Book Review: The Paris Option

“The Paris Option” is the third book of the Covert-One series created by Robert Ludlum featuring Colonel Jon Smith, Randi Russell, Peter Howell and Marty Zellerbach. It has been written by Gayle Lynds. While officially it is the third book,  in reality it is the first book with a full Covert-One mission; The Hades Factor had Smith operating on his own – aided by friends; The Cassandra Compact had Smith operating in an official capacity – but essentially on his own. In the third book, we get to see the entire team that featured in the first book – The Hades Factor. That is the key point in this book; and this makes it tremendously enjoyable. 

The plot is unique, multi-layered, with several well-disguised twists and turns – and is not clichéd in any way. It is refreshing to read a western novelist steer away from the stereotypical portrayal of Iraq or Iran or Middle Eastern Muslim Terrorists or even Russia as the bad guys, and use imagination to arrive at a contrived, involved and entrancing plot – one that is far more believable than the ones we usually read about, and have gotten used to. The plot is the mainstay of the book: deep, well-thought-out, free from stereotypes and clichés of any kind, free from cultural or political assumptions and very, very clean. 

The concept is simple: A DNA computer – a powerful new computing technology that is far, far more powerful than the silicon-based systems in vogue – is in the process of being created by a French scientist. This scientists’ Lab gets blown apart in a bomb explosion, and all his notes etc get stolen. The Americans get a good-morning-how-are-you call from an uninvited guest just hours afterwards. This guest shuts down entire swathes of networks with consummate ease – and that includes shutting communications with the Fighter Jets  of The US of A. Lt Colonel Jon Smith – also a scientist, is aware of DNA computing technology, as he is cooperating in a US project on the same – gets assigned the task of saying Hi-How-are-you to the uninvited caller. 

The plot unfolds from here, and takes twists every few pages that leave your head in a spin; I cannot tell more without being a spoil-sport, so leave it at that. Jon Smith first has to identify the perpetrator, for which he traipses across France, North Africa, Spain in a classic chase, trying to find the answer to why would anyone just switch off entire networks, Radar Systems, Missile Defences – and then very kindly switch them back on again. 

Is it a prelude to blackmail – either give us a zillion dollars or we shut you off? Or is it something else? Along the way, he unites with Peter Howell and Randi Russell who alongwith Marty Zellerbach combine and get together, ultimately managing to say Hi-How-Are-You to the friends who waltzed into the American Security System, and learn his motives as well prod him not to say Hi-How-Are-You in quite so dramatic a fashion to the US of A again… 

The charectarisation is true to the series character plot, and there are no discernible deviations. Furthermore, each character has been further developed, allowing you to form a firmer mental image of each of the central characters. This is spread throughout the book; you can see and understand the development. The bitterness and animosity that Randi holds has been shown to ebb, for example. And this has been achieved not through paragraphs of prose, but rather through a selective choice of words; minimalist, but effective. It showcases an author in control of the plot and the characters.

I personally regard this book to be the best in the Covert-One Series. This book is in a class of its own, with its unique plot, and as I stated above, free from stereotypes and clichés of any kind, free from cultural or political assumptions. That makes it a great read. The pace is relentless; it is one of the fastest paced novels I have read, a page turner and pretty much unputdownable. The story is riveting, and will keep you glued; even the action scenes have been choreographed with great skill. The several layers that comprise the plot make for a very contrived and involved story with lots of twists – far more than most other novels of the Covert-One Series. It is this which sets it apart; and elevates it into the category of all-time-great books. Truly, a one of a kind book that deserves a place in your collection. 


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