Imagine an espionage novel starring Ian Fleming, Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Alan Turing, Josef Stalin, Lavrenti Beria, Churchill’s daughter and daughter-in-law, one of Roosevelt’s sons, and a passel of other recognizable characters thrown together at a fateful time in 1943. Oh, and you might add James Bond to the mix.
Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews
@@@@@ (5 out of 5)
In this delightfully wicked novel, American crime and espionage writer Francine Mathews builds on known facts about the high-powered people who figure in the story — and imagines them as they might have reacted to a Nazi assassination plot directed against Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. The tale is set in Cairo and Tehran, where the leaders of the three Allies came together to set the strategy for the invasion of Nazi Europe. As best I can tell, the broad historical events depicted in this book are entirely consistent with the facts. It’s the plot that is fully imagined.
Ian Fleming was, in fact, assistant to the head of British Naval Intelligence and was the inventive author of some of the most dramatic deceptions mounted by the Allies. He held the rank of Commander. As indicated in the book, he was the son of a wealthy Member of Parliament who died on the Western Front in 1917. He was, in fact, educated at Eton and Sandhurst. The James Bond series of spy novels Fleming wrote after the war were based, in large part, on his experience as a master of the craft. Much of the rest is fiction.
Too Bad to Die recounts the events of seven days late in November 1943. Roosevelt and Churchill, both ailing old men, have flown to Cairo with the ostensible purpose of reaching a joint strategy to deal with Stalin a few days hence at a fateful conference in Tehran. Mathews is a careful student of history, because the dialogue involving these larger-than-life figures is entirely credible, and their circumstances, and the state of their health, are all grounded in fact.
The conceit around which Mathews builds her tale is that Ian Fleming departs from his desk job to tangle with a Nazi master-spy who threatens to assassinate the Big Three leaders. There’s not a lot of mystery around the identity of the master-spy, even if Fleming is in the dark, but the unfolding events make for a thoroughly enjoyable story.
For additional reading
This is one of several books about Famous people as detectives in fact and fiction.
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- The 10 top espionage novels reviewed on this site;
- 20 good nonfiction books about espionage; and
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series.
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