Review: The Bourne Enigma – Eric Van Lustbader

5 of 5 stars

Series: Jason Bourne 13

My version: Hardback
Fiction Thriller
Head of Zeus

Jason Bourne is in Moscow to attend the wedding of his old friend and fellow spymaster General Boris Karpov. But amid the celebrations, the General has an important message to deliver to Bourne – ‘a lifeline,’ he says, ‘for the end of the world.’

Before Bourne can decipher this enigmatic warning, Karpov’s wedding ends in chaos and bloodshed. Bourne discovers that the Russian has betrayed the Kremlin to forewarn him of the crippling disaster about to engulf the world. Bourne has just four days to discover the nature of the catastrophe and halt it.

To get to the truth, Bourne must first track down an infamous and elusive arms dealer – a man both he and Karpov have been hunting for years. With the clock ticking, Bourne follows a labyrinthine path that weaves from the underbelly of Moscow to the pyramids of Egypt and the war-torn border between Syria and Turkey as he races to stop a world-threatening conspiracy in its tracks.

The original and still the best, Jason Bourne is equally as good written by Eric Van Lustbader as by Robert Ludlum. Van Lustbader brings the character up to date, involving him more in the here and now and adds a sheen of modern thriller over the whole. The Middle East is of course the go-to setting for thriller writers these days. Where anything they can think of writing has already been done much worse by IS. In fact, in terms of what those idiots get up to over there, what the thriller writers write happened, is, face it, pretty tame.

Enigma, is along the lines of I Am Pilgrim in many ways, but with – perhaps – higher aims and the whole Bourne background to work with. It’s perhaps not quite as page-turningly compulsive as I found Pilgrim to be, but it could be up there in the top three Lustbader Bourne’s anyway. Perversely, given it involves trying to stop World War III, it’s on a smaller scale than previous. The jetting around to places he’s been before, pre- and post-memory loss, is there, but it feels much more natural here, the plot drives it, rather than the marketing department. That’s what I got anyway. Van Lustbader does need to, soon, address the memory-loss issues that played such a large part of the films. That isn’t really touched on here, nor has it had any influence on the plot of the last few, as I remember (!). People may well think there are two Bournes – the Film Bourne and Book Bourne, where really, the afore-mentioned marketing department must hope for cross-over.

There is a lot to be satisfied here, but…well, he does slip into American Thriller Writer-Mode a couple of times. You see, in US thrillers, all emotions are 100% or nothing. There’s no “I quite liked her.” Only, “He missed Irina with all his heart and his soul.” The more bad the baddy is, the more highly-tuned their emotions are, so, if you read that someone “made her want to plunge a knife into her soul, to carve out the blackness that must surely lie rotting at its core,” you know they’re up to no good. Characters “punching in” telephone numbers too…but I’ve ranted about that many times before. You try punching one in to your iPhone next time. Can’t be done. Outside of US-written thrillers, or wanna-bes. And then, referencing my rant on the last Templar thriller, the baddie is defined, because he “popped the food into his mouth.” So now you know.

Perhaps not quite as compulsive as a genuine Robert Ludlum, Enigma is definitely not long from it.

One final thing: The books look magnificent. This time, a rarity, in the both the UK and the US versions look superb. Why I bought the both. Just don’t tell the wife, eh?

You can buy The Bourne Enigma from

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