Jason Bourne takes on nuclear-armed Muslim fundamentalists in this over-the-top adventure.
Robert Ludlum may be gone, but Van Lustbader (The Bourne Legacy, 2004) once again takes his popular amnesiac hero out for a global spin. The action starts in Africa, where Bourne’s one true friend, Martin Lindros, is hot on the trail of a possible nuclear bomb. The radioactive-fuel trail is a setup, of course, and soon Lindros is captured by fundamentalists led by the Western-educated Fadi. Despite the ambivalence of his agency, Central Intelligence, Bourne sets off to rescue him. But before he leaves D.C., Bourne agrees to see a memory specialist: A troubling vision of a bloody woman has been haunting him, along with a sense of terrible guilt, perhaps occasioned by the death of his wife, Marie. But the “treatment” he receives, really the implantation of false memories and emotional triggers, leads him into almost-deadly mistakes, first in Washington and then on the Odessa waterfront. Luckily, his beautiful, half-Arab colleague Soraya appears in time to save him, and she and a brave inner-city teen, Tyrone, almost steal the spotlight as the action continues on parallel tracks in Turkey and Afghanistan and also back home at Washington headquarters. Fadi, and his behind-the-scenes mastermind brother, make appealing villains. Once again, Bourne must fight his own agency as well as these resourceful would-be terrorists. With more than enough action and the kind of breathless writing that makes the pages fly, this would be another winner, except that Van Lustbader too often strains credibility. It becomes hard to believe that Bourne, a man known for his “animal instincts honed on stone and steel,” could make as many life-threatening blunders as he makes here.
The book’s implausibilities will probably not deter fans, but some may think twice about continuing with the series.