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Robert Ludlum's The Cassandra Compact (Covert-One Series #2)

Robert Ludlum's The Cassandra Compact (Covert-One Series #2)

3.9 25
by Robert Ludlum (Created by), Philip Shelby

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What they're going to do, I never would have believed it…These were among the final words spoken by Yuri Danko, an officer in the medical division of Russia's security service, before his body was ripped apart by a spray of assassins' bullets. Danko's confidential appointment in Venice with Covert-One operative Jon Smith might have ended in death—


What they're going to do, I never would have believed it…These were among the final words spoken by Yuri Danko, an officer in the medical division of Russia's security service, before his body was ripped apart by a spray of assassins' bullets. Danko's confidential appointment in Venice with Covert-One operative Jon Smith might have ended in death—but his secret didn't die with him…

Now, in possession of Danko's classified papers, Smith and CIA undercover agent Randi Russell have unearthed a terrifying global conspiracy. A Serb terrorist, backed by Russians, is on a mission to spirit hazardous vials of deadly bacteria to a U.S. government agent—a shadowy figure whose motives for acquiring the bioweapon are made all the more unfathomable when both men are found murdered—and the strain is stolen. Time is running out for Smith and Russell to track it down, find the madman who possesses it, and stop him before he holds a defenseless world hostage with the power to render the human race extinct.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“An exciting medical-military thriller that moves at a rapid pace to its climax...an exciting new series.” —Midwest Book Review

“A pop hit...that should bounce right up the bestseller lists.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Gripping...robust writing and a breakneck pace.” —Boston Herald

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ludlum continues to imitate his imitators in his second Covert-One biotech thriller (after The Hades Factor), this time with coauthor Shelby (Days of Drums, etc.). Medical researcher and sometime spy Lt. Col. Jonathan Smith aided by CIA agent Randi Russell, British operative Peter Howell and ultrasecret spymaster Nathaniel Klein faces another villainous plot to unleash a deadly disease on an unsuspecting populace. Retired from the Army Medical Research Unit for Infectious Diseases after the death of his fianc e, Smith heads to Venice to meet a Russian scientist who is killed by Sicilian mercenaries before he can warn Smith that a sample of smallpox is about to be stolen from a Russian bioresearch facility. Up against a global military-corporate conspiracy with moles at NASA, the Pentagon and the KGB, Smith follows the smallpox across the Atlantic to Houston Mission Control and beyond. The cinematic chase through changing landscapes and mounting body count gives the book its rapid pace, while insider politics, tradecraft and technical wizardry lend an extra kick. Boilerplate dialogue ("The hit came down as arranged. But there was an unexpected development. I'm expecting an update shortly") and movie logic (after ordering the space shuttle to land in Nevada with the most virulent smallpox strain ever and several dead astronauts aboard, the president hops Air Force One to go meet it) show Ludlum may leverage his brand name, but no longer delivers the complex situations that earned him his reputation as a premier writer of international intrigue. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Covert-One Series , #2
Edition description:
Premium Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

The caretaker stirred when he heard the crunch of tires on gravel. There was barely any light left in the sky, and he had just made coffee and was reluctant to get up. But his curiosity got the better of him. Visitors to Alexandria seldom ventured into the cemetery at Ivy Hill; the historic town on the Potomac had a brace of other, more colorful attractions and amusements to offer the living. As for the locals, not many came out on a weekday; fewer still on a late afternoon when the April rains lashed the sky.

Peering through his gatehouse window, the caretaker saw a man get out of an ordinary-looking sedan. Government? He guessed that his visitor was in his early forties, tall and very fit. Dressed for the weather, he had on a waterproof jacket, dark pants, and workman's boots.

The caretaker watched the way the man stepped away from the car and looked around, taking in his surroundings. Not government-military. He opened the door and came out under the overhang, observing how his visitor stood there, gazing through the gates of the cemetery, oblivious to the rain matting his dark hair.

Maybe this is his first trip back, the caretaker thought. They were all hesitant their first time, loath to enter a place associated with pain, grief, and loss. He looked at the man's left hand and saw no ring. A widower? He tried to remember if a young woman had been interred recently.


The voice startled the caretaker. It was gentle for such a big man, and soft, as if he'd thrown the salutation like a ventriloquist.

&'grave;Howdy. If you're fixin' to visit, I got an umbrella I can let you have.''

