|Robert Ludlum's the Bourne Sacrifice
Fast on the trail of Lennon, a dangerous and cruelly inventive assassin, Jason Bourne, believing Lennon's employer is the Pyramid, a corrupt conglomerate, draws his ex-lover, reporter Abbey Laurent, into his investigation and must keep her safe when Lennon sets his sights on her.
Brian Freeman is the bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Jonathan Stride and Frost Easton series. His Audible original, The Deep, Deep Snow, hit the New York Times audio bestseller list. His novels have won the International Thriller Writers Award and the Macavity Award and been finalists for the Gold Dagger, Edgar, Anthony, and Barry Awards.
Robert Ludlum was the author of twenty-seven novels, each one a New York Times bestseller. There are more than 225 million of his books in print, and they have been translated into thirty-two languages. He was the author of The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Chancellor Manuscript, and the Jason Bourne series-among other novels. Ludlum passed away in March 2001.
Jason Bourne, the former assassin for the American government who lost his memory after nearly being killed, has spent the last year searching Europe for the assassin known as Lennon (last seen in The Bourne Treachery, 2021). After a near miss in Iceland, Bourne is determined to catch up with Lennon in the U.S. But finding the ruthless killer is only one element in Freeman's third Bourne novel. Is Lennon working for a shadowy organization called The Pyramid, and, if so, why has the group sent him to America? In 2020's The Bourne Evolution, Freeman rebooted Robert Ludlum's series, giving the character a new time line and restoring some of the desperation to recover his identity, an early element that was less prominent in Ludlum's later Bourne novels and in those by Eric Van Lustbader. Fans of Freeman's first two Bourne novels will be thrilled with this one, which, in addition to Lennon, also brings back journalist Abby Laurent, who played an important role in Bourne Evolution and is even more in the mix here. An exciting, satisfying thriller. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.
Jason Bourne confronts a strange and frightening enemy in the latest entry in the series created by Ludlum and written by Freeman. Let's face it, Bourne is never going to learn the secrets of his past. In this latest episode, he reunites with Canadian journalist Abbey Laurent, who plays a key part in this fast-moving thriller. He had left her behind two years earlier because "when you're with me, you're in danger....I'm a killer." For her part, she is known in her profession as "one of the few people who calls out the bullshit on both sides." A woman is stabbed to death near the Potomac, and Abbey wants to know why. The killing is the work of the Pyramid, a secretive organization that ostensibly fights lies and misinformation around the world but does so with lies of its own. She asks too many questions about the murder and runs afoul of the organization, which ruins her career by planting false stories about her on social media. But worse, the Pyramid wants her dead. "It doesn't matter what's true and what's a lie," she's told. In Iceland, Bourne silently awaits his prey, an evil dude named Lennon who enjoys sharing a surname with the late Beatle, so much so that he even has an evil girlfriend named Yoko. Hero and villain meet several times, each missing or simply passing up chances to kill the other, apparently because they'd rather talk than pull the trigger. As fans know, Bourne has lost all memory of his life before being shot in the head. The CIA doesn't want him to learn of his past, which is the mystery that drives the series. Meanwhile, he's a loner by necessity, because "nothing gets you killed faster than trust." There are odd coincidences, such as Bourne and Abbey meeting again and the hero and the bad guy meeting again and again, but readers won't mind. Can Abbey Laurent get her life back? Or even survive? Will she have sex with Jason Bourne? Colorful characters and solid plotting continue to make this series a pleasure. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
One Week Later
Jason Bourne crouched behind the stone wall that ringed the little black church. A bitter wind blew across the lava fields, and slate gray clouds clung to the dark tips of the mountains. With his Swarovski binoculars, he zoomed in on the twin white buildings of the oceanfront hotel below him. There were no other structures around for miles, just the simple black church and the elegant hotel amid the landscape of strangely sculpted volcanic stone. The only sounds were the fierce whistle of the wind and the thunder of waves crashing from the Atlantic onto the shell beach.
