Robert Ludlum, Author . St. Martin's $27.95 (542p) ISBN 978-0-312-25348-6

Ludlum died in March 2001, but here he is again, back with yet another posthumous thriller. Such books rarely live up to the author's standards, but this one is different: it's vintage Ludlum—big, brawny and loaded with surprises. The hero is Paul Janson, a private security consultant who retired a few years ago after a notorious career as the U.S. government's go-to guy for nasty jobs no one else was willing to take. Against his better judgment, Janson accepts an assignment to rescue Peter Novak, a Nobel Peace Prize–winning philanthropist and international troubleshooter held captive by Islamic extremists on an island in the Indian Ocean. Janson pulls off the stunning rescue, but as they make their escape, Novak dies in a fiery explosion—or does he? Janson has his doubts; within hours, he finds himself targeted by separate groups of assassins for reasons that baffle him. As he zigzags his way across Europe, leaving piles of bodies at each stop, he begins to wonder who Novak really is. The answer he eventually discovers provides readers with one of Ludlum's most outrageous plot twists in years. Extremely engaging and agonizingly suspenseful, Ludlum's plot bolts from scene to scene and locale to locale—Hungary, Amsterdam, London, New York City—never settling for one bombshell when it can drop four or five. If this wild, unpredictable and colorfully cast novel is Ludlum's swan song (he supposedly left behind notes for several thrillers), it's a memorable one indeed. (Oct. 15)

Forecast:Readers in the know will note that this is unadulterated Ludlum—a step up from Robert Ludlum's The Paris Option and Robert Ludlum's The Cassandra Complex. Major print and television advertising campaigns are planned, and sales should be above par for recent Ludlum releases.

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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