this point, Jason Bourne is an institution in the thriller genre,
second only to James Bond. Part of this is due to the popularity of
the film franchise, but the bedrock reason is that Bourne has
benefited from having some of the best writers in the business
continuing the tradition of the character established by the late
Robert Ludlum. The newest book in this bestselling series, written
by Eric Van Lustbader, is a thrill-a-minute work.
THE BOURNE SANCTION begins with the return of Bourne to his alter
ego, linguistics professor David Webb, within the peaceful confines
of Georgetown University. While acquiring the quiet and solace that
he sought, Bourne soon realizes that this is not what he really
wants. Dominic Specter, his mentor at Georgetown and one of the few
people aware of his dual identity, gives him the opportunity to
explore what one might call his more active side.
Specter asks Bourne to aid in the investigation of the murder of a
former student by a previously unknown Muslim extremist sect. The
young man's slaying, it turns out, was not random, as he was in
possession not only of information concerning the group and its
activities but also of its plans to carry out a terrorist attack on
United States soil. U.S. Central Intelligence is aware of this
organization, known as the Black Legion, and newly installed
director Veronica Hart is coming to grips with her position even as
members of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Pentagon plot
to stage what is in effect a palace coup, usurping the duties of
One of the lynchpins of their plan is to perform a deed that no one
has been able to do previously: assassinate rogue Central
Intelligence agent Jason Bourne. Even as he is pursuing the Black
Legion, which has ties that date back to Hitler's notorious SS
troopers, Bourne himself is targeted by NSA assassins who have the
wherewithal of their agency's intelligence apparatus to pit against
him. Bourne doesn't have many allies, and even fewer whom he can
trust completely. As he races against time after an invisible enemy
and a totally unexpected adversary, Bourne finds that his
existence, as well as that of the nation's, hangs in the balance to
an extent he has never experienced before.
Lustbader's focus here is primarily on action as opposed to plot.
There are a couple of moments where the entire concept of the book
threatens to collapse under the weight of its own storyline.
Lustbader, however, remains one of the best at creating believable
and extremely dangerous villains who are the equal, and then some,
of his protagonists, and placing his characters in hair-raising
situations while shaking and stirring everything up. He does this
to fabulous effect in THE BOURNE SANCTION, giving the reader enough
carnage and mayhem to fill three books and to satisfy even the most
jaded fan of action/adventure fiction.
Lustbader's cinematic vision is once again on display as he sends
Bourne on a chaotic chase that leads from Washington to Moscow and
back again, dogged by pursuers even as he himself pursues. This is
one novel that will keep you reading long into the night.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011