He'd watched the men of the protection detail arriving separately over the past hour. They'd staked out different locations around the hotel, blending like locals into the remote Icelandic countryside. They were obviously waiting for someone. If Bourne was right, that meant that the assassin known as Lennon would be arriving soon.
There were five killers serving as Lennon's advance team. One was a man in overalls who'd parked his truck off the shoulder of the single lonely road that led to the coast. He'd opened the hood and was pretending to tinker with the engine. Two others shared pints of beer at a picnic table behind the hotel and joked with each other in loud voices. Another was just a speck of camouflage in the distance, but Bourne had spotted him stretched out in the wavy grass of the lava field, with the scope of a long gun trained on the hotel.
The fifth man lay on the ground at the base of the wall next to Bourne, his skull crushed by a slab of volcanic stone, his VP40 pistol and two extra magazines now in Bourne's pocket. Jason listened in on the man's radio receiver, but so far, there had been no communications among the team.
The next hour passed slowly. The dark afternoon bled into early evening, and the brooding mountains on the horizon grew shrouded by mist. The air got colder, wind roared in ripples through the tough scrub brush, and drizzle spat across Bourne's face. He remained motionless, his binoculars propped on the wall, his black wool cap pulled low on his forehead. His hands were covered with black nylon gloves. The naked eye could perceive the tiniest movement or color even from long distances, so he took care to avoid both. Then again, if one of the advance team spotted someone hiding near the church, they would assume it was the man who was dead at Bourne's feet.
Finally, he spotted a car approaching on the single-lane road. It was a red dot on the curving gray highway. As the car got closer, he recognized it as a compact Citroen C3, which was not the kind of vehicle he expected Lennon to use. The Citroen parked at the rear of the hotel, and when the driver's door opened, he saw a woman get out. She was alone. Quickly, Bourne grabbed a camera from his leather jacket to magnify her face and snap multiple photos. She was in her late twenties, slim and attractive, with shoulder-length blond hair. She wore a navy blue Icelandic wool sweater over khakis and hiking boots, and she carried a leather pack slung over one shoulder. Rather than go into the hotel, she lit a cigarette and wandered away toward a shallow slope overlooking the beach.
The two killers drinking beer at the picnic table pretended to ignore her. She ignored them, too, but Bourne suspected that was because she didn't realize she was being watched. Instead, she stared out at the whitecaps on the ocean while the wind mussed her hair. When she finished her first cigarette, she lit another, with the jerky motions of someone who was trying to calm her nerves. Her demeanor told him she wasn't a pro.
Not long after, Bourne saw two more cars approaching at high speed. Both were gray Range Rovers with smoked windows. He tensed, his senses alert now as he watched the men of the protection detail stiffen with anticipation. The man in overalls slammed shut the hood of his truck. The two men on the bench put down their beers and slipped their hands into their pockets in order to ready weapons.
A single clipped sentence in Icelandic crackled through the radio receiver in Bourne's ear.
"Žaš er hann."
The two SUVs braked hard and stopped behind the hotel. No one got out. The engines kept running. But the blond woman crushed out her cigarette and immediately headed for the Range Rovers.
Bourne held his breath.
It all came down to this.
One year. One year of hunting across Europe for the killer known as Lennon. A killer who'd eluded Treadstone and Interpol. A killer who claimed to hold the key to Bourne's missing past.
The last time they'd clashed had been during a fight to the death on a Northern California beach, but Lennon had managed to escape on the water. Ever since, Bourne had tracked the assassin from mission to mission, always one step behind, always too late to grab him and interrogate him. And then kill him. Until last week. Last week, he'd located a corrupt banker in Barcelona with ties to Lennon, who'd told him about a meeting coming up on the Snęfellsnes peninsula, two hours from Reykjavik. This time, Bourne was ready.
The back door of the first Range Rover opened. A man got out.
Through the binoculars, Bourne studied him. He saw a man with cropped blond hair and diamond earrings in both ears. His eyes were hidden by sunglasses, but he had thick, pale brows. His nose was broad and prominent, his chin strong, with a red, horizonal scar making a seam down one cheek. He was tall and wore an expensive gray wool coat that draped to his ankles. Below the coat, he wore a collarless white sweater, black slacks, and dress shoes.