&'grave;I'd appreciate that, thank you,'' the man said, but he didn't move.

The caretaker reached around the corner into a stand made from an old watering can. He gripped the handle of the umbrella and stepped toward the man, taking in his visitor's high-planed face and startling navy blue eyes.

&'grave;Name's Barnes. I'm the caretaker. If you tell me who you're visiting, I can save you wandering around in this mess.''

&'grave;Sophia Russell.''

&'grave;Russell, you say? Doesn't ring a bell. Let me look it up. Won't take but a minute.''

&'grave;Don't bother. I can find my way.''

&'grave;I still gotta have you sign the visitors' book.''

The man unfurled the umbrella. &'grave;Jon Smith. Dr. Jon Smith. I know where to find her. Thank you.''

The caretaker thought he detected a break in the man's voice. He raised his arm, about to call after him, but the man was already walking away, his strides long and smooth, like a soldier's, until he disappeared into the gray sheets of rain.

The caretaker stared after him. Something cold and sharp danced along his spine, made him shudder. Stepping back into the gatehouse, he closed the door and bolted it firmly.

From his desk, he removed the visitors' ledger, opened it to today's date, and carefully entered both the man's name and the time he had arrived. Then, on impulse, he turned to the back of the ledger, where the interred were listed in alphabetical order.

Russell...Sophia Russell. Here she is: row 17, plot 12. Put into the ground...exactly one year ago!

Among the three mourners who'd signed the register was Jon Smith, M.D.

So why didn't you bring flowers?

Smith was grateful for the rain as he walked along the road that wended its way through Ivy Hill. It was like a shroud, strung across memories that still had the power to cut and burn, memories that had been his omnipresent companions this past year, whispering to him in the night, mocking his tears, forcing him to relive that terrible moment over and over again.

He sees the cold white room in the hospital at the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Maryland. He is watching Sophia, his love, his wife-to-be, writhing under the oxygen tent, gasping for breath. He stands, only inches away, yet powerless to help her. His screams at the medical staff echo off the walls and return to mock him. They don't know what's wrong with her. They, too, are powerless.

Suddenly she cries out—a sound Smith still hears in his nightmares, and prays never to hear again. Her spine, bent like a bow, arches to an impossible angle; sweat pours off her as if to rid her body of the toxin. Her face is bright with fever. For an instant she is frozen like that. Then she collapses. Blood pours out of her nose and throat. From deep within comes the death rattle, followed by a gentle sigh, as her soul, free at last, escapes its tortured confines....

Smith shivered and looked around quickly. He didn't realize that he had stopped walking. The rain continued to drum on the umbrella, but it seemed to fall in slow motion. He thought he could hear every drop as it spattered off the nylon.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there, like an abandoned, forgotten statue, or what finally made him take a step. He didn't know how he came to be on the path that led to her grave or how he found himself standing in front of it.



Smith leaned forward and ran his fingertips across the smooth top of the pink-and-white granite headstone.

&'grave;I should have come more often, I know,'' he whispered. &'grave;But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I thought that if I came here, I would have to admit that I've lost you forever. I couldn't do that...

until now.

&'grave;'The Hades Project.' That's what they called it, Sophia, the terror that took you away from me. You never saw the faces of the men who were involved; God spared you that. But I want you to know that they have paid for their crimes.

&'grave;I had my taste of revenge, my darling, and I believed that it would bring me peace. But it did not. For months I have been asking myself how I might earn that serenity; in the end, the answer was always the same.''

From his jacket pocket, Smith took out a small jeweler's box. Opening the lid, he stared at a six-carat, marquis-cut diamond in a platinum setting that he had picked out at Van Cleef & Arpel in London. It was the wedding ring he had intended to slip on the finger of the woman who would have become his wife.

Smith crouched and pushed the ring into the soft earth at the base of the headstone.

&'grave;I love you, Sophia. I will always love you. Your heart is still the light of my life. But it is time for me to move on. I don't know where I'll go or how I'll get there. But I must go.''

Smith brought his fingertips to his lips, then touched the cold stone.

&'grave;May God bless you and look after you always.''

He picked up the umbrella and took a step back, staring at the headstone as though imprinting its image in his mind for all time. Then he heard the soft footfall behind him and turned f0around fast.

