Most helpful critical review
on August 7, 2003
Paul Janson thought he had left the world of spies and intrigue behind. The nightmares had faded as well though he still mourned his deceased pregnant wife Helene. Her death at the hands of terrorists occurred five years ago and was the impetus for his leaving Consular Operations, a covert spy unit within the State Department.
The five years have been financially rewarding, as Janson is now a corporate security consultant. The company is his and his reputation allows him to be very selective about his clients. His calm and very orderly life is shattered when, while sitting in a VIP lounge at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, he hears an old operational alias of his being paged. What initially appears to be coincidence quickly turns into an urgent plea for help from Marta Lange on behalf of Peter Novak.
Peter Novak is a Billionaire and philanthropist who oversees the Liberty Foundation. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Novak is a visionary who has achieved peaceful settlements in some of the most war torn places in the world. While brokering a peace agreement, he was kidnapped by Kanga rebels led by the world-renowned terrorist known as Caliph. They have announced that Novak is to be executed for various crimes within days.
Not only does Janson owe his life to Novak because of a past situation, the very group responsible for killing Helene in a terrorist bomb attack has grabbed Novak. A debt of honor must be paid and Janson quickly assembles a team consisting of some of the most skilled operatives he has worked with in the past. For various stated political reasons, the United States government won't help and it is up to Janson, his four-member team and the resources of the Liberty Foundation to rescue Novak. But things begin to go very wrong from the start of the operation and Janson, feeling his age as well as his old skills returning, becomes aware that he is being used by forces unknown for unknown purposes. Compromised and suspected by his agents of his own government he thought were friends and allies, Janson finds himself soon on another rescue mission. In this case to save his own life and clear his name.
It is extremely difficult to criticize a novel by a novelist now deceased. This novel has all the usual Ludlum elements in that it features complex storylines, plots within plots, rogue elements of the United States government, honor and debts to be repaid as well as a globe trotting spy cast adrift. But it misses the human touch that made some of his work so incredibly good.
Paul Janson is a complex character full of deep emotion and pain according to the novel. And while that idea is constantly reinforced throughout the work, the novel never makes the visceral connection with the reader. There is an emotional detachment to the work, which is difficult to describe, that distances the novel from the reader and renders the repeated emotional references meaningless.
Despite the usual Ludlum elements as noted above, this lack of human connection in the work makes this an average read at best and disappointing at worst. For long time Ludlum fans with a discerning eye, this novel does not reflect the grand master at his best. Rumor has it that at least one more and possibly as many as three more are in the publishing pipeline. One can hope that one of those may reflect the grand master at his writing best.