remains the Big Bad Enemy in the spy world. I mean, sure, Putin is an evil man who essentially brought Russia back being ruled by a Tzar, but is he really the biggest threat the country faces? I struggle with this. Yes, there is some mention of China and cyber warfare in general, but the focus of Red Widow is strictly Russia and Russian double agents. It all feels more 1980s and not at all present day. Plus the grey line between “right” and “wrong” is so very flexible depending on the situation and the people involved. One situation involving an agent may be morally reprehensible and forbidden by the powers that be, and yet the very same situation involving a different agent will see that agent receiving accolades for that same action. I get that the world of spying changes every minute of every day based on new information, but holy hell. At least pick a moral yardstick and consistently use it. For what it is worth, Lyndsey is pretty tough as an agent. She has the thick skin necessary for working in a male-dominated workplace. Plus, she has the smarts to go toe-to-toe with any of her fellow analysts. She does a lot of hand-wringing about her previous assignment and how she left it, which is annoying. When she focuses on the task assigned to her, the story picks up speed and interest. Unfortunately, she spends as much time focused on the task as she does on her long-term situation. Red Widow surprised me in the rather negative image of the CIA Ms. Katsu paints. She makes a point to emphasize the hypocrisy of its leaders, the ongoing silos in which the analysts continue to work, and the continuous power struggles among the analysts as they use their access to information to get ahead of their counterparts. She also mocks the CIA’s inability to play by its own rules. I wasn’t expecting this at all given her experience. This is the fourth Katsu novel I have read, and I will admit to only liking two of them. The most recent of her novels left me disappointed because they were missing the magic of her previous novels. Red Widow takes it one step further by being predictable and tired in its rehashing of the Russia/US enmity that made up every spy novel from the 1970s and 80s…and 90s. Perhaps my expectations were too high for someone with thirty-plus years of experience working at the CIA herself, but Red Widow is not at all what I expected or wanted in a modern-day spycraft novel.

