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Covert-One, the president's personal, super-secret agency formed after some recent virus-driven chaos (The Hades Factor, cowritten with Gayle Lynds), is staffed by an unknown number of international covert operatives, including Dr. Jon Smith, late of the USAMRIID. And a good thing, too, because someone's helped themselves to Russia's share of the world's last two stores of the smallpox virus, an eradicated yet hideously deadly bug with no ready vaccine.
That the pox was nabbed and who nabbed it is clear enough early on. Why such a seemingly large and disparate cadre of global citizens (keeping the players straight puts one in mind of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine) chose to pinch the bug and for what end are the novel's driving questions. Freelance Serbian uber-nasty, Ivan Beria, is among the apparent perpetrators as are Dylan Reed and Adam Treloar of NASA, Tony Price, the head of the super- secret NSA, and a bunch of Russians. The good-guys roster claims Smith; Covert- One's head, Nathaniel Klein; Briton and ex-SAS man, Peter Howell; Smith's deceased girlfriend's sister and CIA operative, Randi Russell; the girlfriend's best friend, backup shuttle astronaut Megan Olson; and another bunch of Russians. Suffice it to say that Smith and company trot the globe, cat-and- mousing after the pox and in so doing careen through a classically speedy and Ludlumesque (if coincidence dependent) plot leaving large numbers of efficiently dispatched corpses in their wake.
Most authors of international thriller-mysteries would give their right trench coat to make The New York Times® Best Sellers list. Of the late Robert Ludlum's 21 novels, 21 have resided upon that list. WhereThe Cassandra Compact, written with bestselling thriller author Philip Shelby (Gatekeeper, etc.), winds up is anyone's guess, but a few hundred thousand nightstands is a good place to start. And stay tuned for more installments--Ludlum may be dead, but he's not done yet.--Michael Hudson
I listened to the Abridged 7-hour CD version of the book. I've enjoyed movies based on Robert Ludlum's books, namely the Bourne series, and thought this might be a good read. I was not disappointed.
The book's plot was interesting. Captivating storyline. It is fairly standard international spy-thriller material, but well done. I found myself engrossed in the book and was very interested to watch the story unfold, and find out what was happening to the story's main characters.
There are a few problems with this book:
1. Simply too long. Although the first 75% of the book flew by, the last 25% dragged. The entire "space" section didn't add much to the quality of the book. I understand the need for the smallpox to be used, the nasty effects illustrated, etc -- but the entire section was just too drawn out.
2. Although this is expected and common in a lot of books, movies, in the media, etc the authors were sloppy in describing technical things. Example: Jon talking about the "firewall" on the computer. Get your terms straight and do research before using them. You can't try to be "high-tech" AND confuse basic terms -- sticks out like a sore thumb. The fact that this was written early, was it 2001?, is no excuse.
3. Even though Jon Smith and others poured over the passenger manifests for the three flights from Russia, Jon never noticed Adam Tralore's name on the list? He had already met Adam Tralore earlier, and certainly someone involved in Megan/Dillan/Jon's line of work should stick out. Why were they not looking for a bald guy on the flights after they arrived? (yes, I know JS was on the same flight, but that doesn't mean Heathrow would stop/should stop looking) Even if the bald guy had nothing to do with it, it can't hurt to question all the bald guys on all the flights, especially given the magnitude of the situation.
These problems didn't detract from the overall quality of the book, and I would suggest it to a friend.
Good book, but This was a good book, but I'm obviously not the only person who became increasingly frustrated by the close calls of the authorities trying to catch the bad guys and missing by fractions of a microsecond. These are shallow spoilers, so be warned:
1) Authorities realize that a train is set to arrive in 15 minutes. As such they're unable to have more than a half dozen agents in place. The small number of agents are overpowered. BTW, why didn't the general in charge here signal to police, in case they needed backup? The police could have stayed back out of the train station even.
2) Authorities see the key suspect with another person of interest in the airport. They figure that the KS is on one of three planes, and alert anti-terror units to intercept when the planes land. They are unable to find the KS on either filght, so they let all passengers go, _but are too freaking stupid to look for the other guy_. They didn't have a good picture of him, but since the smallpox had already been transferred once it doesn't take Newton to think that maybe this other fellow has it. How's about searching all passengers?
3) That fellow is finally identified TWO MINUTES after he goes through customs. A chase commences and he gets into a limo and speeds off, just as the person chasing him catches up to him. He was literally 10 seconds too slow.
4) A drag net is about to be put over the entire nation to intercept incoming people, but it's EIGHT MINUTES too late.
The first case here may not bother you. The second will interminably piss you off, and the third and fourth are just like WTF is going on here. CATCH THEM PLEASE.
That said, it was a good book and will tide you over on a plane ride.3 1/2 stars Cassandra Compact worth a look As a long-term fan of Robert Ludlum and not knowing how involved Ludlum really was in the actual composition of the Covert One series, I had been hesitant up to this point to give the books a try. Not knowing exactly what to expect, but having read an enjoyed the previous solo works from Philip Shelby, I decided to give the Cassandra Compact a try when faced with a need to pick up a book at an airport bookstore.
In short, I was pleasantly surprised. The tale, although lighter and clearly not nearly as complex as the typical Ludlum, kept me turning the pages. This book, which grabs the reader early and does not let go, contains much of the suspense and plot twists that Ludlum aficionados have come to love in the conspiracy-thriller genre. Upon final evaluation, the Cassandra Compact made my four-hour plane ride easy duty. My first experience with the series will make me go back to the beginning to try some of the others.