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Jason Matthews Dead At 69, Loved in My Reading Nooks

May 3, 2021

The newspaper obituary of Jason Matthews caught me unawares. The news is really most sad.

When Jason Matthews retired after more than three decades as a CIA operative, writing fiction proved a form of therapy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Jason Matthews, who after 33 years as a C.I.A. officer in Istanbul, Athens, Belgrade, Rome, Budapest and Hong Kong became a best-selling author of three spy thrillers, died on Wednesday at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 69.

I headlined a post in 2019 about one of his books this way.

Russian Intrigue In Book-Form That Will Melt A Wisconsin Snow Pack

Today I started a new Russian spy thriller.  For decades I have loved the genre and just a week ago stumbled–behind everyone else I admit–Jason Matthews.

I can not say in words how well constructed, plotted, and deeply factually driven this book is–what a stunning read!

Matthews is a former CIA officer–so the book has a feel that separates it from some others of this type I have read.  Matthews handles the tone differently–and the reason is he knows the score of what he writes.

The cast is intense.  Perhaps the most troubling and memorable is the sadistic Spetsnaz “mechanic” who carries out President Putin’s murderous schemes.  A CIA Station Chief who resists Washington is one of my favorites of a long cast of intense personalities.

If you are fond of reading about espionage, counterintelligence, surveillance tradecraft, spy recruitment, cyber-warfare, the Russian use of “spy dust,” and covert communications then there is only one thing to do.  GET this book.

Five stars out of four!  That is not a typo! This is a brilliant offering for book lovers who thrill to the world of spies and Russian intrigue.

So, yes Matthews had a special place among the reading nooks in our home.

“Red Sparrow” introduced the main characters of Mr. Matthews’s three novels: Dominika Egorova, a beautiful Russian intelligence officer trained (against her wishes) in seduction, and Nate Nash, the ambitious young C.I.A. agent she targets to uncover a mole in the SVR, the successor to the KGB. They become lovers, and she becomes a double agent.

Later in 2019, I posted about this writer again.

I would caution that if one is not already tuned into the real world of spies, and the deadly and all-too-real nature of intelligence gathering operations used by superpowers, the books might be a bit gritty.  That they are so real is what makes them a powerhouse of a read.  If one is easily rattled perhaps another author should be selected.

Mathews knew the need for a perfectly created protagonist and used the vile ways of Russia’s leader for maximum impact. The New York Times included this paragraph in their obituary.

“I wake up every morning and I think, ‘Thank heavens for Vladimir Putin,’ ” Mr. Matthews told The Associated Press in 2017. “He’s a great character, and his national goals are the stuff for spy novels: weaken NATO, dissolve the Atlantic alliance, break up the European Union.”

This man will be missed. I can say, however, after having consumed these gems that he never will truly be gone as well-stocked bookstores will keep the pages turning.

Thanks for the hours within these pages, Jason Matthews.

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