The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, USA, 1980

A man washed up on the coast of the Mediterranean is not only frightfully wounded but is also suffering from amnesia. He cannot remember why he is where he is, and he cannot remember who he is.

Over the next 500-plus pages, the man slowly remembers snippets of his past while all around him it is obvious that professional killers are intent on eradicating him. Like a blindfolded man with one hand tied behind his back he must still try to remain one step in front of these killers, using each small piece of information gleaned to complete the jigsaw. Who is he? Why is where he is? Why do people want to kill him?

The book is very well written. The pace is fast; the content is intelligent and obviously researched. It is the type of book that wants to be read in one long reading: in other words, it is a book that is extremely difficult to put down. Although there are many characters, both major and minor, and a multitude of plot twists and turns, many provoked by the intricacies of politics and high finance, the reader remains captivated, wanting more.

Set mainly in Europe (Paris, Switzerland, the Mediterranean… ) it also extends across the Atlantic to New York. The occasional use of French phrases is handled particularly well, and at no point does it feel forced or out of place; it helps to emphasize the European atmosphere that is such an important part of the story.

The ending hints at a possible continuation (The Bourne Supremacy), and although I was disappointed that the roller coaster ride had come to an end, I knew that there was another book, and another ride, just around the corner. A great book; I would recommend it to anyone.

Those of you who have seen the film by the same name (released in 2002) should not believe that you do not have to read the book: the film and the book are two completely different realities. The film has grown out of several ideas in the book, but in no way does it replicate the book, even though it has retained the name. Watching it after I had read the book was a great disappointment, because had it kept to the book it could have been ever so much more intelligent, exciting and believable.

Photo of Robert Ludlum from Goodreads