Red London (Red Widow #2)

Source: DRC via NetGalley (Penguin Group Putnam, G.M. Putnam’s Sons) in exchange for an honest review
Publication Date: March 14, 2023
Synopsis: Goodreads
Purchase Link: Amazon

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Why did I choose to read this book?

I loved The Fervor by Alma Katsu and so I wanted to explore other books that she has written. I snagged Red London on NetGalley as a DRC in advance of its publication, so after reading Red Widow this was the next book by Katsu on my list.

What is this book about?

Lyndsey has reluctantly agreed to handle a newly turned Russian officer who promises to get them a major general in the KGB in return for not having to go to jail in the USA. She’s been reassigned to a small outpost in London where she works and waits for meetups with her asset. She’s called into MI6 where she finds her ex-lover from Beirut that got her into so much trouble in Red Widow is in charge of a task force that is trying to turn the wife of a famous oligarch who lives on Billionaire’s Row in London (this is an actual place!). He begs her to go undercover and befriend the oligarch’s wife, Emily, to see if they can turn her into an intelligence asset. So this story is about Lyndsey juggling these two assignments, hoping that she’s back in Langley’s (CIA) good graces and her career is back on track.

What is notable about this story?]

I want to speak to Lyndsey for just a second here. GIRL DO NOT TRUST MEN OMG. For a very smart woman, Lyndsey has the worst judgment when it comes to men, particularly men who are in charge. But still this accurately portrays the situations that women find themselves in when they are in careers that are male-dominated. Sometimes you just have to play the part to get by. But good lord I was screaming at Lyndsey in some parts of this book about her decisions. And the good news about this is that I am invested in her character now and I care about what happens to her. I felt this was lacking in Red Widow, but Katsu has more than made up for this in Red London.

This book moved so much faster than Red Widow, probably because I had reached the point where I cared about Lyndsey’s character. Sweating over her undercover mission, her attempts to get what both MI6 and the CIA wanted while sacrificing her own comfort and safety, I almost started biting my nails again and I quit that habit a LONG time ago. The pacing and tension in the second half of the book was so much better than in Red Widow too. Once the action started moving and the walls started closing in I could not put the book down until I knew where all the pieces fell. I even got a satisfying ending for Lyndsey. You go girl.

Red London is everything I wished Red Widow had been. Dry spy action but with thrilling “holding a breath you didn’t know you were holding” action. And it’s all done without a lot of gunplay; I really appreciate the psychological thrill that Katsu brings. This is not your James Bond spy novel and that’s a very good thing!

Was anything not so great?

I’m not sure if I’m going through a phase in my reading or whatever but any forced physical interaction (breathing, touching, kissing, grabbing, pinning down, etc) including sexual assault or rape has me just violently recoiling right now. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of it, and when there was it was just surface level stuff, but there are some icky moments in here. If you’re sensitive about physical “moments” or abusive domestic situations, just know there are a few spots you might find yourself skipping over. They aren’t very long, and you can make it through the book without them, so this isn’t something that should make you skip the book entirely – but you know yourself and it’s a trigger worth mentioning.

What’s the verdict?

Red London surpasses its predecessor with 4 stars on Goodreads. Alma Katsu is turning up the heat with this entry in the series and I am not lying when I say I’m excited for book 3! Get Red Widow, then get Red London. I have a feeling it’s only going to get more exciting from here!