Entry: The Ludlum betrayal Thursday, May 20, 2004



I have hardly read any Ludlum novel without finally wondering why I went for it. It is not that I don't like the books or I am one of those looking-down-at-the-potboilers types. On the contrary, I do like the stuff that he writes but more often than not, his books disappoint once I am through to the end. They never really leave the reader with the joy of reading a PG Wodehouse, the fun of reading a Spider Man comic, the mind-numbing feeling of reading an Ayn Rand, or even the cheap thrill of reading a Sidney Sheldon. What I mean is that even if you take the Star Wars novel that I am currently reading after having done with the Ludlum caper, I am sure that I will have a much better experience after I have finsihed reading it, all the time thinking about Jedi masters and their light sabers figting against the dark side and all the rest of it.

The Tristan Betrayal by Robert Ludlum is a little different from his other works but the difference, unfortunately, is not positive. The book goes one step ahead with the second half of the book destroying the user's interest peel by peel after a painstaking process of forming those layers in the first half. The book starts with the modern Moscow (well, not really modern, some 13 years ago) when the communist powers in Soviet Union are doomed to an end and democracy has seen its first dawn with the eyes of Gorbachev. The book depicts the unrest, anxiety and confusion prevailing in the Moscow city briefly, and yet, with panache. The story unfolds to let the reader know that there is only one person known as 'The Conductor', who can actually prevent the situation from going bad and give that final push to the Russian democracy and prevent the fanatical communists from dragging Russia back to the darkness. The only person who can convince 'The Conductor' to do so is Stephen Metcalfe, the honorary Ambassador from the United States. He is called to Russia by his old friend, a reputed and celebrated General in the Russian Army. The real reason for the effect that Ambassador Metcalfe has over ‘The Conductor’ is what forms the basis of the story. It is hidden from the reader till the very end and though it will be unfair to disclose something like this in any review of the book, I must say that the reason falls flat on its face when it is finally disclosed. Instead of a well crafted and thrilling finish that the story and no doubt, the author, was capable of, Ludlum decided the end to be a low key affair which, in my humble opinion, robbed the book of one too many loyal fans.

The story in The Tristan Betrayal goes into the flashback to show that Metcalfe was an American secret agent working in the Second World War on the orders of Corcoran, who reported to Roosevelt himself. Metcalfe is shown to have quite a reputation for being a shameless womanizer and it is this quality (???) of his, added to the fact that he, along with his brother, is the owner of the celebrated US business giant, Metcalfe Industries, that enables him to make a foothold in Nazi occupied France as Daniel, a 'Ladies Man' who goes about stealing Nazi secrets from the beds of the mistresses, wives and sisters of Nazi officers. He is as successful as he can be, till his base in Paris is exposed to the enemies and they kill all his colleagues. The person responsible for this expose and the cruel killings of the American ‘spy’ base is the dreaded ‘Violinist’ (too much of music, The Conductor and then The Violinist) who is shown to be a nightmare over the entire story until he actually dies at the hands of Metcalfe, like a stupid villain of the Hindi movies.
 
Anyway, to cut the long story short, after the not-so-successful Paris stint, Metcalfe is given another assignment by his boss, Corky, to go to Moscow and re-kindle his old flame, Swetlana, who is the prime ballerina in the Bolshoi Theatre. The purpose, Corky says, of this assignment is to find out if the Nazi Officer who has Lana as his mistress, is actually someone who can be turned away from Hitler and used as an agent. However, when Metcalfe lands there and is able to re-affirm his affections with Lana, he finds out that the German officer can not really be converted and that this was not the real purpose of his mission. His mission is to actually provide the Nazis and ultimately, to Hitler, false information about the Russian Army. This information has to be passed by Lana to the German officer as Lana is the daughter of a high ranking Russian General. To do all this, Metcalfe has to lie to Lana and since he is actually in love with Lana, he can not really go about all this lying business without a twinge (just a twinge, mind it…he is in the league of James Bond, of course, the ruthless womanizer) of guilt. The information to be conveyed to the Nazis has been forged and falsified to give the wrong idea to Nazis that The Russian Red Army is actually weak and thus, to entice the Fuhrer to attack Russia and go to his doom and take the communists down with him, in the process (one arrow and two targets, what???) . The plan works but only after a sacrifice by Lana, who has to get herself arrested and executed by the Russians for selling military secrets to the Germans to convince Hitler and his Generals of the authenticity of the forged reports that were passed though her.

As I mentioned earlier, all this looks fine and is quite interesting, too and the reader is actually waiting for the suspense to unravel and tell him about the real secret that has been carried all these years from the time of The Second World War to The 1990 Russia and how this secret actually relates to both Ambassador Metcalfe and 'The Conductor'. However, the way Ludlum treats this secret actually belies the craftsmanship with which he has woven the rest of the story. Ultimately, the book is good and might interest the first timer or the average Ludlum reader but to hardcore Ludlum readers like me, who have hardly left any Ludlum book unread despite the now-tiresome formula that almost all his books follow, the book is a big let-down.

   6 comments

Divya
May 20, 2004   04:14 PM PDT
 
gosh!!! you have some patience!!!!
Nitai
May 20, 2004   04:48 PM PDT
 
hmm... actually, this blog is fast turning out to be a good outlet of what you call my patience...I call it my tendency (ability, problem???) to live (in) the past
Prithesh
May 24, 2004   02:25 PM PDT
 
Well yeah.....probably the worst ludlum and pretty dissapointing for his fans. keep the reviews coming :-)
R.Sathish
January 30, 2005   07:35 PM PST
 
well, i think it's really great of lana to sacrifice herself for stiva,and her own russia .in this way,letting herself be sacrificed lana has proved she really loved stiva , her dear stiva
R.Sathish
January 30, 2005   07:41 PM PST
 
i felt very sorry for stephen when all his friends in the ring including corky were killed i feel that at last atleast stiva would be happy because he had atleast one hier to him and he should live for him .any liked my previous comment and this one ? if yes please send a mail to the following address:
sathishhp@yahoo.co.in
R.Sathish
January 30, 2005   07:43 PM PST
 
east or best tristan betraya; is the best

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