" Robert Ludlum died in 2001. This book came out in 2003 with Gayle Lynds as the co-author. This is the fourth book of the Covert-One series. Covert-One is a top secret U. S. agency that fights corruption, conspiracy and bio-weaponary at the highest and most dangerous level in the society. It is composed of ex-military men who are political and technical experts. Gayle Lynds co-created this series with Ludlum in 2000 with the release of its first book, The Hades Factor. Gayle Lynds is a woman who writes and competes in the male dominated spy-thrillers genre. She used to hide behind guy names like G. H. Stone, Gayle Stone, Nick Carter, and Don Pendleton. This reminded me of the time when the Bronte sisters hid behind their masculine pen names because people during that time did not take women writers seriously. Almost 200 years ago, there is still a remnant of that prejudice. So what if Lynds is a woman writing spy-thriller novels? Why can we accept that women can do everything or write everything that men do?
In fact, with Ludlum dead already and books under his name still sell like hotcakes, I suspect that some of these books were not even started by him or the main storylines, what they call as Ludlumâ€™s â€œunused notes,â€ might not really be in existence. Robert Ludlum has become a marketing brand and his co-writers just use it to sell their works. However, I cannot blame the Ludlum Estates since Ludlum was an excellent novelist when he was alive. For me, he gave conspiracy theory, that would otherwise be blasÃ© and formulaic, the human and sensitive face. His works celebrate heroism of crusaders, whether simple men or group of men against powerful evil men or empire. That contribution to the genre is something that will be very hard to duplicate.
In this book, that individual is Covert-One agent, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Jonathan â€œJonâ€ Smith, M.D. He is asked by Covert-One director Nataniel Frederick â€œFredâ€ Klein, a government agent with experience with the CIA and the Pentagon, to go to Taiwan to investigate about the death of the contact who reported that a Chinese vessel has dispatched from Shanghai. Loaded to that vessel are raw materials that will be used by Iraq to manufacture WMD (Weapon for Mass Destruction). This reminded me of President Bushâ€™s scare tactic after 9/11. However, Lynds has that sensitivity not to name the president here Bush. Her presidentâ€™s name is President Samuel Adams â€œSamâ€ Castilla who immediately orders the investigation but later gets second thoughts because he is informed that his biological father is still alive and is being held prisoner by the Chinese since fifty years ago. So, the question boiled down to: which is more important to the president, his biological father or curbing the global terrorist in Iraq?
Another thing that I liked about these Ludlum books is that it can also be heartwarming and not the usual bang bang that you find in spy-thriller. Of course it has lines like "the volcanic sound shattering the stillness of the night." The word "volcanic" creates the image of Mt. Pinatubo and the people fleeing the volcanic mud (called lahar) here in the Philippines. So, I felt really into the scene. But also the novel has a sweet poetic line like "what the caterpillar sees as death, the wise man sees as a butterfly."
Critics of Ludlum books say that his novels (or novels bearing his name though he is long dead) are a bit theatrical. I don't mind. I just like them!!! "
— K.D., 1/11/2014