Too Bad to Die

A tense and enthralling World War II thriller: British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming races to foil a Nazi plot to assassinate FDR, Churchill and Stalin.

November 1943. Weary of his deskbound status in the Royal Navy, intelligence officer Ian Fleming spends his spare time spinning stories in his head that are much more exciting than his own life…until the critical Tehran Conference, when Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin meet to finalize the D-Day invasion.

With the Big Three in one place, Fleming is tipped off that Hitler’s top assassin has infiltrated the conference. Seizing his chance to play a part in a real-life action story, Fleming goes undercover to stop the Nazi killer. Between martinis with beautiful women, he survives brutal attacks and meets a seductive Soviet spy who may know more than he realizes. As he works to uncover the truth and unmask the assassin, Fleming is forced to accept that betrayal sometimes comes from the most unexpected quarters—and that one’s literary creations may prove eerily close to one’s own life.

Brilliantly inventive, utterly gripping and suspenseful, Too Bad To Die is Francine Mathews’s best novel yet, and confirms her place as a master of historical fiction.

A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice pick

“…a literate and sophisticated what-if historical thriller…suspense reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred review
“…fast, fun and wonderfully intelligent.”
The New York Times
“Mathews writes well, keeps the pace brisk and has great fun re-creating historical personages.”
“Mathews seeds the intrigue with believable spycraft and references to Bond lore—vodka martinis, testicle torture, shady SMERSH operatives—that make the reading especially fun for Bond fans.”
Playboy Magazine
“…fast-paced, multi-layered, and brazenly tackles multiple historical figures.”
—Book Riot

JACK 1939

A young Jack Kennedy travels to Europe on a secret mission for Franklin Roosevelt as the world braces for war.

It’s the spring of 1939, and the prospect of war in Europe looms large. The United States has no intelligence service. In Washington, D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt may run for an unprecedented third term and needs someone he can trust to find out what the Nazis are up to. His choice: John F. Kennedy.

It’s a surprising selection. At twenty-two, Jack Kennedy is the attractive but unpromising second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Roosevelt’s ambassador to Britain (and occasional political adversary). But when Jack decides to travel through Europe to gather research for his Harvard senior thesis, Roosevelt takes the opportunity to use him as his personal spy. The president’s goal: to stop the flow of German money that has been flooding the United States to buy the 1940 election—an election that Adolf Hitler intends Roosevelt lose.

In a deft mosaic of fact and fiction, Francine Mathews has written a gripping espionage tale that explores what might have happened when a young Jack Kennedy is let loose in Europe as the world careens toward war. A potent combination of history and storytelling, Jack 1939 is a sexy, entertaining read.

“…this imaginative, well-researched mix of fact and fiction… provides an intriguing look at pre-WWII politics, both in the U.S. and Europe…”
Publishers Weekly
“…one of the most deliciously high-concept thrillers imaginable…”
The New Yorker
“…a hair-raising tale…a cross between Jane Austen and Dashiell Hammett…The pace is so propulsive that you’ll read every word.”
The Washington Post
“Young Jack Kennedy makes for a flawed but appealing protagonist, and the espionage plot is complex and thrilling in equal parts.”
Library Journal, Starred review
“[G]rounding her thriller in spycraft and historical detail, Ms. Mathews pulls it off.”
The New York Times
“Jack is beguiling, and Mathews’ strobe-light, fact-infused drama of covert pre-WWII operations is riveting.”

The Alibi Club

It’s the city’s most infamous after-hours haunt—a glittering hotbed of deals and debaucheries. The sordid death of Philip Stilwell sends shock waves through the Alibi Club… for there’s much more to Stilwell’s untimely end than a sex game gone wrong. His murder and the desperate attempt to keep a deadly weapon out of German hands till bring together the strands of a twisted plot of betrayal, passion, and espionage—one connected to the Alibi Club… and to the most explosive secret of the war.

As the Nazis march on Paris and the crisis escalates, four remarkable characters are swept into the maelstrom. Their courage will change the course of history.

Sally King—Philip Stilwell planned to propose to her the very night of his death. Shattered, she will uncover the truth for which her lover died—whatever the cost.

Memphis Jones—The African-American blues diva who came to Paris via Tennessee. Leaving the city that loves her is unthinkable—even if the Nazis force her to wear a yellow star.

