His novels were well received for their narrative drive and their details of espionage tradecraft.
“‘Red Sparrow’ isn’t just a fast-paced thriller — it’s a first-rate novel as noteworthy for its superior style as for its gripping depiction of a secretive world,” Art Taylor wrote in his review of the book in The Washington Post. “While many former C.I.A. agents and MI6 operatives have turned to writing fiction in retirement, Matthews joins a select few who seem as strong at their second careers as at their first.”
Dominika and Nate returned in “Palace of Treason” (2015) and “The Kremlin’s Candidate” (2018), in which President Vladimir Putin (a recurring character in all three books) conceives a plot to assassinate the director of the C.I.A. and replace him with a U.S. Navy lieutenant who had been compromised by Dominika.
“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.”
James Jason Matthews was bornon Sept. 17, 1951, in Hartford, Conn. His mother, Aglaia (Argiris) Matthews, was a homemaker. His father, Charles, was in a family baking business that developed a technique for flash-freezing pies, which the family sold to General Foods. All of Jason’s immigrant grandparents spoke Greek, and he spoke the language when he talked to them.
After graduating from what is now Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Mass., Mr. Matthews received a bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, where he studied Spanish and French. Soon after earning a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1975, he went looking for a job in Washington.
One of his several interviews was at the C.I.A., which particularly prized his ability to speak Greek, one of several languages in which he became fluent. The agency hired him in 1976 after he passed a background check and a polygraph exam.