After Robert Ludlum passed away, I decided to read several of his books, having loved The Bourne Identity when I read it several years ago, but having stopped reading his books when The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum disappointed. I started with The Holcroft Covenant, reported to be one of the classics, which I really enjoyed. Then I read the final book he wrote, The Prometheus Deception, which I enjoyed more than most.
This year, I decided to go back to his early books. I found the second book he ever wrote, The Osterman Weekend, in a used bookstore. The book tells the story of John Tanner, a TV news executive who is summoned to Washington one day and told by a CIA operative that one or more of his best friends, the Ostermans, the Cardones and the Tremaynes is a traitor. They are all gathering for the weekend at Tanner's house in suburban New Jersey and Tanner's job is to get the traitors to reveal themselves so the CIA can swoop in and deal with them.
On its own, the book is probably worth three stars. It is a quick and easy read, the suspense grows and the reader has no idea where the plot will lead although double-crosses seem likely. However, until the last few chapters, it doesn't really grip you.
However, the book shows flashes of the greatness Ludlum achieved later. An ordinary person is thrown into extraordinary circumstances and must get by on his own wits. Ludlum is a genius at making the ordinary person seem believable and scared and yet be the hero who saved the world. The action in the last few chapters is a foreshadowing of the wall-to-wall action that will be Ludlum's trademark in other books. The insight this gives the reader into Ludlum's evolution as a writer was worth an extra star to me.