Francine Mathews is a writer of mystery and spy fiction who also writes historical mysteries under the name Stephanie Barron. Mathews earned her master's degree at Stanford University in history and then worked with the CIA for several years as an intelligence analyst. As Francine Mathews she has written two series, one set in Nantucket featuring police officer Meredith "Merry" Folger. Mathews has stated that with this series she tried to "capture the difficult life in New England today" and the "bitter and embedded economic issues" facing the fishing industry. Her second series are spy thrillers based on her time working with the CIA. As Stephanie Barron, Mathews has written historical novels featuring the English novelist Jane Austen (1775–1817) as amateur sleuth. The books are presented as lost diaries merely edited by Barron. Mathews has carried out considerable research into Austen as background to the series, especially using Austen's correspondence as a key source.