Was it him?
This man looked nothing like the killer Bourne had met in California, but appearances didn't matter. Lennon was a master of false identities; he could change his face, his hair, his eyes, his language, and his accent, and never appear the same way twice. He took over other people's identities and left their dead bodies behind.
He was a mystery. A ghost.
The man signaled to the blond woman with a slight tilt of his head. The two of them walked side by side to a dirt path that led into the lava fields. That walk! Bourne had seen it before, in London last year when Lennon was mounting an elaborate assassination plot at a meeting of the WTO. He'd seen it on that beach in California. And he'd seen it somewhere in the fog of his own forgotten past.
Behind every disguise was the same casual, graceful walk, as if his torso and powerful shoulders were floating above rigid hips.
The blond woman accompanied the assassin into the field of black stones. Through the binoculars, Bourne saw strain on her face, and he knew she was scared. She didn't like the loneliness of the meeting ground, and regardless of his disguises, she didn't like seeing the killer's face. People who saw that face didn't usually live to tell about it. The woman let the leather pack slide off her shoulder, and she handed the strap to Lennon. He could see her arm sagging with the weight. The killer unzipped the top a few inches, took a glance inside, and zipped it up again. He looked satisfied with the contents.
A payoff. It was definitely a payoff.
But for what?
When he had the pack over his shoulder, Lennon's hand slid into the pocket of his wool coat. The woman flinched, expecting a gun, expecting a kill shot. By instinct, Bourne reached for his Sig Sauer, but he was too far away to intervene. It didn't matter. Lennon's hand reappeared, not with a gun, but with a coin that glinted with a flash of gold. He flipped it in the air with his thumb, then grabbed the woman's hand by the wrist and deposited the coin on her open palm.
He murmured something, and Bourne could read his lips. "For you."
Then Lennon folded the woman's fingers shut over the coin. He patted her cheek, the signal that the meeting was done.
The blond woman stumbled back to her Citroen. She couldn't get away fast enough now. The engine fired with a cough, and the little red car shot down the highway. From the trail, Lennon watched the car until it disappeared, then shifted his gaze back to the rugged panorama around him. He was perfectly in view through Bourne's binoculars. The ocean wind ruffled his blond hair. In the low light, he was barely more than a shadow, and his eyes were still hidden behind sunglasses. However, his gaze seemed to focus on the little black church, as if somehow he knew Jason was there.
Lennon's face broke into the tiniest smile. Then he returned to the Range Rover, and the two SUVs drove away toward the mountains.
An hour later, it was night, and night in Iceland was utterly black.
Jason followed the Range Rovers on a Kawasaki motorcycle, which he'd acquired from a dealer in Reykjavik when he'd arrived in Iceland three days earlier. He stayed back at a considerable distance, only occasionally seeing red taillights ahead of him. He wasn't worried about losing them out here because there were no other vehicles and almost no crossroads on the barren stretch of highway.
He was more worried about the weather. As the light rain continued, and the temperatures fell, ice was a threat, particularly if the SUVs turned north. Through the motorcycle's single headlight, he could see the wet shine of the pavement. Around him, the rest of the world was dark. The rushing air was cold even through his rain suit, but they'd trained him not to notice the cold.
Separate your mind and your body.
Bourne was just over six feet tall, and his frame didn't advertise his physical toughness, but the men who knew such things-the men who killed for a living-always recognized the danger he represented. It wasn't just his experience and background; it was also the intelligence in his cool blue-gray eyes. He analyzed people and situations in a split second, assessing the risks, strengths, and weaknesses. Then he acted without hesitation.
He was also self-aware enough to recognize his own greatest weakness. He was a man with no memory of his past.
Years earlier, a bullet to the head on a Treadstone mission had nearly killed him. He'd survived, but the trauma to his brain had erased who he was. He'd come back to consciousness as a stranger to himself, and he still was. Most of the first three decades of his life remained lost in a fog, with nothing but a few photographs to prove that he had any past at all. He knew that meant there were threats out there that he would never see coming. What he didn't know could kill him. If he was going to stay alive, he needed answers.