  11. 5 out of 5

    BOOKLOVER EB

    Lyndsey Duncan's ten-year-career in the CIA is on the line. After a promising start in the Russia Division—she handled a major asset who turned over valuable information to the U. S. government—she was given a post in Lebanon. Unfortunately, she broke the rules, and is now on administrative leave. In an unexpected reversal of fortune, her former boss, Eric Newman, the chief of the Russian Division at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, insists that he wants Lyndsey to conduct a vital internal Lyndsey Duncan's ten-year-career in the CIA is on the line. After a promising start in the Russia Division—she handled a major asset who turned over valuable information to the U. S. government—she was given a post in Lebanon. Unfortunately, she broke the rules, and is now on administrative leave. In an unexpected reversal of fortune, her former boss, Eric Newman, the chief of the Russian Division at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, insists that he wants Lyndsey to conduct a vital internal investigation. She is known for her skill at spotting deception (her work in psychology earned her the nickname "the human lie detector"), and she is the perfect individual to uncover the identity of a possible mole. This unidentified perpetrator allegedly revealed the names of double agents operating in Russia. "Red Widow" by Alma Katsu, is a compelling thriller that has an air of authenticity, and it is refreshingly devoid of some of the genre's most annoying clichés. There are no inane romantic angles; the acts of violence are realistic and integral to the plot; most of the characters are well-delineated; and the book focuses on a toxic culture that permeates intelligence circles. At times, members of the top brass cover up the mistakes and misdeeds of corrupt agents, while undermining the straight-arrows who perform their tasks dutifully. The story involves the homicide of a Russian spy whom Lyndsey had grown to admire. She spends hours poring over records, conducting online searches, and picking the brains of those in the know in order to find out what happened. In addition, Lyndsay befriends Theresa Warner, a colleague known as the "widow," because her beloved husband, Frank, disappeared after he tried to extract an asset who had sacrificed a great deal to assist America. Katsu provides alternating points of view, including Lyndsay's, Theresa's, and those of a vicious thug who works for Russia's federal security service. "Red Widow" deglamorizes espionage, showing it to be a nerve-wracking undertaking. Spies require nerve, patience, an insight into human nature, and an ability to think outside the box. Enhancing the novel's impact is the author's decision not to wrap up her tale too neatly. This is appropriate, since moral ambiguity is at the center of this suspenseful, riveting, and timely work of fiction.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    Thank you to Netgalley and G.P. Putnam's Sons for a copy of the eARC in exchange for a fair review. Lyndsey Duncan is pretty sure when she receives the phone to call to report in early that her career is over. She knows it can't be good news, but she is stunned to find out that three Russian assets are dead or missing in the last couple of weeks, the most famous is the one they know for sure is dead. Popov made Lyndsey a star and she is truly upset when she finds that he was on his way to D.C. wh Thank you to Netgalley and G.P. Putnam's Sons for a copy of the eARC in exchange for a fair review. Lyndsey Duncan is pretty sure when she receives the phone to call to report in early that her career is over. She knows it can't be good news, but she is stunned to find out that three Russian assets are dead or missing in the last couple of weeks, the most famous is the one they know for sure is dead. Popov made Lyndsey a star and she is truly upset when she finds that he was on his way to D.C. when he died on the flight. He must have been burned, but Lyndsey thrown for another loop when she learns that these assets must have been burned by someone inside the agency. Who would betray the agency and why? That is what Lyndsey is going to find out. Theresa Warner is known as the red Widow or the Widow because her husband was killed in Russia trying to protect an asset of his. When she makes a genuine connection with Lyndsey it is the friendship they both need, however, is it real? I am going to put this disclaimer out here while sometimes I like spy things like the Bourne Identity, more often I find that they just aren't my cup of tea. When I was contacted what sold me on reviewing this was the author. I have read almost all of Alma Katsu book's. I love her and this is proof that I will read anything by her. Having said that I can say I will continue to pick up anything she writes because I liked this, I was drawn in and interested. I wanted to know who was behind what and even when I thought I had part of it down I was surprised to find that it wasn't all of it. I have to say I am a little sad that this is a standalone, because I really want to see Lyndsey again. I would read another story featuring her without thinking twice. So these may be different then her last few books, but she becoming a go to author for me. I haven't been let down by one of her stories yet.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Addie BookCrazyBlogger

