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Jack 1939 Hardcover – July 5, 2012
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“The pace is so propulsive that you’ll read every word… Mathews’s ability to weave fact into her tale is nothing short of remarkable… there are precious few entertainments this captivating.”—The Washington Post
“One of the most deliciously high-concept thrillers imaginable.”—The New Yorker
“A brisk thriller that defies the odds… It's no small feat to take a historic figure who looms as large in real life as John F. Kennedy, place him in an improbable fantasy and not strain credulity. But in this case, Mathews has accomplished her mission.”—USA Today
“Grounding her thriller in spycraft and historical detail, Ms. Mathews pulls it off.”—New York Times Book Review
“Francine Mathews has a way of making you believe that improbable situations just might be true… Jack 1939 is a complicated thriller, filled with trust and betrayal.”—Denver Post
“Deliciously inventive.”—MORE Magazine
“A highly entertaining cocktail of 20th century political history and sexy-spy-novel tropes.”—The Daily Beast
“A rollicking adventure story… an awful lot of fun.”—Financial Times
“Tautly written…thrilling, credible, and memorable.”—The Historical Novel Society
“Imaginative, well-researched… an intriguing look at pre-WWII politics, both in the U.S. and Europe, as well as a meticulous character study of the future president.”—Publishers Weekly
“Complex and thrilling in equal parts.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Vivid and sexy… Mathews’ strobe-light, fact-infused drama of covert pre-WWII operations is riveting.”—Booklist
“Filled with memorable characters both fictional and historical, Mathews provides an edge-of-the-seat journey, filled with haunting images that readers won’t soon forget… Aficionados of espionage fiction, history, the Kennedy family, World War II and seat-of-the-pants excitement will devour this book, a must-read story that stands out from the pack. It’ll make you want to turn back to your history books once again.”—BookPage
“Francine Mathews delivers a marvel: a thriller with genuine heart. This is a delicious imagining of one of the 20th century’s most fascinating figures, wrapped up in a gripping story of espionage.” – Eleanor Brown, bestselling author of the The Weird Sisters
“Like JFK himself, this book is smart, sexy and unafraid of taking risks. With nimble prose and easy charm, Francine Mathews leads us beyond the frontiers of history to make us believe in her vision of a young Kennedy at large in a dark world of prewar spies and secrets.” – Dan Fesperman, author of Lie in the Dark
“A brilliantly conceived, riveting tightrope race across Europe in the predawn of World War II." – Stephen White, author of Line of Fire and The Last Lie
“A triumph: an exciting thriller, an intriguing exploration of a troubled time, and an absorbing take on the early history of one of America’s most iconic figures. Highly recommended.” – Iain Pears, bestselling author of An Instance of the Fingerpost --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Francine Mathews is the author of more than twenty novels of mystery, history, and suspense. Her historical thriller The Alibi Club was named one of the fifteen best novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. A graduate of Princeton and Stanford, she spent four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA and presently lives and works in Colorado.
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Here, for example, is FDR — yes, President Roosevelt — in conversation with young Jack Kennedy: “As far as the Nazis are concerned, you’re clean as the driven snow. They know your dad and I don’t always agree. They’ll never expect you to be my man in Europe.”
Francine Mathews is a former CIA analyst who has built a career as a writer of mystery and spy fiction. She has written two dozen books, including twelve featuring Jane Austen as an amateur detective. The latest of her books is Too Bad to Die, a superb espionage novel starring Ian Fleming, cast from the same mold as Jack 1939. It’s no stretch to imagine mature Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming — who was, in fact, an officer in British intelligence — as a gun-toting secret agent. Sickly, undernourished, ill-prepared Jack Kennedy in a similar role at 22 doesn’t ring true.
This is a suspene thriller in every sense of the term. We know the hero--Jack, who is is sick all the time, often feverish, unable to hold food down, medicating himself, thin and frail. We know the heroine if there is one--Diana Playfair (I looked on Google and she doesn't seem to be a historical character). We know the villains--Reinhard Heydrich, the obbergruppenfuhrer, chief of Hitler's main security office and a thoroughly merciless man (historical figure) along with Hans Obst (apparently fictional), an equally merciless killer skilled with a knife. And we know the prize--an address book listing those who donated to the Sisters of Clemency, a charity which funneled funds to aid the Nazis in defeating Roosevelt in the American election--a list which includes Joe Kennedy. (Complicated enough for you?) Most of the above is historical but what bothered me in this novel was sorting the historical from the fictional, some of which seems improbable. Jack skitters across Europe, Obst at his heels, passing through checkpoints and closed borders and escaping death by a hairs breadth. Suspense at its best but, to me, bothersome. Jack does go from wanting to get the address book to save the famly reputation to wanting to get it for the cause of America--a touch of Camelot to come?
If you are a follower of the Kennedy legend then Papa Kennedy's transgressions are well known. It was entertaining to sift thru possible scenes between father, son, mother, siblings as well as girlfriends to fathom what very well could have been. Surely this is all fiction but with famous characters and well known players during the late 1930's it's great fun to appreciate a story spilling over with panache & pathos.
I found the story difficult to put aside because it was tightly written and detailed well enough to make it almost credible. Stories about actual people who eventually were a part of history placed into situations that could have been are intriguing concepts. I felt I learned more about the lead up to WWII and the goings on with the likes of J Edgar Hoover, FDR, Chamberlain and a few more who added spice and significance to a marvelous tale.
It's not a great literary lift but it's entertainment set against historical fact. A most intriguing read that ranks a "wow!" right thru the last page.
Most recent customer reviews
I'm already reading another Francine Mathews novel and enjoying IT.