The Cardinal of the The Kremlin is the first Clancy book that is not dependant on action. Rather, the focus is on the "games" that spies play.
In his third part of the Jack Ryan novels, Clancy uses more of the Cold War American-Soviet conflict to focus on hero Jack Ryan as he steps in to investigate mysterious buildings on the Soviet-Afghan border. Before the examination can continue, the Soviets deactivate a satellite with a "free electron laser". Only because of a well placed spy - in the highest ranks of the Kremlin - are the details of this secret activity leaked to the United States government. And then the games begin as intelligence is transferred back and forth and there are attacks and counterattacks between the intelligence agencies.
We are introduced to Mikhail Filitov who is first seen towards the end of The Hunt for Red October. Filotov is a Soviet war hero and a former Red Army Colonel - but his CIA code name is "Cardinal" as he is working for the Americans as a spy. An encounter in a Moscow subway leads the KGB to begin a hunt for their intelligence leak. During delicate negotiations between the governments of the US and the USSR, their secret espionage groups are locked in a struggle. What the Cardinal knows could change the outcome of everything. Ryan must outduel the KGB and bring the Cardinal out alive to secure this important knowledge that he contains.
The Cardinal of the Kremlin builds momentum from near the beginning of the story and continues to build tension as it goes on. Yes, it is not all that action-packed; but then - neither was the Cold War. Despite this, however, the novel still has its exciting moments.
The character development of the Cardinal - Filitov - was done very well as we see him to be a lonely man - trapped in his own country.
There were quite a few scenes, however, that were slow and brought the main plot to a crawl. I am primarily referring to the sub-plot with "The Archer" - an Afghan warrior. Although, your patience will be rewarded, as this sub-plot did end very satisfactory.
Though it was a suspenseful reading - and very captivating at times - you may have to take this story slower than others some of the others. The Cardinal of the Kremlin, all in all, was one of Clancy's greatest novels that displayed his knowledge strength - the Cold War. I strongly recommend this story to be read - but only in order with the other Jack Ryan books - particularly the The Hunt for Red October as there are some significant connected plot lines.