Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Sacrifice by Brian Freeman

Reviewed by Gerard Healy

Robert Ludlum created the Jason Bourne character and wrote three books featuring him before his death in 2001. Other authors, including Brian Freeman, have taken up the task of extending Bourne’s fictional life. This book is Freeman’s third Jason Bourne story (and numbers 15,16 and 17 in the whole series).

And the same recipe is followed: the enigmatic, memory-plagued  American spy up against shadowy, sinister figures involved in international conspiracies. This time the baddies belong to The Pyramid, a well-resourced group with few scruples.

Jason Bourne enters the arena in remote Iceland where he’s waiting for a deadly assassin known as Lennon, who works as a contractor for The Pyramid. Bourne has been told that Lennon has information about his past, large parts of which have been erased by a gunshot wound to the head. Lennon’s associate Yoko, flying a helicopter, fires a missile at the remote farmhouse where Bourne has just caught up with Lennon. Keen readers will look out for further Beatles references.

Both Bourne and Lennon escape in time to defer another encounter to later on.

It is a stretch for readers to believe that these two deadly assassins will meet several times but not kill each other, or indeed inflict serious injuries at all.

At the heart of the story is a conspiracy to use the media to smear the reputations of far-right politicians, thus saving democracy for the “good guys”. One of the most effective ways of doing this is through a highly sophisticated cyber operation, based in Frankfurt, Germany. Known as a “bot farm” in the trade, experts are able to manufacture incriminating videos with near-perfect similarities to their targets as well as create fake audio recordings of targets apparently saying racist and offensive things. They are also able to manipulate government border control systems and travel documents to keep their operatives off the radar of the authorities.

While they maintain an almost water-tight hold on these employees, two escape their surveillance for a while to form a personal relationship outside the office. When the woman realises a fire has killed nine innocent victims, she decides to defect. However she is tricked into a meeting in Washington D.C. and is murdered. The Pyramid tries to cover their tracks but some evidence gets out, which attracts the attention of journalist Abbey Laurent.

She is Jason Bourne’s girlfriend and the further she digs the more danger she is in.

Action characters in fiction like Bond, Bourne and the like often have a series of short-term partners rather than steady girlfriends or wives. Firstly, they need to be highly mobile to go anywhere anytime on their missions to kill. Partners would need to be exceptionally flexible to fit in with these plans you’d think.

Then being trained killers, they would have to be rather rare personalities to be able to balance that dark side with a “normal” relationship. “How was work today honey?” might lead to an interesting answer from your government-trained assassin.

Also, Bourne has been trained not to get close to anyone as it makes that person a possible target for their multitude of enemies. But of course, like everyone, he has the need for connection.

Jason Bourne has the great good fortune to have the nine lives of a cat as he is shot, stabbed, bashed and bludgeoned but comes through seemingly unfazed. An odd note is that he doesn’t appear to need medical attention after these frequent blows. Perhaps he’s related to Monty Python’s Black Knight – only a mere flesh wound! One serious injury does see him side-lined for months but not out of the game.

There are of course constraints on what a new author is permitted to do with an established character and their back story, as understood by the readers who’ve made the character popular. Think of Sherlock Holmes, Jane Marple or James Bond. Each of these characters have been brought to literary life again in approved returns by accredited authors. Each new story has to have enough familiarity with the original setting, ways of behaving and dialogue to ring true. I can commend the recent Anthony Horowitz series of Bond books as being well executed examples here.

While I’ve seen the well done movie interpretations of the Bourne books with Matt Damon in the lead role, unfortunately I haven’t read the original Ludlum books. So I can’t comment on the similarities between the texts.

I would recommend this book to followers of Robert Ludlum’s characters.

Brian Freeman was born in 1963 in Chicago, USA. After college, he worked in PR and marketing at a law firm before his debut novel Immoral (2005) was published. It won the Macavity Award and was a finalist for several other prizes. He is the best-selling author of the Jonathan Stride (11 books to date) and Frost Easton series. The Bourne Sacrifice is the third Robert Ludlum novel Freeman has written.

The Bourne Sacrifice


by Brian Freeman

Head of Zeus

ISBN: 978 180328 587 0

$29.99; 384pp


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