    Lyndsey Duncan is a CIA-operative whose just been placed on administrative leave pending a full review after an affair with a foreign operative in Lebanon. While on leave, she’s woken up and told to report to Eric Newman, her first boss at the Agency, who happens to be charge of the Russian division. Lyndsey’s talent as an agent is being so well versed in psychology, that she’s basically a human lie detector. When three Russian assets are killed or discovered missing, CIA higher-ups suspect a tr Lyndsey Duncan is a CIA-operative whose just been placed on administrative leave pending a full review after an affair with a foreign operative in Lebanon. While on leave, she’s woken up and told to report to Eric Newman, her first boss at the Agency, who happens to be charge of the Russian division. Lyndsey’s talent as an agent is being so well versed in psychology, that she’s basically a human lie detector. When three Russian assets are killed or discovered missing, CIA higher-ups suspect a traitor in the midst and they choose Lyndsey, despite her recent mistakes, to discover the mole as a neutral party. Lyndsey begins working alongside fellow agent Theresa Warner, known as The Widow, after her husband Richard, a higher-up in the Russian branch, was killed in an operation gone deadly. The two women become friends and when a surprising connection links Theresa to assets being killed, the two women must link together to bring down the conspiracy. For a really long time, I wanted to work for the CIA in some capacity, more than likely in a psychological aspect. However, that dream has long since sailed as I high-key don’t think I’d ever pass the psychological evaluations. This book though, goes into detail about the Agency and specifically, it’s relationship with Russia. It was fascinating and the author does an excellent job of melding fact with fiction. I also found it pretty fascinating to explore the relationship between the FBI and the CIA-I had no idea that only the FBI is allowed to arrest a traitor or that you need a judge’s permission to do surveillance on a US citizen in country. I was also unaware that intelligence work falls outside of US domestic laws which can mean that people don’t get prosecuted. I really enjoyed this spy thriller and look forward to re reading it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Red Widow starts slow but quickly picks up pace as the story unfolds. The story is told through Lyndsey Duncan, a CIA Russian handler who has returned while being investigated for some missteps while she was overseas. As her investigation deepens, she finds that no one I safe from her suspicion, even her new friend Theresa, the Red Widow. The plot moves fast and I really liked how the reader could never be sure what was truly going on. From POV Lyndsey, and her investigation, it was easy to see h Red Widow starts slow but quickly picks up pace as the story unfolds. The story is told through Lyndsey Duncan, a CIA Russian handler who has returned while being investigated for some missteps while she was overseas. As her investigation deepens, she finds that no one I safe from her suspicion, even her new friend Theresa, the Red Widow. The plot moves fast and I really liked how the reader could never be sure what was truly going on. From POV Lyndsey, and her investigation, it was easy to see how things weren't adding up, but it was hard to put your finger on it. I like the alternating chapters where we flashback to Theresa and her story. It gave the story some needed personalization. Lyndsey is an okay protagonist, but I didn't find her to be that interesting where Theresa is really the one that steals the show. I had read that Katsu was an intelligence officer before I read Red Widow so it was very entertaining to me to read it with the knowledge the author had first hand knowledge of how the CIA and FBI agencies worked. That said, some of the characters felt a little rushed to me. Lyndsey was okay and I liked Theresa, but Eric and mostly all of the secondary characters were a little thin. I wanted to be more emotionally invested in the story and outcome. That said, as the story moves faster and faster, while I was in it, it didn't really bother me as much as I thought it would. Overall I think Red Widow is a fun and fast paced spy novel for people looking to escape into an easy to read puzzling thriller. The summer is coming guys and it's a good book to sink into for hours.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    What a treat reading “Red Widow” by Alma Katsu was. My favorite part of the story is that its main character is female and most who work with her are female. At last, a spy novel featuring the strength of females. Not to say this is only a spy story highlighting women, it’s a spy story that shows the dark underbelly of the CIA and FBI. While being a spy like Tom Cruise looks romantic and exciting, Katsu wanted to show the personal toll that takes place in family lives and private lives for those What a treat reading “Red Widow” by Alma Katsu was. My favorite part of the story is that its main character is female and most who work with her are female. At last, a spy novel featuring the strength of females. Not to say this is only a spy story highlighting women, it’s a spy story that shows the dark underbelly of the CIA and FBI. While being a spy like Tom Cruise looks romantic and exciting, Katsu wanted to show the personal toll that takes place in family lives and private lives for those who work in these institutions. Lyndsey Duncan has fallen from CIA grace after she had an affair with another intelligence agent. As the story opens, she’s fretting over her career and her future. Unexpectantly, she’s offered a new position in the Russia division. She has prior experience working in the division and knows many of the players. She’s entrusted with finding and exposing an internal spy. Enter the Red Widow. She’s the widow of the CIA agent who was killed in action while undercover in Moscow. Lyndsey has been warned to steer clear of her, as she didn’t take the death of her husband well. Of course, Lyndsey is intrigued. Lyndsey continues to be plagued by her reprimand from her last position. Plus, she questions why she was chosen for this position. Slowly the reader learns of the widow’s story. Her viewpoint is used sparingly, to add to the intrigue. While reading this, I was suspect of every character in the novel (except for Lyndsey). Katsu excels in pacing this thriller. I could not read fast enough. Katsu’s 35-year career with Intelligence agencies shines through in her attention to detail. I highly recommend this one!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Veeral

