Part 1: The Sigma Protocol

Ok. I’ve not done a book review as yet and I’m starting to feel guilty. I’ve finally managed to put down the sudoku books, and resume reading. The transition was difficult though, and made worse by the fact that the first thing I saw upon opening the book was a long list of notable (and un-notable) names, all basically saying Read this book – it’s great!’, or ‘You won’t be able to put it down!’, or ‘The author is a master of suspense’. Should I take this as a sign to buy the book? Enough of that for now though.

The book I’m currently massacring is The Sigma Protocol by Robert Ludlum. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s also the author of The Bourne Identity and Supremacy. It took me 4 weeks to get started on reading this book – that’s how disinterested I was. But a friend had been kind enough to lend it to me, and I didn’t want to return it without at least skimming through it. Though I’ve always been an avid fan of books and movies in the thriller genre with a central theme of espionage, this book has helped me realise a sad truth: I’m tired of government conspiracies. The world has only just begun recovering from an overdose of the Da Vinci code so I personally wouldn’t mind if I didn’t see or read anything conspiracy related for a long time.

I reluctantly opened the book and began reading (as bedtime material). Looked like my assumptions were right. From what I’ve read so far, the book revolves around some rich kid – Ben Hartman. Of course, he didn’t ‘choose’ to be rich – he didn’t even want it, but he had to perform his duties as a son when his twin brother died, and also because he had promised his mother on her deathbed (and you know no one ever lies to their parents!). Ben doesn’t like being rich – no, he’d rather work with inner-city children (who might pull a knife on him without warning). Oh pur-lease – Is this some kind of ploy to convince the reader that Ben is actually a normal person trapped in a spoilt rich kid’s body? That is Ludlum’s first mistake. Ben hates the trappings of a rich life, yet he’s chosen to stay at the most expensive hotel (in order to schmooze his stakeholders). Anyways, a brief synopsis:

Ben Hartman is concluding a business trip in Switzerland when he sees an old school friend he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Far from having a friendly reunion, the old school friend pops out a gun and shoots at him. Ben runs into a shopping mall (he’s extremely athletic, dontyouknow), and the now-former friend follows, unsuccessfully shooting at him and killing a lot of innocent shoppers instead. Ben eventually manages to kill this friend, and, in shock, goes off to look for the police (who believe he’s the killer, of course). He takes them back to see the body, but by the time they get there, wa-hey, the body’s gone, along with any trace of a fight. Predictably, the Walther PPK used in the shooting is found in his luggage. Some massive government conspiracy which will no doubt be revealed in the last chapter.

Of course, such a book isn’t complete with only one central character, so a woman is thrown in – she will no doubt prove to be Ben’s love interest (I’ll let you know if that is indeed the case as I progress into the book). Now, I am sure that this is going to be a typical book where some male author decides he knows how a woman would feel and act. The clueless author makes her into some kind of man – devoid of emotions, a loner, and full of psychological problems which she’s never ready to deal with. But of course these unstable women allow the lead male character into their lives. I suspect this is how the author is clueless when it comes to women.

The woman, Anna Navarro, is a government agent, works for a sexist boss, and has to put up with a lot of crap from him because she’s rejected his advances. Thinking it will harm her career chances, the misogynistic boss proclaims her to be ‘not much of a team player’, but this sparks the interest of a top-level government agency. The old stuffy powerful boss of this agency (known as The Ghost), summons her, informing her of some high-level secret organisation that was formed even before the CIA. Apparently, all its members have been found dead, supposedly by accident. He wants her to ascertain whether their deaths were really accidental. She begins investigating, but is soon dragged off, the case, attacked, and declared rogue (Why, we don’t as yet know).

Why do I sound so sceptical? Virtually all of Robert Ludlum’s books have a similar theme. Check out some of the titles:

The Janson Directive
The Aquitaine Progression
The Holcroft Covenant
The Chancellor Manuscript
The Matlock Paper
The Prometheus Deception
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Cassandra Compact

Can ya begin to see a pattern here?
Furthermore, I fail to be impressed by promises of shock and intrigue. What next can the government conspire about? Killing babies and eating their limbs? What horrible scenarios and conspiracies have we not seen in books, movies, and real life, no doubt?

Till the next instalment - has anyone read this?


I have read all of Robert Ludlum's (except the ones published close to his death and after his death) books and although they are similar I have enjoyed all of them.

I have read Sigma Protocol, I think my favourite has to be the Materese Circle though....

9:22 AM  

I love robert ludlum but havent read any books of his in a while! nice review. keep it coming :)

8:08 AM  

The book is enthralling, although very annoying, as I will make clear. He reminds me of Wilbur Smith! Wish Robert was alive so I could ask him a few hard-hitting questions.

6:03 PM  

I used to be a Ludlum fan. I think he declined somewhat towards his demise [almost the same way Leon Uris did].

My best always remains the Icarus Agenda [it was my first]. I think the Sigma Protocol is one of his best...

By the way, how does one join the book club?

2:59 PM  

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