The worst thing that can be said about a Robert Ludlum novel is that readers must pay close attention.
In The Scorpio Illusion western government leaders aren’t paying attention.
A secret group calling themselves Scorpios are plotting to throw the US, Britain and France into turmoil concurrently, precipitating a public outcry for stability that will catapult them to virtual dictatorship.
The Scorpios are positioned to make it happen. They have money, power, and the protection of the most sophisticated technology and most ruthless assassins that their money can buy.
Meanwhile, a beautiful terrorist intent on revenge for the deaths of her parents and her lover is planning to kill the US President. She and the Scorpios make common cause.
To stop her, the intelligence community calls on a former naval intelligence officer, Tyrell Hawthorne, whose wife was shot as a spy because of a mistake made by inept higher-ups. As he begins his work, Hawthorne runs into a beautiful woman who comforted him as he grieved; he vows not to lose her again.
Ludlum complies with the requirements of thrillers—sex, romance, blood, explosions—but his real interest is on how decent people can be hoodwinked because of the very traits that make them decent people.
The Russia House, is, as one expects from John le Carré, is set in the Cold War era.
In the novel, a salesman at a Moscow book fair is slipped a document by a frightened woman who wants it delivered it to Barley Blair, who she says has agreed to publish it for a unnamed friend of hers.
The salesman sneaks the manuscript through customs. Unable to find Blair, he delivers it to British Intelligence, whose CIA counterparts find it details the Soviet’s nuclear capabilities and atomic secrets.
The Service finds Blair, and presses him turning spy.
Barley stays sober long enough to be trained in the rudiments of spy craft, and sent into Russia to find the unnamed author and verify the authenticity of the document.
He contacts Kayla, trying to reach the author through her.
Before he gets to Yakov, Barley and Kayla are in love, and Yakov appears to be under KGB surveillance.
On what’s supposed to be his final effort to find out if the documents are authentic, Barley disappears.
Russia House has all the complexity of earlier Le Carré novels, but a far less gloomy setting and an almost upbeat ending.
Robert Ludlum’s The Icarus Agendais not escape reading.
Ludlum’s tale is a series of inter-connected, world-wide plots further connected by a journal typed into a computer by an unidentified man who records the events for his own mysterious purposes.
In book one of the novel, terrorists have already killed 11 hostages and threaten to kill the other 236 Americans they hold hostage in the US embassy in Masqat, Oman. They demand release of 8,000 terrorists belonging to organizations ranging from the IRA to the PLO.
Evan Kendrick, a newly-elected, “accidental” Colorado congressman, convinces the State Department’s covert operations director to let him try to raise the siege using connections he made—including connections to the Sultan of Oman—while doing construction work in the Middle East.
The man at DoS agrees only because Kendrick’s offer is predicated on his role never being known to any other person.
The hostage incident is over page by 221 of the novel. After that the Ludlum’s story gets complicated.
Although the novel is action packed, Ludlum’s characters are believably complex characters whose motivations are as complex as their personalities.
This 1988 bestselling political thriller requires—and deserves—readers’ full attention: The plot Kendrick uncovers is altogether too plausible to be dismissed in 2019.
The Cardinal of the Kremlin was Tom Clancy’s fourth bestseller in a row.
It follows what by 1988 had become Clancy’s signature blend of Cold War politics, espionage, military technology, and the presence of CIA analyst Jack Ryan.
The “Cardinal” of this novel is a Colonel Mikhail Filitov, thrice awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal for service in battle; unknown to Ryan, he’s been a CIA spy for 30 years.
Ryan is in Moscow as a technical advisor for arms negotiation. There he stumbles across information that the Soviets are very close to having a working, missile-based laser system.
Far to the east on the Afghanistan-Russia border, an Afghan freedom fighter glimpses a flash of green light that proves the Soviet technology works. He passes his observation along to the CIA along with documents taken from Russians he and his men slaughtered.
Clancy runs multiple story threads simultaneously, switching the scene from one continent to another, and the focus among dozens of characters.
You can read Cardinal for relaxation, but you can’t relax and read it. That is part of its attraction. Clancy expects each reader to do his/her duty.
In A Perfect Spy, novelist David John Moore Cornwell, known to his fans as John le Carré, rummages through the debris of the British boyhood of Magnus Pym to explore what turned an eager-to-please lad into a spymaster.
The novel opens with Magnus Pym’s disappearance into a bolt hole in Devon shortly after his father’s funeral. It’s a refuge he’s been preparing for years.
Rick Pym had been an engaging rogue who made his living by conning people out of theirs.
Magnus grew up trying to win his father’s approval by being the sort of man Rick professed to admire and being it by using all the deceits he learned from observing his father’s behavior.
Magnus mastered the arts of deceit so well that the British hired him for what they viewed as his natural talent for espionage.
It’s only after his father’s death that Magnus feels free to look back on his life and assess his own personal culpability.
In his Devon room, Magnus writes his life story, addressing much of it to his son, Tom.
Le Carré intersperses Magnus’s story with perspectives from his wife and colleagues.
The result is a novel as complex, fascinating, and ambiguous as Magnus himself.
As he did in his previous bestseller, The Matarese Circle, in The Bourne Identity novelist Robert Ludlum tells a story that will keep readers turning pages long past their bedtime.
Bourne is the identity assumed by a man pulled from the Mediterranean “more corpse than man,” unable to remember anything about his past, including why he has a piece of microfilm with a Swiss bank account number implanted in his hip.
In Zurich, the amnesiac takes a woman hostage—every spy story requires the hero have a woman to complicate the plot—and together in Paris they begin to piece together Jason Bourne’s origins in Southeast Asia.
Ludlum is a master storyteller. Plot is his forte. Ludnum gives his characters just enough depth to be recognizable. They learn what’s necessary to advance the plot, but they don’t grow.
A day after closing The Bourne Identity, readers may wonder how Bourne, even before being shot in the head multiple times, could have been expected to remember everything he was required to remember to implement the machination of the West’s intelligence services.
Two days later, readers may even be unable to recall the names of the main characters.
But while they’re reading, they will be totally immersed in this complex, fast-paced thriller.