Summary and book reviews of Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews

Too Bad to Die

by Francine Mathews

Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2016, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Linda Hitchcock

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About this Book

Book Summary

A tense and enthralling historical thriller in which British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming attempts 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 Josef 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 Fleming 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. 

PROLOGUE
MAY 22, 1917

He learned about Mokie the day the new boy arrived.

May was utterly the wrong time of year for new boys, of course. There were only a few weeks left before the Long Vac. Which meant there was probably something very wrong with this one, some reason he'd been shifted to Durnford so late in the term, an infraction so unspeakable he'd been booted out on his nine-year-old arse from the last obscure refuge that had agreed to raise him.

The new boy was bony and slight, a pale-faced number with springy tufts of brown hair all over his knobby skull. He had a sharp chin and wide cheekbones, and this, combined with the tuftiness of his head, suggested a young hawk fresh from its shell. The boy's eyes were hawkish as well, winkingly bright, the color of cold pond water. They studied Ian as he stood, ramrod straight and miserable, before the Head's closed study door.

"Hiya, kid."

Crikey, Ian thought. A Yank.

"Are you up for a beating, too?" The boy slouched ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Anyone who enjoys a good puzzle would be in for a bit of a disappointment as the villain is obvious from the onset. Mathews' writing is superb and literary but I would qualify my recommendation to friends and book clubs with one additional caveat: the author includes particularly off-putting, gruesome details of sadistic torture. Acceptable in a more traditional military espionage thriller, the cheery gossipy and quasi-biographical overtones of the first three-quarters of the book made these all the more an unpleasant surprise. Overall, Too Bad to Die is an engaging spy thriller certain to please fans of James Bond and Ian Fleming as well as aficionados of WWII history.   (Reviewed by Linda Hitchcock).

Full Review (754 words).

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Media Reviews

Denver Post

The plot is absolutely brilliant... If Ian Fleming hadn't invented James Bond, Francine Mathews would have.

Library Journal

Fleming is a complex character with an active imagination and a store of hidden courage. Replete with recognizable characters from history, this look at a crucial period of World War II will satisfy history buffs and mystery lovers alike.

Booklist

A rousing adventure—not a pastiche of a Bond novel with Fleming substituted for 007, but rather a well-plotted military thriller with a story that feels like it could have happened. Mathews’ portrayal of Fleming feels dead-on accurate, and she has some fun showing us the (supposed) real-world origins of some of Bond’s fictional attributes.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Mathews makes the historical figures come to life, and even though readers know the Fencer doesn't succeed, they will be caught up in suspense reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal.

Kirkus Reviews

Mathews writes well, keeps the pace brisk and has great fun re-creating historical personages.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Espionage in Wartime: An Unlikely Trio Of Spies

In Too Bad to Die, the central character is author Ian Fleming whose career path started out in the British office of naval war intelligence. This piqued my curiosity about other writers in espionage.

Ian Fleming, Julia Child, and Noel Coward had little in common growing up but all three were heavily involved in wartime espionage. Friends Ian Fleming and Noel Coward trained together in covert action at Bletchley Park, the UK's signals intelligence agency. Raised in Pasadena, California, Julia Child rose through the ranks from a junior clerk in the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), to become a key administrator with a high security clearance based in Asia.

From Left to Right: Ian Fleming, Julia Child, Noel Coward

Educated at Eton, Sandhurst (Britain's ...

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