    I am a bit wary of reading a book that has a protagonist who works for a clandestine agency of a powerful nation. Especially if the book is set in current times. "Red Widow" is all of those things. But surprisingly enough, it worked for me. Alma Katsu has drawn on her own experience of working for various intelligence agencies in the US and has written a novel which, at least according to me, is better than anything that has been written in the last decade. Most of the times, authors of this kind I am a bit wary of reading a book that has a protagonist who works for a clandestine agency of a powerful nation. Especially if the book is set in current times. "Red Widow" is all of those things. But surprisingly enough, it worked for me. Alma Katsu has drawn on her own experience of working for various intelligence agencies in the US and has written a novel which, at least according to me, is better than anything that has been written in the last decade. Most of the times, authors of this kind of books commit an inexcusable crime of doing an info-dump on a reader to show how much they know about spies and their craft and the inner workings of all the intelligence agencies around the world. As a result, the story takes a backstage, and it becomes a plodding experience for a reader to get through the book. Also, the agency where the protagonist works is usually filled with goody-two-shoes, while the other side is shown as totally evil. Hi, "Red Sparrow"! Thankfully, Red Widow avoids all these things. Alma Katsu has done such an amazing job of balancing both - showing her knowledge of spycraft to us and the story itself - that it feels seamless. A CIA agent is told to conduct an investigation to catch a mole in the CIA who seems to be working for the Russians. That's all you need to know before going in, really. I bet this book will surprise a lot of readers who might have expected the author to write another novel in the genre she is known for: horror. That reminds me, I still haven't read "The Hunger". I am moving it up on my reading pile.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura (crofteereader)

    This one was a little slow. There are some big moments where the plot really ramps up and you're frantically turning pages, but most of the book feels like the insider threat awareness seminars and training that all government employees and contractors have to undergo and renew annually. Like, every step of the way I felt like I had a checklist in my brain like "did they look for this? What are the office policies on that?" I think my familiarity with that took some of the intrigue out of the st This one was a little slow. There are some big moments where the plot really ramps up and you're frantically turning pages, but most of the book feels like the insider threat awareness seminars and training that all government employees and contractors have to undergo and renew annually. Like, every step of the way I felt like I had a checklist in my brain like "did they look for this? What are the office policies on that?" I think my familiarity with that took some of the intrigue out of the story. Also there's a lot of narrative distance between our characters and the consequences. You have people dying in Russia but the playmakers are sitting at their desks pushing paper around in Virginia. Plus it felt like there were a lot of random threads left hanging - perhaps the promise of another book but more likely just not seen as important to the overall resolution. My biggest issue was with pacing though. Apart from our insider threat awareness seminar, the big plot points and moments of tension are really spread out. The first big reveal comes at like 30% and that carries some momentum for a little while, but then you have to wait for things to kick into high gear - around 70% (which carries us easily through the end). But with a slow start and a stagnant middle, a reader may put the book down and not give it the chance it deserves. {I received a DRC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review; all thoughts are my own}

