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The story is set in 1940's war torn Europe and begins in recently occupied France where a young American Intelligence operative is enjoying a rather charmed existence. Once his true identity becomes known Stephen Metcalfe has to flee Paris and is redeployed to Russia on what seems like too simple a mission. He is simply to gauge whether the current boyfriend of an ex would defect to the Allied cause. This is a time when Russia and Germany are untrusting of each other but have signed a pact not to attack and it soon becomes clear to Metcalfe that his mission was far more than he was lead to believe.
Over the years since I first discovered the Bourne trilogy I've gone on to become a huge fan of Robert Ludlum, taking every effort to read as many of his books as possible. There were 26 in total and this review focuses on The Tristan Betrayal released in 2003, 2 years after he died. The plot is that of a story within a story as events in Russia during the early 90's cause a flash back to events that happened in Paris, Moscow and Berlin during the war as former presidential aid Stephen Metcalfe tries to stop an uprising in Russia.
The style of this book is typical of the majority of Ludlum's work. It has a fast paced plot with plenty of action, while the story keeps twisting and turning to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. I found on many occasions with the story that I didn't know what was going to happen next and as a result that kept the book in my hand and the bedside light on far longer than it should have been. I found the book to be entirely captivating, as I wanted to know what would happen to Metcalfe next.
Like a number of Ludlum's other books he draws you into the time period his books are set and paints a very dark picture of Russia in particular. With the style and way he has written the book you can tell he spent a lot of time researching the facts and events of his book in order to make it as realistic and intense as possible. Unlike the typical style of his books though this one focuses more on the connection between his lead character Metcalfe and his ex love Lana. Once you get into the main plot of the book every action and counter action revolves around them and the betrayal their own governments.
He seems to really draw you in to his characters and even though you know from the opening chapters that Metcalfe is still alive, you find yourself wondering how he managed to get away from certain situations. It is fair to say that I found myself hoping that Metcalfe not only got out of Moscow alive but that he and Lana would be able to break free from all the situations surrounding them and start a new life together,
It is the way he builds up all of his characters really well and as you get to know the two leads you start to really feel a connection to them. It's with the supporting cast though that I felt his characterisation was perhaps at its best. He doesn't just create characters you like or dislike, but instead creates people within the story who appear to be one thing but turn out to be something quite different. Even though I have read a number of his books, his ability to bring his characters and more importantly his stories to life never ceases to amaze me.
Overall this is another book that really reinforces the reasons why Robert Ludlum is one of my favourite authors. He puts together some very complex and clever plots that keep you guessing until the end. In fact the whole point of this book isn't revealed until the last 3 or so pages and it's for that reason that you keep on reading until your forced to put the book down. As far as espionage and spy novels go I think that Ludlum is hard to beat and if you like this type of story then you will love The Tristan Betrayal.
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The Tristan Betrayal
Author: Robert ludlum
About the author and the book
Robert Ludlum is the author of 23 novels published in 32 languages and 40 countries, and, at one time was the world's best selling author.His novels are a blend of sophisticated plotting and extreme pace.There are more than 210 million copies of his books in print.He is best known for 'The Scarletti Inheritance', The Chancellor manuscript , Osterman Weekend and the Jason Bourne series- 'The Bourne identity, The Bourne Supremacy and 'The Bourne ultimatum' among others.
His plots are intricate with twists upon twists, managing to mesmerize the readers.He is an expert at writing Political Thrillers.The Tristan Betrayal is a classic Political Thriller set in the 1940's in Paris , Moscow both reeling under Hitlers Nazism and Stalin's equally dictatorial regime, and Hitler's Berlin.And what had taken place in 1940-41 was still dormant threatening to explode in 1991..
The Story of 'The Tristan Betrayal'
The story is set in 1940 when the Nazi's are at the height of their power.France is occupied by the Nazis and Britain is under the threat of invasion by Hitler's army.America is trying to be neutral looking for opportunities.Russia is having an uneasy alliance with Germany.In those difficult times American born Stephen Metcalfe, belonging to a wealthy business family is a well known respected man about town in Paris, going under the name of Daniel Eigen one of the many names he uses, as, he is also a minor asset in the USA's secret investigation forces in Europe.Metcalfe is instructed to go as himself to Moscow, Russia to ferret out some important information from a Nazi official.Metcalfe is more than willing to go to Moscow and very excited about his new mission, as it is going to bring him face to face with his former lover the beautiful Lana, Svetlana Boronova, a ballerina with whom he had been deeply in love with way back in 1934, when he was in Moscow with his brother, looking after his family's business interests.Unfortunately with Stalin growing more dictatorial, they had to leave Moscow before they become the target of his wrath,but Metcalfe had never forgotten Lana nor did she forget him.
