Our appetite for gun-wielding super-agents and government intrigue is as strong as ever. John Spain and Myles McWeeney review some of the latest works in the detective thriller genre
Published 05/08/2012 | 08:00
The Bourne Imperative
By Robert Ludlum and
Eric van Lustbader
You'd need to have even worse amnesia than Jason Bourne when he was found floating in the sea in The Bourne Identity back in 1980 not to remember that his creator, the bestselling writer Robert Ludlum, died some time ago.
Yet since his death, there have been seven new Bourne books (including this latest adventure) all of which have had Ludlum's name dominating the cover.
The demise of a successful author is only a minor inconvenience for publishers these days, since they can hire new writers and turn bestselling books into brands that go on forever (like James Bond).
Ludlum wrote three Bourne books (Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum), as well as many other thrillers before his death in 2001.
The Bourne books became a global phenomenon, so it's not surprising that the publishers turned it into a brand after his death.
It's estimated there are now around 400 million books out there with Ludlum's name on the jacket.
The last six Bourne books (Legacy, Betrayal, Sanction, Deception, Objective and Dominion) as well as this new one, Imperative, have all been written by American thriller writer Eric Van Lustbader, who has made something of a career of it.
And deservedly so, because he is as good a writer - sometimes better than Ludlum was - particularly when he was churning them out.
Van Lustbader is a bestseller in his own right, with thrillers like Ninja and Black Heart, as well as fantasy novels.
But the Bourne franchise - and the Matt Damon movies - have made him almost as big a star as Ludlum was back in the day.
In this book, amnesia crops up again, echoing the very beginning of the series when we met Bourne for the first time.
This time it's not Bourne who can't remember, however, it's a drowning man whom he pulls from a freezing lake.
The man is suffering from hypothermia and also blood loss, because he has been shot.
When he recovers, he has no memory of who he is or why he was shot - and Bourne is eerily reminded of his own past.
One of the things that Van Lustbader has done with Bourne is give the multi-layered thrillers a contemporary setting.
So the bad guys are not just from the USSR these days; they now reflect the complicated world in which we live.
The main bad guy in this one is Mexican and much of the action takes place in Mexico City.
As before, characters from previous books appear again. Treadstone operatives Peter and Soraya are back on duty.
Meanwhile, Mossad agent Rebekah is so determined to find the man from the lake that she has gone rogue and risks being eliminated if caught by her former colleagues.
What is it with the man in the lake? Why are such powerful forces out to get him? Will Bourne find out the truth before it's too late?
Another cracker, as convoluted and loaded with tension as the best Bourne books. JS
By Karen Slaughter
Few crime writers are so aptly named than Georgia-born Karen Slaughter. Indeed, Slaughter has courted a lot of controversy for all that graphic violence meted out to the female murder victims in many of her books.
Criminal, the sixth of her mysteries to feature Special Agent Will Trent and his boss Amanda Wagner, the deputy director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, begins with a grisly murder in Atlanta in 1974.
Fast forward almost 40 years to today, and when a woman is found dead in a sordid Atlanta apartment, her body carved up in an eerily similar fashion to the 1974 victim, Amanda forbids Will Trent to investigate it.
She wants him off the case, particularly when another young woman vanishes. Trent soon realises that the two cases may have something to do with his immensely difficult and traumatic childhood, and when he finds Amanda seriously injured in the derelict orphanage he grew up in, he fears the worst - especially when Amanda reveals far more about his past than she has any right to know. MMcW
By Alex Kava
Knopf Doubleday, £9.99
This is the 10th in a series featuring FBI Secret Agent Maggie O'Dell, an unconventional investigator. It is winter in Washington DC and an arsonist is at work.
When a building bursts into flames, local police see it as the work of the same man, but when a body is found O'Dell is called in, and her take is very different.
She sees a calculating and controlled criminal at work. She's right, and as she gets closer to the truth she risks everything as the criminal targets her. MMcW
By James Patterson
Little, Brown and Co. £9.99
James Patterson, the creator of the excellent Alex Cross series of thrillers, has become a publishing sensation.
He writes up to nine books a year, many of them co-authored by a stable of 15 writers he keeps on his payroll, and there are 220 million of his books in print.
Guilty Wives is his annual beach-blanket standalone thriller. It is the story of Abbie Elliot, the wife of an American diplomat, and her three friends who head off on a luxurious weekend of fun in Monte Carlo. After a night of champagne, gambling and hard partying, Abbie wakes up alone in the cabin of a luxury yacht surrounded by the police.
Something terrible has happened and the four women have been framed. MMcW