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melysah Bunting

    Red Widow by Alma Katsu is the story of two women caught in a web of lies. There are rumors going around that there is a spy inside the agency. Lyndsey Duncan must put her personal struggles aside and detect the liar. Is it her newfound friend, Theresa Warner, her boss, Eric Newman, or is the whole agency in on it? Read to find out! Lyndsey Duncan was recruited right out of college and managed to make a name for herself. Lyndsey wants to prove that she isn't a one-hit-wonder. There is also the i Red Widow by Alma Katsu is the story of two women caught in a web of lies. There are rumors going around that there is a spy inside the agency. Lyndsey Duncan must put her personal struggles aside and detect the liar. Is it her newfound friend, Theresa Warner, her boss, Eric Newman, or is the whole agency in on it? Read to find out! Lyndsey Duncan was recruited right out of college and managed to make a name for herself. Lyndsey wants to prove that she isn't a one-hit-wonder. There is also the issue of a love affair that happened in London. Will Lyndsey get fired? Will the agency see her as the spy? Eric Newman brings Lyndsey in to solve a case in the midst of her troubles. He offers her support as long as she sticks to the intended target. Theresa Warner is known as the "Red Widow." Her husband, Richard, had a failed mission to recover his asset in Russia. The details are unknown to everyone in the agency... or are they? Who knows the truth? I wouldn't say the story is heavy on mystery, and I expected more thrills. Perhaps, I am not used to this writing style as this is the first novel I've read of the author. I don't have any negative feedback despite my expectations. The writing is clear and well-paced. Even though the story was straightforward, I enjoyed reading about the adventure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Lyndsey Duncan is a CIA agent/officer that has returned from Lebanon to the home office in Langley, Virginia. She had an affair with a British intelligence officer which tainted her reputation. She worries that her career may be “hurt.” She didn’t understand why she had been transferred from Russia to Lebanon as she was doing an excellent job. Seeing her boss Eric, he gives her the assignment to find a “mole” that appears to be working in their section. Lynsdey meets Theresa who is known as the Lyndsey Duncan is a CIA agent/officer that has returned from Lebanon to the home office in Langley, Virginia. She had an affair with a British intelligence officer which tainted her reputation. She worries that her career may be “hurt.” She didn’t understand why she had been transferred from Russia to Lebanon as she was doing an excellent job. Seeing her boss Eric, he gives her the assignment to find a “mole” that appears to be working in their section. Lynsdey meets Theresa who is known as the “red widow.” Her husband died while working on an assignment in Russia. Lyndsey and Theresa be come friends. Theresa can’t believe that her husband is dead. Is she wrong to think that? Lynsdey is in the process of trying to find the “mole.” She thinks Theresa could be it yet has doubts. Who is the “mole?” This is a spy thriller with some elements of mystery included. The espionage of the story kept me wondering who the “mole” is. It is well written with the exception that at times it seemed to slow down. I would had like the action to be a bit faster. Overall, it’s a good novel. Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from the author/publisher from Netgalley. I wasn’t obligated to write a favorable review or any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Red Widow introduces us to CIA Intelligence Agent Lynsdey Duncan, who returns from abroad under investigation, and is provided an opportunity to redeem herself by assisting another department in uncovering a mole. She meets an enigmatic agent named Theresa, but known under the breath of others as the Red Widow. Is there more to Theresa's interest in the current investigation? Alma Katsu is a master of atmosphere. Her writing can completely immerse the reader in the story's setting and give you th Red Widow introduces us to CIA Intelligence Agent Lynsdey Duncan, who returns from abroad under investigation, and is provided an opportunity to redeem herself by assisting another department in uncovering a mole. She meets an enigmatic agent named Theresa, but known under the breath of others as the Red Widow. Is there more to Theresa's interest in the current investigation? Alma Katsu is a master of atmosphere. Her writing can completely immerse the reader in the story's setting and give you the feeling of being watched as the action unfolds. That said, I like my thrillers a little more fast-paced than Katsu exhibits in this novel. The characters are well-developed, which makes their motives and decisions understandable, which makes this espionage storyline easier to follow to a reader new to this genre. Additionally, Katsu pulls from her own intelligence background to craft this story, and I think this shows through in the slow unraveling of the plot without losing the tension, driving the reader to the very last page. I received this as an early review copy from NetGalley and G.P. Putnam's Sons. All opinions are my own.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I pre-ordered this book and was anxious to get started reading it as soon as it arrived. The story sounded fascinating. I had trouble though, in the beginning, getting "into" the story. I did not find Katsu's writing style welcoming -- the active tense/vioice took some getting used to. I have not read Katsu's other work and so I do not know if this is her approach to all her books. That said, about halfway through the book my "reading mind" adjusted and it flowed from there. If I had the option I pre-ordered this book and was anxious to get started reading it as soon as it arrived. The story sounded fascinating. I had trouble though, in the beginning, getting "into" the story. I did not find Katsu's writing style welcoming -- the active tense/vioice took some getting used to. I have not read Katsu's other work and so I do not know if this is her approach to all her books. That said, about halfway through the book my "reading mind" adjusted and it flowed from there. If I had the option of award half-stars, I would likely award this a 3.5 because I was disappointed a bit in the story line and plot. I did not see the relationship between the two women (Lyndsey and Theresa) develop the way it was portrayed by the end of the story. I certainly did not like Theresa and while I did sympathize with her situation and I realize that people are not always (sometimes rarely) held accountable for their actions -- it seemed the Lyndsey should have been less forgiving of Theresa's actions. I did like the character of Lyndsey and I think her character would prove interesting in a series as long as the story moves past Theresa and doesn't include her in future novels.