Lennon claimed to have those answers. In California, the assassin had bragged about being a part of Bourne's missing life. Maybe it was nothing but a lie, but Jason needed to know for sure.
The dark Icelandic countryside passed around him. He was an extension of the bike as he drove. He was hunched forward, feeling every vibration of the machine. At thirty-six years old, his body couldn't completely escape the aftereffects of the fights and assaults he'd endured. But during his search for Lennon over the past year, he'd followed an intense regimen of workouts and martial arts training, because he knew that the assassin was doing the same. Whenever they met again, Bourne needed to be ready.
And that would be soon.
Far ahead of him, he saw tiny flashes of white light. The SUVs had left the highway. The valley was perfectly flat, so he could easily track the headlights, but he saw no road signs denoting an intersection. Instead, as he drew close to the area where the vehicles had turned, he saw a dirt trail heading toward the hills. He followed, leaving his light on so he could see, but he drove slowly on the bumpy, rutted track. After several miles, with the slopes of the mountains looming larger in front of him, he saw that the SUVs had stopped. Their lights vanished. Bourne stopped, too, seeing nothing but darkness. There seemed to be no buildings out here, no reason for Lennon to come to this place.
The open fields were quiet except for the soft patter of drizzle. He was still a mile from the vehicles, too far away for his night vision monocular to be of use. Instead, he waited to see what would happen next. Only a few minutes passed, and then he heard the distant growl of engines again, and the headlights came to life like eyes. The SUVs had turned around; they were heading his way, heading back toward him.
Jason quickly rolled the bike off the dirt road and laid it sideways in the brush. He stretched out along the ground, covered by the tall grass. The vehicles roared by, kicking up spray and mud, and they didn't slow down as they passed him. They didn't know he was there. When they were gone, he stood up, eyeing the taillights heading back toward the main highway. This was a rare moment when his instincts did battle. Follow them, or investigate the meaning of their brief stop in the middle of nowhere. If he lost them now, he risked losing Lennon altogether after a year on his trail.
He fired up the motorcycle again and sped down the dirt road toward the hills. He didn't bother turning off his headlight because he knew that the throb of his engine would give him away if someone was listening. He drove to within a short distance of where he estimated that the SUVs had stopped, and then he shut down the bike and retrieved his night vision monocular and focused on the landscape. The fields and hills all bloomed to life through the single lens in eerie shades of gray.
There it was.
Dark, small, and virtually invisible in the mist was a cottage, built where the mountains began to rise immediately behind it. It was a single-story farmhouse, and Jason could see the frames of multiple tall windows that took advantage of the views across the countryside. He saw no light to indicate that the house was occupied, but he needed to see what was inside.
Bourne unzipped his rain suit and quickly stepped out of it. With his Sig in his right hand, he sprinted through the wet grass, and less than a minute later, he crouched beneath the tall windows of the cottage. He made a circuit around the house, and on the other side, the dark foothills rose sharply from flat, open fields. From inside, he heard no sounds, and no lights were on behind the windows.
When he got back to the front door, he turned the knob silently. The door was open. Still crouched, he crept inside. The interior was cool and completely black, and he realized that all of the windows had been covered over with blackout curtains. It was impossible to see anything. With his own breathing hushed, he listened, and he heard the faint sound of someone moving in a different room near the rear of the cottage. His gun level at his waist, he took a careful step in the darkness.
Then a voice spoke, as if someone were standing next to him.
A whisper hissed through speakers hidden somewhere in the room.
Jason backed away. He stayed close to the wall, where he could feel his way forward. When he glanced at the ceiling, he spotted a single red dot of light, which told him that cameras were pointed at him, seeing in the dark. He needed light himself, so when he felt one of the blackout curtains on a window frame, he tore it down, ignoring the noise. Then he found another and tore that down, too. At least he could see enough to realize that the room was empty, just the furniture of an ordinary Icelandic cottage.
But he knew there was nothing ordinary about it.