By Francine Mathews
Riverhead Books, $26.95, 361 pages

History places a young Jack Kennedy in Europe in 1939, doing research for his senior thesis at Harvard. Author Francine Mathews braids him into a plot so tightly woven around actual people and places it feels entirely plausible.

With war on the horizon, President Roosevelt uses Jack’s planned trip and diplomatic connections to find out how Hitler is smuggling German money into U.S. voters’ hands to buy the 1940 election. Danger, divided loyalties and international intrigue ensue.

Mathews is obviously very familiar with Kennedy family relations and keeps her characters, well, in character as she carefully plants them like chess pieces onto a thrilling premise.

Jack 1939 is a gripping novel you won’t be able to put down. The perfect summer indulgence! And it just may have what it takes to lure a few of us non-fiction enthusiasts over to the other side.

Reviewed by Alicea Swett