  22. 5 out of 5

    A J

    satisfying spy thriller involving a young CIA officer investigating a mole in the Agency and going up against chauvinist bad guys - Russian as well as her powerful bosses at CIA. It’s not Le Carre, although sometimes it’s trying to be. it’s serviceable. It’s clear the writer knows the bureaucratic world of the intelligence community. the tradecraft descriptions were bland. I appreciate a spy thriller with strong women characters. the twists at the end evoke real emotions. Something about the who satisfying spy thriller involving a young CIA officer investigating a mole in the Agency and going up against chauvinist bad guys - Russian as well as her powerful bosses at CIA. It’s not Le Carre, although sometimes it’s trying to be. it’s serviceable. It’s clear the writer knows the bureaucratic world of the intelligence community. the tradecraft descriptions were bland. I appreciate a spy thriller with strong women characters. the twists at the end evoke real emotions. Something about the whole novel, however, felt too self conscious and artificial, as if the author was trying too hard to pander to a certain reader demographic, rather than writing a story she was passionate to write. it was a bit of a tired cliche to have all the women be idealistic and well-meaning but oppressed by cartoonishly chauvinist and powerful men. I thought the book took itself too seriously. Still, despite my complaining, this was a perfectly satisfying and quick read that I couldn’t put down and finished in two days. Sort of like Taco Bell - I know it has no nutritional value and I know the ingredients are artificial, but I can’t help wolfing it down as fast as I can.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vinay Badri

    This is a different kind of a spy thriller - not least the fact that its not action oriented but more analytical and intelligent and headlined by a lady spy. The hunt for a traitor who has been leaking secrets to Russia forms the crux of the plot here but scratching the surface, we see the book is about internal agency politics and ambition The fascinating elements of the book lie in the character of the lead protagonist as well as the title protagonist. The journey and motivation of the 2 women This is a different kind of a spy thriller - not least the fact that its not action oriented but more analytical and intelligent and headlined by a lady spy. The hunt for a traitor who has been leaking secrets to Russia forms the crux of the plot here but scratching the surface, we see the book is about internal agency politics and ambition The fascinating elements of the book lie in the character of the lead protagonist as well as the title protagonist. The journey and motivation of the 2 women in question is what drives this book - each of them has an agenda of their own while working through trauma as well. It also does shines light on how agencies do treat their officers as mere pawns. Its also a fairly fast paced book to boot despite the lack of action - all of which really worked well Overall though, what was kind of predictable was the identity of the actual traitor. The set up for that wasnt smooth at all and very evident right from the get go. That took away a good amount of thrill as the book hurtled through its conclusion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shoshana Frank

