Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sharath's bookshelf - The Tristan Betrayal

     Robert Ludlum is the world's best selling author in the political thriller genre. He is probably the most prolific as well. His books have been successfully adapted into movies, miniseries etc. His earlier life as a US marine is probably the reason for his acute insight into the inner workings of the military and security agencies which form an integral part of his novels.

     A typical Ludlum novel is characterised by a hero with special skill(s), a shadowy organisation that places the safety of the free world in jeopardy and a story that moves at break neck speed. The secondary cast contains a trusted colleague who betrays the protagonist and a heroine who gets mixed up in this risky business and falls for the dashing hero. This tried and tested formula always works.

     The Tristan Betrayal marks a departure from this trend. It is a historical thriller set in the Second World War era and is the story of Stephen Metcalfe, the protagonist, a spy for the Allies. The story starts in Paris where the American hero is under cover as an Argentinian black marketeer and play boy. His cover is blown, his team is assassinated and he escapes from Paris. For his next assignment, he is asked to rekindle his relationship with his former flame, Svetlana Baranova, a fiery ballerina at the Bolshoi and the paramour of a Nazi official in Moscow.

     Svetlana is Ludlum's most well written female character, in my opinion, even better than the more popular Marie Webb nee St Jacques of The Bourne series. The story has the trademark Ludlum twists and turns. The pace is unrelentingly fast but still sedate compared to his other thrillers. The courage and patriotism that Lana shows is stirring. The book provides a fictional reason for the U-turn in Soviet-German relations, during the later phase of  Second World War, which in many historians' opinion cost Germany the War.

    This book is rumoured to have been written by a ghost writer by expanding on an outline written by Ludlum. It was published two years after Ludlum's death. It does show a discernible difference in the phraseology, style and pacing. It still ranks as one of Ludlum's, if not this genre's best.

     Read this novel and comment.


  1. i think pearl harbor was the axis' undoing.

  2. Undoubtedly, Pearl Harbor was a turning point in the war. But it was the falling out of Germany and Russia that gave the Allies a fighting chance. The War on two fronts was something Germany was ill-equipped to handle. The final nail in the coffin of Nazi Germany was the decision to fight Russia in Winter. The harsh Russian Winter was the unsung saviour of the free people of the world.

    Sorry for the history lesson. I have been interested in the world war and cold war eras since high school. My ninth class history project was about the world war 2, so I couldn t help myself.