Books by Francine Mathews

Francine Mathews was born Francine Stephanie Barron in Binghamton, NY in 1963, the last of six girls. Her father was a retired general in the Air Force, her mother a beautiful woman who loved to dance. The family spent their summers on Cape Cod, where two

DEATH ON NANTUCKET by Francine Mathews
Released: June 6, 2017

"After a long hiatus, Mathews returns to Nantucket (Death in a Cold Hard Light, 1999, etc.) with this twisty tale of family relationships gone bad."
A police officer's wedding plans are complicated by a death in one of Nantucket's most prominent families. Read full book review >
TOO BAD TO DIE by Francine Mathews
Released: March 3, 2015

"Mathews writes well, keeps the pace brisk and has great fun re-creating historical personages."
If the title sounds reminiscent of a James Bond novel, it's no coincidence, for Mathews freely makes use of Ian Fleming's World War II experience as an intelligence officer in Cairo and Tehran to create adventures in espionage and counterespionage. Read full book review >
JACK 1939 by Francine Mathews
Released: July 12, 2012

"A bold concept, poorly executed by this veteran thriller writer (Blown, 2005, etc.)."
FDR recruits a young Jack Kennedy to do some sleuthing in Europe on the eve of World War II. Read full book review >
THE ALIBI CLUB by Francine Mathews
Released: Aug. 29, 2006

"We're in Alan Furst territory here, save that Furst's plotting and writing are orders-of-magnitude better. Still, serviceable as Nazi-era genre thrillers go, with suspenseful moments to match the slack ones."
Nazi baddies meet good guys straight out of Rick's Café Americain—or, that is, the Club Alibi. Guess who wins. Read full book review >
BLOWN by Francine Mathews
Released: May 3, 2005

"Tightly plotted and, aside from occasional infelicities, decently written: '. . . all his rage and love in his face.' But what keeps the pages turning is the tough, tender, often out-gunned, always battling Caroline."
More spooky derring-do from CIA intelligence analyst Caroline Carmichael (The Cutout, 2004) as she tracks the baddest terrorist organization on earth. Read full book review >
THE SECRET AGENT by Francine Mathews
Released: June 25, 2002

"Mathews, an ex-CIA analyst, informs us that the agency signed off on the manuscript. No secrets, then, though there are competent thrills."
Mathews (a.k.a. mystery writer Stephanie Barron) returns (after The Cutout, 2001) with a spy thriller extrapolated loosely from perhaps-real events in Southeast Asia. Read full book review >
THE CUTOUT by Francine Mathews
Released: Jan. 20, 2001

"Mathews, a former CIA intelligence analyst and veteran mystery author (Death in a Cold Hard Light, 1998, etc.), writes well, and the story benefits from her savvy about spycraft. Her strong characters, though, ultimately get swamped by all the spook-y details."
A near-miss thriller about spies coming in from the cold—le Carré American-style. Read full book review >
DEATH IN A MOOD INDIGO by Francine Mathews
Released: July 1, 1997

Third in this series set in Nantucket, where Meredith Folger is a detective in the small police force headed by her father John (Death in Rough Water, 1995, etc.). During the quiet off-season, a skull and some bones are dug up on the beach by a dog belonging to the Markham family—widow Julia, a taciturn chain-smoker, and her children, 11-year-old Cecil and his younger sister Nan. Husband Ian, a sculptor, died eight years ago when his boat sank in a squall, at a time when his affair with rich and beautiful Dr. Elizabeth Osborne was general gossip fodder. Elizabeth also vanished on that stormy night, never to be seen again. The FBI, following the trail of a serial killer, takes an interest in the Nantucket find, sending their expert forensic psychiatrist Dr. Tucker Enright to the scene. The skull is identified as that of Elizabeth; strangulation, it would seem, was the cause of death. Meredith interviews Elizabeth's husband Jack in Boston, and is startled to discover that Enright too had known and loved Elizabeth—all of them having been members of Cambridge's intellectual community. Matters take on a more immediate and threatening tone when—even as the Boston police have jailed a promising suspect in the serial killer case—two women on the island are found strangled and Meredith becomes the target of slyly threatening letters. A byzantine plot that defies compression eventually leads to great peril for Meredith in a gripping, edge- of-your-seat climax. Leisurely and literate—though a shade too heavy on introspection and psychobabble, with too many unlikely twists and turns in the plotting. But nonetheless absorbing. Read full book review >
DEATH IN ROUGH WATER by Francine Mathews
Released: Oct. 15, 1995

A second Nantucket-based story featuring Merry Folger, detective on the tiny island police force headed by her father, John (Death in the Off-Season, 1994). Merry's childhood friend Del Duarte, mother of out-of-wedlock toddler Sara, has returned to the island for the funeral of her father Joe, a fisherman accidentally killed aboard his boat during a storm. Del would never reveal the identity of her child's father and has been estranged from Joe for years. Still, she's shocked to find he's left his two valuable boats to boorish Jackie Alcantrara, who'd crewed for him on the fatal voyage. Merry begins to explore Del's suspicion of foul play but is soon sidetracked by a monster arson fire at the town pier, resulting in the shooting death of hard-working marine superintendent Mitch Davis, supposedly killed by a crazed boat- owner unseen in the smoke and confusion. On the heels of this disaster comes the discovery of Del's murdered body, killed by a harpoon thrust, amid clues that point to quiet Jenny Baldwin, wife of rich, ambitious contractor Tom and once Del's employer. It's all more than enough to keep Merry's mind off her turbulent feelings for attractive landowner Peter Mason, and her dogged persistence pays off, uncovering a complex web of deceit, resentment, and greed. Refreshing island atmosphere, believable villainy, and down- to-earth sleuthingall combine with a protagonist whose vulnerability sets her apart from her hard-shelled sisters in the genre. Read full book review >
DEATH IN THE OFF-SEASON by Francine Mathews
Released: Sept. 26, 1994

Labor Day weekend on Nantucket Island can be murder. Just ask Detective Meredith Folger, who wants to know why somebody would've killed newly returned Rusty Mason—who took off for Brazil ten years ago one jump ahead of a sealed indictment—and why he would've risked his freedom to come back in the first place. The deeper she digs, though, the more dirt she finds. The resourceful Rusty was blackmailing his kid brother Peter, off-islanders Schuyler Tate-Jackson (Peter's lawyer) and Mayling Stern (Sky's dress-designer girlfriend), and whoever else was implicated in his own mysterious crime back in 1982, just before his father narrowly survived a takeover bid for the family business and then succumbed to a fatal heart attack. And since Merry has problems with her own family business—she's a third-generation cop whose father, the island's chief of police, doesn't want her to handle the case—she can understand how family passions might have boiled over, even before she knows exactly which passions they are. Less purely evocative and more sturdily constructed than other recent regional mysteries—Philip Craig's Off Season (p. 590) and John Smolen's Angel's Head (p. 593)—this is a well-crafted, workmanlike debut. Read full book review >