    Red Widow By Alma Katsu Read by Mozhan Marnò. When Lindsey Duncan is woken in the middle of the night by a call from the CIA, she thinks it is to be fired after being sent home from her mission in Lebanon in disgrace. Instead, Lindsey is thrust into an investigation that could uncover corruption at the very heart of the CIA. The alternating viewpoints with Theresa Warner, the widow of a beloved CIA director killed under suspicious circumstances blend beautifully in this spy thriller for the 21st Red Widow By Alma Katsu Read by Mozhan Marnò. When Lindsey Duncan is woken in the middle of the night by a call from the CIA, she thinks it is to be fired after being sent home from her mission in Lebanon in disgrace. Instead, Lindsey is thrust into an investigation that could uncover corruption at the very heart of the CIA. The alternating viewpoints with Theresa Warner, the widow of a beloved CIA director killed under suspicious circumstances blend beautifully in this spy thriller for the 21st century. Katsu has created a story filled with espionage and intrigue. Witten in a fast-paced unputdownable style, Marnò’s unvarnished and immersive reading brings listeners into the very depth of the intelligence community. The dramatic tone is perfect for the interchanging perspectives between the two strong female characters who are struggling to navigate the tangled web of state secrets. A must read for fans of Lee Child, Karen Cleveland, and W.E.B Griffin.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is admittedly the first spy book I’ve ever read. Why is it the first spy thriller I’ve ever read? I’m not sure. It’s a genre that’s never appealed to me. While I like watching spy movies sometimes I’ve never felt the need to read one. The only reason I read this one is because I love Alma Katsu’s historical horror book The Hunger and was willing to give this a try especially with her years of CIA experience. It is full of tension and intrigue and the reader is left wondering who to trust, This is admittedly the first spy book I’ve ever read. Why is it the first spy thriller I’ve ever read? I’m not sure. It’s a genre that’s never appealed to me. While I like watching spy movies sometimes I’ve never felt the need to read one. The only reason I read this one is because I love Alma Katsu’s historical horror book The Hunger and was willing to give this a try especially with her years of CIA experience. It is full of tension and intrigue and the reader is left wondering who to trust, much like Lyndsey. I finished it very quickly as the pages flew by. I do think it has a very “inside person approach” to the story that only someone, like Ms. Katsu, who’s really worked in the CIA could provide. If you like spy thrillers then definitely read this and if you’re like me and never read one before, give this one a try. **thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-ARC I received**

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trinity Hopkins

    When Alma announced on Twitter that she was releasing a spy novel, my heart sank. Spy novels are just not my thing. But...but..Alma wrote it, and in my best southern drawl-Imma gonna read it. After all she did write one of my favorites books ever, The Hunger. First 75ish pages was blah! I didn’t know if I was going to finish it. Main character, Lindsey, is a human lie detector for the CIA. She’s gotten into some trouble and been dismissed from her post. An old mentor calls her in from leave for When Alma announced on Twitter that she was releasing a spy novel, my heart sank. Spy novels are just not my thing. But...but..Alma wrote it, and in my best southern drawl-Imma gonna read it. After all she did write one of my favorites books ever, The Hunger. First 75ish pages was blah! I didn’t know if I was going to finish it. Main character, Lindsey, is a human lie detector for the CIA. She’s gotten into some trouble and been dismissed from her post. An old mentor calls her in from leave for a special assignment. The beginning is all about how Lindsey feels about this and that. How she knows this one or that one. She did this. She did that. It was pretty tedious getting through it. After that first bit though it blows up and goes fast. After around 150 pages I could not lay it down. Once again Ms Katsu has mastered her art with a spy novel. Of all things. A spy novel. Good thing I’m an adventurous reader. Huh?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cody Daigle-Orians

