Red London, the newest Red Widow mystery from Alma Katsu, is set in a world that is both post-Putin and post-Ukrainian war. It focuses on the relationship of Russia’s new (and fictional) government with its oligarchs. And, of course, on Russia’s relationship with the world. Lyndsey Duncan finds herself smack in the middle of all the conflict and uncertainty as she works a case with her employer, the CIA.

When Lyndsey starts settling into a London routine, a curveball comes her way. Its sender is her former paramour, who works for England’s MI6. They need her help with a case surrounding one of the Russian oligarchs. Naturally, Lyndsey’s thrown for a loop. But she and the Agency agree to go along with the plan to infiltrate the oligarch’s household, using a tenuous connection to his English wife.

There’s plenty at stake as Lyndsey balances her CIA responsibilities with this MI6 project. If she’s caught, the oligarch most likely will kill her. And the Russian contact she’s working for the CIA can’t know about the other project. Every few hours, Lyndsey slides from one identity to the other, which amps up plenty of suspense. The conclusion is equally solid and startling.

My conclusions

As with Red Widow, Katsu draws on her former career with the CIA. She makes the tradecraft feel real, including Lyndsey’s many long jaunts around London, switching identities to thwart anyone tailing her.

But what’s most compelling is how Lyndsey connects with Emily, the oligarch’s wife. Neither woman is used to having close friends, and their dance is more like an awkward waltz than an effortless tango. They can’t fully trust each other, despite human nature’s desire to do just that.

Once I started reading, Red London drew me in quickly and left me guessing with every plot twist. It’s a timely thriller that rings with truths drawn directly from the headlines.

It helps to read Red Widow first to meet Lyndsey and learn more about her story. They are a perfect pair.


Thanks to NetGalley, Penguin Group Putnam, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. The expected publication date for this book is March 14, 2023.