But now according to reports Lana was the mistress of Rudolf van Schssler the Nazi officer who Metcalfe had been instructed to keep an eye on and use Lana to get close to the Nazi official, which did disturb him.When he arrived in Moscow, everyone seemed to have their own hidden agenda, and it was an extremely tense atmosphere where there was no trust and foreigners were viewed with suspicion - but Metcalfe had a job to do even if it meant , in some ways betraying his own love Lana.
Coming to the present, Stephen Metcalfe , now a highly respected ,retired ambassador is given the task of returning to Moscow to reveal the secret that had been haunting him since the fall of Berlin and his dogs in reaching Dirizhor, an ultimate insider who was controlling the levers of power in absolute secrecy, with whose support the coup would surely succeed with Russia again becoming a Stalinist dictatorship and the world brought to the brink of a nuclear war - only Metcalfe with his special knowledge of Russia and Germany could avert the danger.
My views about the book
This is a very interesting book , like most of Ludlum's other novels.Ludlum is possibly one of the best writers, able to make political thrillers seem real.
Here the doomed love story of Lana and Steven Metcalfe, is interwoven with the tale of nazi misdeeds and the Russians trying to beat the Nazi's at their own game. The Americans , the jokers in the pack are looking for opportunities for introducing new dimensions into this already complicated situation.
The poor lovers caught up amidst all this power play, are unable to have a happy time with each other, all the time dodging one or the other political force.This was definitely not a time for love ..
One is overwhelmed by Svetalana's struggle for existence and her love for the 2 men in her life - her father Mikhail Baranova, a hero of the Russian revolution, with a deep secret ? that was life threatening and Metcalfe who she continued to love with the same passion and devotion even after all those years of being separated from him.Situations are such that helping her Stiva, as she calls Steven metcalfe, would only endamger her life , but she never hesitates and goes ahead and decides to do what she thinks is right- a remarkable lady!.
I felt extremely moved by the account of her struggles in a country that had turned hostile to its own citizens, where normal life was impossible and where there is secrecy and a sense of fear at every step.
Metcalfe after meeting Lana is predictably in two minds- one can picture his turmoil, caught between his duty for his country and his over powering love for Lana.
As some one rightly remarks 'The Great wars are fought based on words and disinformation' is amply proved here.
This is a sad tale of betrayal.The Nazi ruled Paris and Moscow seem such depressing places those days, that one is happy not to have been born during those times .Life seems so hard for the commoners, where their life meant so very little for those in power.
As i mentioned earlier this is a story of betrayal.Metcalfe and Lana both betrayed by their own people.
The novel is fast paced, with a alot of action that shifts from Paris to Moscow and Berlin.I liked this book for several reasons- First of all because i like any book on the subject of Holocaust and World war and Hitler for all the wrong reasons makes interesting reading. And , i like stories on espionage , which this book has in plenty- the game of information and disinformation travelling back and forth, and by the end of it, one is snot sure which one of them is right and which one is false.I also like the touching and sad love story of Steva and Lana .Here in this novel Ludlum has given a lot of prominence to the story of the lovers and everything revolves around it, which is quite unlike his other books where action takes precedence.
A Great book to read.I read it all over again before writing this review and found it as interesting as the first time.
The Tristan Betrayal is the first of Ludlum's books to have been fininshed by a ghost writer. Ludlum's shock and upsetting death in 2001 left two completed novels to be published, and this novel as well as a number of others have been published under his name but with the as yet unknown ghostwriter completing them. This particular novel is a welcome break from the usual style of plot, with elements in the present and the past forming to make a great tale.
In 1940, Stephen Metcalfe was a minor US agent, sent to Europe to fins a former lover. With major powers hanging precariously in the balance and with the Nazis at the height of their power, his trip could have serious consequences, and must be done covertly. Fast forward to 1991. Communist Russia is on the verge of collapse, with Gorbachev being undermined by a coup. Metcalfe, now an international ambassador, finds himself returning to Moscow to uncover a conspiratorial secret that has plagued him for decades, and could possibly save the world.
Whoever the mystery ghostwriter is for the Robert Ludlum books is obviously under pressure to continue a great legacy, and here he or she has done well in bringing to the pages a spy thriller true to the mold of Ludlum. I am not sure how much of this Ludlum himself had actually prepared, but I know this is one of many manuscripts and plot outlines he left behind, and are still being written today.
The Tristan Betrayal is strange in that it flicks between the present and the past in a way that is not normally associated with Ludlum. His plot is fantastic and the way the tale of two eras both come to a head at the same time towards the end of the book is nothing short of a marvel. It doesn't lack the Ludlum punch and twist and turn, either, making it a relief to all fans of the author who were worried that the ghostwriter wouldn't do it right. They certainly have it spot on, here.
The Tristan Betrayal is available from amazon.co.uk for £4.54, and is just over 500 pages long.