    I don’t normally pick up spy thrillers, but Alma Katsu is a “must buy whatever she writes” writer for me. So RED WIDOW was a must for me. What a fantastic book. I get why folks love spy thrillers now. RED WIDOW delivers on the intrigue, the twists, the unexpected reveals. And the insider behind-the-scenes CIA stuff is so well done, totally believable. What makes this one really stand out for me: when I’ve tried spy thrillers before, they’ve had a sheen of machismo and “this is GUY STUFF” energy I don’t normally pick up spy thrillers, but Alma Katsu is a “must buy whatever she writes” writer for me. So RED WIDOW was a must for me. What a fantastic book. I get why folks love spy thrillers now. RED WIDOW delivers on the intrigue, the twists, the unexpected reveals. And the insider behind-the-scenes CIA stuff is so well done, totally believable. What makes this one really stand out for me: when I’ve tried spy thrillers before, they’ve had a sheen of machismo and “this is GUY STUFF” energy that really turns me off as a reader. RED WIDOW is none of that. With two really beautifully drawn central female characters and emotional stakes that are taken seriously, it engages in a totally different way. It was really satisfying on a lot of levels. I wanted more time in this world. Highly recommend this one, even if spy novels aren’t your thing. Alma has something here that will thrill you, entertain you and make you a convert.

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

    I first discovered Alma Katsu when I read her novel, The Deep. I loved her storytelling style and her well crafted characters. Now, after finishing Red Widow, I'm blown away, Alma Katsu hit this one out of the park. I love a good thriller, and I got one. This reminded me, in all the good ways, of the series The Americans from several years back. An old school spy thriller at its best, America vs Russia, it doesn't get any better than that. I was hooked from square one and couldn't put this one d I first discovered Alma Katsu when I read her novel, The Deep. I loved her storytelling style and her well crafted characters. Now, after finishing Red Widow, I'm blown away, Alma Katsu hit this one out of the park. I love a good thriller, and I got one. This reminded me, in all the good ways, of the series The Americans from several years back. An old school spy thriller at its best, America vs Russia, it doesn't get any better than that. I was hooked from square one and couldn't put this one down. The complexity of the plot, the real life characters, plus all the technical jargon gave this book life. There where characters to love, hate, root for and against. Each time I thought I had it figured out I was wrong. Red Widow had me guessing as layer upon layer were revealed. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to spend a few days with a great thriller.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Excellent! This is one terrific spy thriller. Lyndsey Duncan is a CIA agent. She's on home leave in Virginia after an incident at Beirut Station. Lyndsey is called in to work on a case because of her Moscow experience. Theresa Warner has also been at the Agency for a decade. She lost her husband, chief of Russian division, Richard, during an unauthorized mission two years ago. She's known as "The Widow" around the office. The two women meet each other at the Russian Division. They start up a tentative f Excellent! This is one terrific spy thriller. Lyndsey Duncan is a CIA agent. She's on home leave in Virginia after an incident at Beirut Station. Lyndsey is called in to work on a case because of her Moscow experience. Theresa Warner has also been at the Agency for a decade. She lost her husband, chief of Russian division, Richard, during an unauthorized mission two years ago. She's known as "The Widow" around the office. The two women meet each other at the Russian Division. They start up a tentative friendship. They are working separate cases, but will soon discover that they have more in common than either realized. The suspense is wire-tight. The plot trapped me from the start. I couldn't stop reading! I totally enjoyed it. This was an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    Given Katsu's career in the CIA, I went into this book with higher expectations than I would otherwise have, but I was still surprised by how much I loved this story. Katsu does a great job building the tension throughout the investigation which is a credit to Katsu's writing because this isn't an action heavy story, and is mostly focused on the part of the job that's done from behind the desk. I also liked that the story dealt with a rivalry between two female agents without resorting to sexist Given Katsu's career in the CIA, I went into this book with higher expectations than I would otherwise have, but I was still surprised by how much I loved this story. Katsu does a great job building the tension throughout the investigation which is a credit to Katsu's writing because this isn't an action heavy story, and is mostly focused on the part of the job that's done from behind the desk. I also liked that the story dealt with a rivalry between two female agents without resorting to sexist tropes and stereotypes that are all too common in this genre. The motivations of the characters felt real, rather than manufactured to service the plot, and while there were some aspects of the mystery I was able to figure out, the details of those solutions were interesting and unexpected. Even though Katsu is mainly known for her horror novels, I really hope she writes another spy thriller.

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