Book Review: The Janus Reprisal by Robert Ludlum / Jamie Freveletti


The latest in the Covert-One Series

If the series copyright holders are not careful, the Covert One series franchise will be altered beyond all recognition... wish they were more careful towards the aspects of characterisation. The characters are common with the original series in only the name; rest all - their habits, personalities have changed beyond all recognition in this latest version of the series. For an ardent fan of the series, this is a little disappointing, to say the least. One looks forward to a Covert One novel for its unique combination of bio-hazard threats, combined with the tough but human Smith, the equally tough but hard-nosed Howell,  and the rebel Randi. All are missing in this novel. Sure, the names are there; but that is all. In a nutshell, that is my opinion of this novel. 

This Novel differs from the series in almost every way; the series usually has a world hot-spot at its epicenter, with the action being based largely outside the USA. This is absent. Then there is a clear bio-hazard threat with a well-defined strategy right from the beginning of the book. This, too, is absent. The hazard, while present, becomes clear only in the end of the Novel. Klein has been reduced to a powerless paper-pusher, unlike other novels. Marty seems a normal person, unlike other novels. Castilla is nearly absent, featuring only on one or two pages. Randi Russell is now a tame office girl (!!!!!), and refers to Jon as "Smith". As I seem to recall, Randi has always referred to him as "Jon"! All in all, every defining feature of the series has been lost in this novel. For ardent Covert One fans, this is a novel to run far away from. Cant even give it 1 star out of 5.... sorry; but I am an  ardent Covert One fan. 

The book itself, once you forget it as a Covert-One, is a good book. Rapid paced,  relentless, with breathtaking action, clean writing style, free from any sidelines or sub-plots. One single plot that follows through to the end. The opening passage of the book is based on the Mumbai Hotel attack, when an attacker tries to eliminate Colonel Smith. This man has the photographs of Smith, Howell and an unkown woman to eliminate. This is the start of the book, and from this point the book just takes off with its superb taut narrative. 

The same hotel is also the target of a massive terrorist attack, which is used as a foil to cover the escape of a dreaded terrorist. The Hotel is also the location of a massive science conference, wherein various scientists are presenting the latest developments. It is at this point that the first crack shows: would any scientist working on a hazardous chemical or virus bring a sample to a hotel? I dont think  so! Furthermore, Klein - with all his resources - is not able to identify the third targeted woman; who, as it turns out, is quite famous - not only that, she was a guest at the very hotel where Smith was attacked!!!! Unbelievable! But it pays to ignore these small bloopers, as the pace of the novel compensates for them. 

The terrorists manage to escape with the bio-agent, leaving Smith, Russell - and very late in the novel - Howell to hunt them down. Howell is also unrecognisable; gone is the dry humour, the cold calculaton, the concern for Jon etc. As I said, the characters are different. But that does not mean the book is not good; it just means that I as a person did not like what was presented. It is upto each of the readers to analyse their own motivations, and determine the comfort levels with this style of presentation...

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