For some bestselling authors, death is no impediment to an enduring career. But the latest Ludlum (d. 2001) novel, penned by an unnamed hired hand, reveals the problems inherent in such an arrangement: neither sufficiently like Ludlum's originals nor compellingly distinctive, it inhabits a kind of thriller purgatory to which only the most dedicated Ludlumite will be eager to venture. After a two-decade career as a clandestine operative, Hal Ambler is drugged and warehoused in the Parrish Island Psychiatric Facility, a government nuthouse for spies. A sympathetic nurse aids his escape, and soon Ambler is on the run, trying to figure out who he is and, more importantly, who he was. There are a few interesting characters particularly CIA accountant Clayton Caston, a man who knows little about feelings but who can tease a mountain of information out of a spy's expense account but the villains are mostly invisible and everybody else ends up dead before you really get to know them. Just because a writer can copy what was once a successful style does not automatically assure his publisher a successful book. (Oct. 25) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Escaping from a psychiatric facility where wacko intelligence agents are stashed, the perfectly sane Hal Ambler finds that there's no record he ever existed-and that the face he sees in the mirror isn't his. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A State Department assassin escapes from a secret federal loony bin and finds that although nobody remembers or recognizes him, somebody wants him to start murdering again. St. Martin's ghostwriter keeps the Ludlum franchise viable with this tale of Hal Ambler, onetime employee of the State Department's secret little office for the removal of annoying statesmen. With the help of increasingly attractive psychiatric nurse Laurel Holland, Hal has weaned himself off the mind-fogging drugs administered in a secret federal psychiatric hospital, reviving his preternatural ability to detect lies. Until now, Hal couldn't even remember how he came to be locked up, but his newly cleared brain works like a Rolex, making it possible to outwit teams of government goons sent to recapture him. (Hal occasionally gives his location away when using a cell phone or computer to try to get information about his past.) While there is no trace of him in any of the data banks he hacks into, somebody knows who he is. A Ross Perot-type take-charge Texan believes that while Hal may not be the Hal Ambler he thought he was, he is almost certainly "Tarquin," his State Department nom de guerre. And a famous nom it is. He's the guy who used to make a specialty of knocking off Chinese heads of government. If only he could remember why he did that. And who it was that sent him on those jobs. Is he about to do in another Chinese official? And why is a CIA accountant being so helpful in sorting it all out?Perfect substitute for the in-flight movie.
The pace is fast, the dialogue true to character. This one will rivet your attention from beginning to end.” AudioFile on The Altman Code