Review: Natural Bourne thrillers
You'd need to have even worse amnesia than Jason Bourne when he was found floating in the sea in The Bourne Identity back in 1980 not to remember that his creator, the bestselling writer Robert Ludlum, died some time ago.
Yet since his death, there have been seven new Bourne books (including this latest adventure) all of which have had Ludlum's name dominating the cover.
The demise of a successful author is only a minor inconvenience for publishers these days, since they can hire new writers and turn bestselling books into brands that go on forever (like James Bond).
Ludlum wrote three Bourne books (Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum), as well as many other thrillers before his death in 2001.
The Bourne books became a global phenomenon, so it's not surprising that the publishers turned it into a brand after his death. It's estimated there are now around 400 million books out there with Ludlum's name on the jacket.
The last six Bourne books (Legacy, Betrayal, Sanction, Deception, Objective and Dominion) as well as this new one, Imperative, have all been written by American thriller writer Eric Van Lustbader, who has made something of a career of it. Deservedly so, because he is as good a writer -- sometimes better than Ludlum was -- particularly when he was churning them out.
Van Lustbader is a bestseller in his own right, with thrillers like Ninja and Black Heart, as well as fantasy novels.
But the Bourne franchise -- and the Matt Damon movies -- have made him almost as big a star as Ludlum was back in the day.
In this book, amnesia crops up again, echoing the very beginning of the series when we met Bourne for the first time. This time it's not Bourne who can't remember, however, it's a drowning man whom he pulls from a freezing lake.
The man is suffering from hypothermia and also blood loss, because he has been shot.
When he recovers, he has no memory of who he is or why he was shot -- and Bourne is eerily reminded of his own past.
One of the things that Van Lustbader has done with Bourne is give the multi-layered thrillers a contemporary setting. So the bad guys are not just from the USSR these days; they now reflect the complicated world in which we live.
The main bad guy in this one is Mexican and much of the action takes place in Mexico City.
As before, characters from previous books appear again. Treadstone operatives Peter and Soraya are back on duty.
Meanwhile, Mossad agent Rebekah is so determined to find the man from the lake that she has gone rogue and risks being eliminated if caught by her former colleagues.
What is it with the man in the lake? Why are such powerful forces out to get him? Will Bourne find out the truth before it's too late?
Another cracker, as convoluted and loaded with tension as the best Bourne books.