Nell Bracecourt—The coming German invasion offers this earl’s daughter a dangerous jolt out of boredom and disillusionment…and a final, deadly rendezvous.

Iréne Curie—Daughter of the world’s most famed scientists, her marriage and the foundations of atomic fusion are on a collision course.

Epic yet intimate, a seamless blend of fact and fiction based on a little-known episode of the war, The Alibi Club is a thriller of fierce and complex suspense by a writer whose own life in the spy world makes espionage come uniquely alive.

A Publishers Weekly Best Novel of the Year

Read a Q&A with Francine about The Alibi Club

“…the impeccable period details of Alan Furst’s novels about Paris during WWII mixed with a cast straight out of Casablanca…”
Publishers Weekly, Starred review

“Mathews creates dynamic fictional characters to balance the known characters that people her novel. The plot is fast moving, gritty and edgy as the times, with expected and unexpected twists.”
The Mystery Reader


Sequel to The Cutout

Former CIA analyst Francine Mathews has created “one of the toughest female secret agents we’ve seen in a long time.” (USA Today) Using her firsthand experience of international espionage, Mathews offers another brilliantly realized suspense novel so intense, so authentic, it lethally blurs the line between fact and fiction.

In Blown, Caroline Carmichael returns in a white-hot tale of terror on the streets of Washington, where one woman must gamble her life to save her country.

For a spy, there’s nothing more dangerous than having your cover BLOWN…

As thousands of runners line up for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C., no one suspects that in a matter of hours the event will become a race between life and death. CIA analyst Caroline Carmichael is about to tender her resignation, when the first reports of a terrorist attack pour in—and she instantly recognizes the hand of an enemy she’s battled for years: the 30 April Organization. The neo-Nazi group in alive and well and operating in the United States, assassinating top officials and abducting a vulnerable child from the front ranks of a state funeral. When Caroline’s husband, Eric, is arrested in Germany as a 30 April operative, Caroline has no choice but to take to the streets—and target the evil herself.

Eric has worked as a “legend” for years—a false identity so perfect, the CIA believes he’s dead—and gone deep undercover within the terrorist group Caroline is determined to destroy. Now his cover’s been blown, and Eric’s intimate knowledge of 30 April’s plans makes him a target for both sides: the killers he’s betrayed, and the American government he’s sworn to protect.

Torn between a desire to save her husband and her duty to save her country, Caroline is drawn back into a treacherous labyrinth where trusting others is as good as suicide. For the enemy this time wears a familiar face: that of an American patriot, waving his flag alongside his gun. To stem disaster, Caroline has only one choice: to betray everything in which she believes—or everyone she loves.

For an agent without cover—an agent who’s blown—is worse than betrayed: she’s as good as dead.

Read Francine’s article “On Writing about Terrorism”

“…strong suspense and crisp espionage maneuvers…. a riveting, wild ride right to the nail-biting conclusion.”
—Publishers Weekly
“…like an interesting mix of Robert Ludlum and Thomas Harris…. Blown is an edge-of-your-seat summertime thriller.”
The Denver Post
“…a complicated and real person that we never doubt her existence for a moment.”
Chicago Tribune
“…riveting… full of excitement, emotion and action, Blown is a definite page-turner.”

The Cutout

In an electrifying thriller debut guaranteed to redefine the genre, Francine Mathews brings her expertise as a former CIA analyst to a work of fiction that reads like the real thing—in a breathtaking tale of a world on the brink of chaos… and the one woman who can stop the deadly countdown to global terror.

They were partners, lovers, soul mates in a business where betrayal is only a heartbeat away. CIA analyst Caroline Carmichael lost her husband Eric when his plane was blown out of the sky by an elite group of terrorists known as 30 April. For two years she’s headed an Agency task force tracking Eric’s killers. Now, her dead husband has surfaced among those responsible for an explosion that rocks Berlin—and for the daring kidnapping of the U.S. Vice President.

The news sends CIA headquarters into turmoil. Desperate to bury evidence of a maverick agent, uncertain of Eric’s motives and loyalties, the Agency plays its last, best card: Eric’s wife—the Cutout—sent to Germany as bait to reel him and his VIP hostage in from the cold.

