When Robert Ludlum introduced Jason Bourne in THE BOURNE IDENTITY four decades ago, he had no idea the legacy could continue infinitely. Publishers Weekly declared the introduction to the series the second-best spy novel of all time, behind John le Carré's THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. Ludlum died in 2001, and his estate chose Eric Van Lustbader to continue the Bourne legacy, an excellent title for Lustbader's first interpretation of six blockbuster books in the series. Lustbader, though, is no stranger to the New York Times bestseller list, as nearly all of his 30-plus titles have graced those coveted spots.
"...it's best not to mess with Bourne. That globe is Bourne's dominion."
Stricken with amnesia, Bourne becomes a soldier of fortune, searching the world for purpose. He "had his choices made for him when he plunged into the Mediterranean and surfaced without a memory of who or what he was. Since then, his life had been a struggle to understand the choices he had once made but could no longer remember."
Bourne occasionally reveals a secret side of himself: "[T]he impenetrable darkness ahead his sole companion, and, of course, the pain. You are alone, always alone." Bourne "had been...trained and sent out again and again to terminate lives." He racks up a gazillion frequent flyer miles: Colombia, Cairo, Spain, Damascus, Moscow, Munich. "Paris at night was not such a bad place."
Shedding his David Webb persona, Bourne tracks terrorists bent on destroying America's strategic resources, specifically rare earth elements being extracted by government-sponsored NeoDyme's Indigo Ridge mines in California, to "ensure the future security of the country." In an exclusive interview, Lustbader added, "The new Bourne novel deals with rare earth metals --- especially in green energy initiatives. But they're also needed for sophisticated weapons systems."
Bourne's friend, General Boris Karpov, is head of Russia's spy agency, FSB-2. To keep his position there --- and his actual head --- he's ordered to track down and kill Bourne. "The man's a natural-born killer. What does he know about friendship?" But, hey! What are friends for? Bourne and Karpov represent the conflict between good and evil in an international political chess game, but not all games end with checkmate.
Serverus Domna ("a modern-day hydra") is a Muslim hierarchy that seeks "domination of Islam in the Western world...its tentacles spread into every corner of the globe." But it's best not to mess with Bourne. That globe is Bourne's dominion. "What evil moon was I born under to have crossed paths with you?"
The voluminous number of characters often confuses, but all is not what it appears to be. When viewing a mirror reflected by a mirror, which image is real? Kaja and Skara are daughters of a person Bourne kills in the opening scene. They take on a host of identities, further complicating matters. But Bourne fans demand intrigue and action. "Ripping the mirror off the wall, Bourne slammed its edge into a brass knuckle. The mirror cracked into a dozen shards, and Bourne grabbed one of the larger ones, and...embedded the mirror shard in the man's throat."
Current events and stealth make this installment seem more fact than fiction. The Tooth Fairy delivers Bourne a bountiful reward. A wealth of information flows as smoothly as a swallow of single-malt scotch. With more twists and turns than a Napa Valley of grapevines, the non-stop action and resourceful Bourne plucked a fourth from my Star Jar.
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy (www.DeanMurphy.net) on December 2, 2011