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  • Mandy McHugh

Red Widow, Alma Katsu: A Review

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.

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