Someone is trying to rewrite history and Eric alone knows who it is, how it is to be done, and when. Caroline’s assignment is to learn whether Eric is a rogue agent gone bad—or if he has thrown himself under deep cover to terminate a ruthless psychopath bent on changing the face of Europe. Torn between duty to country and the ghosts of her past, the Cutout swiftly finds herself drawn deep into a dizzying maze where one wrong turn will mean certain death. And in a game where even the life of a Vice President is a pawn, Caroline knows that the Cutout will be the first to fall.

This scorching debut was bought by Warner Bros. prior to publication. Peopled by a remarkable heroine and an authentic cast of characters, sparked with dizzying ambiguities and explosive climaxes, The Cutout is thriller writing at its finest—and it introduces a masterful writer who will take the suspense genre by storm.

Read Francine’s article “Spies, Shaken and Stirred”

“Riveting… Mathew’s presentation of espionage and CIA tactics is impeccable.”
—Publishers Weekly
“From its dynamic beginning to its inventive conclusion, sensitivity and suspense are equally at home in this expert blend of introspective novel and high-powered international thriller.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Francine writes with precision and authority. The Cutout is a top rate spy thriller. I loved it.”
—Ridley Pearson
“…intelligent, passionate, and unceasingly entertaining.”
—Stephen White

The Secret Agent

In her acclaimed debut, The Cutout, former CIA analyst Francine Mathews defined a world of intrigue where only the savvy survive. Now, in The Secret Agent, Mathews propels us deep into the baffling history of a maverick American’s glittering life and his sudden, cataclysmic disappearance… Here is the masterful story of secret agents of many kinds—in a realm where truth is the most dangerous secret of all.

Who was Jack Roderick?

Trained by the OSS, Jack Roderick plummeted into Bangkok one rainy morning in 1945 and never left. Silk King, pirate, ruthless collector of beautiful objects—especially women—Roderick was feared and respected as a foreign spy, a business kingpin, and a trader in men’s souls. And then, at the height of the Vietnam War, caught in a killing web of treachery and revenge that would determine the fate of his only son, Rory, Jack Roderick walked into the jungle… and vanished from the face of the earth.

Four decades later, can the mystery be solved?

International fund manager Stefani Fogg is recruited by a man whose job it is to know the unknowable. Wealthy beyond corruption, impervious to romance, and equipped with a mind that can crack any enigma, Stefani signs up for the adventure of a lifetime: playing Secret Agent to Max Roderick, grandson of Bangkok’s long-vanished Legendary American. A world-class skier tangled in a sordid Thai murder investigation, Max is consumed with the riddle of Jack Roderick’s disappearance—and with his own father’s death in the jungles of Vietnam.

Seduced by Max’s charm and intrigued by his family history, Stefani ignores the warning signs and follows her heart. But when Max’s quarrel with the Thai police turns deadly and a killer strikes, she knows she must return to the place where it all began, to unravel the lies, penetrate a deadly conspiracy, and expose a killing truth. She flees Max’s France for Bangkok’s khlongs—into the ruins of the Silk King’s dark past and the mesmerizing shadow of the Roderick family curse. What she finds, in Jack Roderick’s story and in the fate of his fighter-pilot son, is an American dream that crashed and burned in the rice paddies of Vietnam and a chilling legacy that haunts our own to this day.

Propelling us masterfully through half a century, from Manhattan to the Alps to the colorful and treacherous heart of Bangkok, and based on the life of American expatriate Jim Thompson, The Secret Agent is at once a murder mystery, a touching love story, and a lavishly atmospheric journey through the exotic landscape of love and history—an historical thriller of the first rank.

Read about Francine’s research for The Secret Agent

“It’s easy to see why Mathews, who worked for the CIA herself, became fascinated with Thompson and Bangkok. Superb.”
Publishers Weekly

“You won’t regret a moment spent reading The Secret Agent—except the one when you finish it.”
Rocky Mountain News

“Mathews writes espionage thrillers as good as the best—say John LeCarré or Robert Ludlum.”
Christian Science Monitor
“In my mind, Francine Mathews is right up there with John LeCarré and Robert Ludlum…. Espionage is back!—and in extremely capable hands.”
—Ridley Pearson