The woman holding the black umbrella was in her mid-thirties, tall, with brilliant red hair pulled back in a ponytail. A spray of freckles dotted her nose and high cheekbones. Her eyes, green like reef waters, widened when she saw Smith.

&'grave;Jon? Jon Smith?''


Megan Olson walked up quickly, took Smith's arm and squeezed it.

&'grave;Is it really you? My God, it's been...''

&'grave;A long time.''

Megan looked past him at Sophia's grave. &'grave;I'm so sorry, Jon. I didn't know that anyone would be here. I didn't mean to intrude.''

&'grave;It's all right. I did what I came to do.''

&'grave;I guess we're both here for the same reason,'' she said softly.

She drew him under the shelter of a massive oak and looked at him keenly. The lines and creases on his face were deeper than she remembered, and there was a host of new ones. She could only imagine the kind of year Jon Smith had endured.

&'grave;I'm sorry for your loss, Jon,'' she said. &'grave;I wish I could have told you that sooner.'' She hesitated. &'grave;I wish I had been here when you needed someone.''

&'grave;I tried calling but you were away,'' he replied. &'grave;The job...''

Megan nodded ruefully. &'grave;I was away,'' she said vaguely.

Sophia Russell and Megan Olson had both grown up in Santa Barbara, had gone to school there, then on to UCLA. After college, their paths had diverged. Sophia had gone to complete her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology and had joined USAMRIID. After receiving her master's in biochemistry, Megan had accepted a position at the National Institutes of Health. But after only a three-year tenure she had switched to the medical research division of the World Health Organization. Sophia had received postcards from all over the world and had pasted them in a scrapbook as a way to keep track of her globe-trotting friend. Now, without warning, Megan was back.

&'grave;NASA,'' Megan said, answering Smith's unspoken question. &'grave;I got tired of the Gypsy life, applied to the space-shuttle candidate school, and was accepted. Now I'm first alternate on the next space mission.''

Smith couldn't hide his amazement. &'grave;Sophia always said she never knew what to expect from you. Congratulations.''

Megan smiled wanly. &'grave;Thanks. I guess none of us knows what we can expect. Are you still with the army, at USAMRIID?''

&'grave;I'm at loose ends,'' Smith replied. It wasn't the whole truth but close enough. He changed the subject. &'grave;Are you going to be in Washington for a while? Might give us a chance to catch up.''

Megan shook her head. &'grave;I'd love to. But I have to go back to Houston tonight. But I don't want to lose touch with you, Jon. Are you still living out in Thurmont?''

&'grave;No, I sold the place. Too many memories.''

On the back of a card he jotted down his address in Bethesda, along with a phone number that he was actually listed under.

Handing her the card, he said, &'grave;Don't be a stranger.''

&'grave;I won't,'' Megan replied. &'grave;Look after yourself, Jon.''

&'grave;You too. It was good to see you, Megan. Good luck on the mission.''

She watched him walk out of the overhang and disappear into the drizzle.

&'grave;I'm at loose ends....''

Megan had never thought of Smith as a man without purpose or direction. She was still wondering about his cryptic comment as she walked over to Sophia's grave, the rain drumming on her umbrella.

Copyright 2001 by Myn Pyn LLC

Meet the Author

Robert Ludlum was the author of 25 thriller novels, including The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum—the books on which the international hit movies were based—and The Sigma Protocol. He was also the creator of the Covert-One series. Born in New York City, Ludlum received a B.A. from Wesleyan University, and before becoming an author, he was a United States Marine, a theater actor and producer.

Philip Shelby is a screenwriter and author of numerous books including the bestselling novels Days of Drums, Last Rites, and The Gatekeeper. He lives in Los Angeles.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 25, 1927
Date of Death:
March 12, 2001
Place of Death:
Naples, Florida
B.A., Wesleyan University, 1951

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Robert Ludlum's The Cassandra Compact (Covert-One Series #2) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
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MitchRapp36 More than 1 year ago
I began reading Vince Flynn novels and have progressed to Robert Ludlum and can't wait to read the next book in the series. This book is definitely a page turner.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! Robert Ludlum knows how to keep the reader on the edge the whole time! Highly recomended!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
How much is Shelby and how much is Ludlum is anyone's guess. I loved this book as it is truly vintage Ludlum, taking you to different countries around the globe. The plot is excellent and the characters are fairly well created. I highly recommend this book.