I'm not sure if it's because I've read so many bad espionage stories recently, but I am consciously aware that I liked this more than it deserved to be liked. I kept wishing there was a way the story could be written without a huge part of the plot (the ridiculous romance between two spies who really should know better than to fall in love instantly.) I get worried for national security every time I read one of these stories.
Beyond that huge plot hole, it is excellently-researched and intricate enough to make me feel more comfortable immersed in it than the paint-by-numbers espionage books I've read recently. Nonetheless, there is a huge tendency in this book to view Americans as overly wonderful and super "nice," while Russians are more complicated and far more evil. The lack of nuance is mitigated by the love affair, but love can't cover everything.
I shall be reading the next book, because this one left me with a hook dangling from my mouth, and I need to see how the details are going to work out (it feels pretty clear how it will go in the broad strokes.) I probably could have gotten just as much from the upcoming film(s?) (excepting the recipes, but I don't cook.) My hope is that he "sparrow" will stay well-placed and grow into the strong woman she already is, full of power and a great spy, and that her boy toy, who has the temperament of a small child at times, gets transferred or just grows up and becomes her handler only.
A minor quibble. I am a synesthete as well as a neuroscientist. The book didn't do a good job of making clear that the aura-ish things she sees have nothing to do with synesthesia. In fact, they made it seem like her synaesthesia was the reason she could read people this way. Synaesthesia can be a great help in many things, but those things don't include seeing purity bubbles around people's heads. It's a mild quibble. There is mass misunderstanding about synesthetes but not much in terms of persecution, so I can let that go, silly and incorrect as it is. I can let it go because there were more absurd things than thought bubbles around people's heads.
All of this leaves me yearning for Len Deighton and other cold war writers' supreme nuance and intricate weaving plots that had people leaving their national comfort zones because people are more complicated than country - and all of that nuance cannot be conveyed with a few sexy scenes and two youngsters in lust.