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The Cassandra Compact
By Robert Ludlum and Philip Shelby
Read by Michael Prichard

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The Cassandra Compact
The Cassandra Compact
A Covert One Novel
By Robert Ludlum and Philip Shelby
Read by Michael Prichard
Books on Tape, (2001)
Unabridged Audio Recording
Book Number 5620 - 9 Cassettes
ISBN: 0-7366-6841-1
Genre: Thriller

Other editions:
Large Print (Hardcover) | Standard Print (Paperback) | Audio Cassette (Abridged) | Audio CD (Abridged)

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - September 24, 2001

The Cassandra Compact is the latest entry into Robert Ludlum's Covert One series. Coauthored with Philip Shelby, The Cassandra Compact is the sequel to The Hades Factor, and it takes place about a year after this previous novel ended. Although a sequel, you do not have to read the books in sequence, as each is a self-contained novel. This novel involves Covert-One, an ultra secret organization formed as a result of the terrorist threat that was the basis of The Hades Factor. Covert-One's mission is to act as the eyes and ears of the U.S. President, and when necessary, to act as a secret, and deniable, response force.

One the of the members of Covert One is Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Smith, a former member of USAMRIID, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. A medical doctor and solider, Smith is the perfect operative to combat biological terrorism. In this book, Smith, and Covert-One, wage the good fight, trying to stop a potential terrorism threat - their weapon - Smallpox.

When Uri Danko, a scientist that worked for Russia's version of USAMRIID sent Covert-One a message that he wanted to leave Russia, Nathaniel Klein, the head of Covert-One knew that something important was about to happen. To this end, he sends Smith to Venice to meet with Danko, but the meeting is brought to a gruesome end when Danko is gunned down. Thus begins Smith's mission to find out what had Danko so upset. It is not long before Smith discovers that someone has stolen, from the Russians, samples of the smallpox virus. As Smith tries to track down the thieves and to thwart their nefarious plot, he criss-crosses the globe - and beyond as the thieves try to engineer an even deadly form of the smallpox virus, in the zero-gravity of space.

In combating this deadly foe, Smith is aided by a fanciful cast of characters, including Randi Russell, a CIA agent who is also the sister of Smith's former fiancee, Sophia Russell. Sophia died at the end of the The Hades Factor after contracting an Ebola like disease. Also helping Smith is Megan Olson, a former researcher with the World Health Organization, but now a shuttle pilot candidate, and Peter Howell, Smith's British counterpart. Howell is a semi-retired spy, and former MI6 agent who picks and chooses the cases that he moonlights on.

This is a novel for conspiracy theory addicts. Everyone seems to be working for someone else, bodies pile up by the score, and spies are as plentiful as rain drops. This is a tale of good versus evil. Half the characters are trying to stop the bad guys from releasing the smallpox virus on an unsuspecting population, while the other half wants to release the virus. Yet each bad guy seems to have a different reason for wanting to do so. For example, some of the supposedly good guys from the military want to turn it into the ultimate bio-weapon, with which to eradicate all of America's enemies. This is not the best Ludlum book around, but it is compelling. The plot is a bit of the boilerplate variety, which in and of itself is not necessarily something bad. Some of the best loved mysteries are those that follow time honored plots. However, the writing in The Cassandra Compact is not up to Ludlum's normally superior quality. The book is filled with cliches, and two-dimensional characters that are somewhat dry, making it hard to root for anyone in particular. As well, compared to other Ludlum books, such as The Prometheus Deception, the plot of The Cassandra Compact is somewhat simplistic, despite the presence of a several worthwhile subplots. This would have been a stronger novel if the characters had been more strongly developed, had there been a few less bad-guys to spoil the soup, and had the writers taken better care to tie up all the loose ends in the story.

Despite this book being a bit weak in the realm of plotting, it is still a fast paced, explosive book filled with death defining feats, chases, and, of course, explosions. It is also a book that will keep your interest, if for nothing else than for its theatrical value. It is perfect for those lazy days when you want to read (or listen) to something that is fun, not to hard to follow, and embellished with lots of action. This is one of those stories that could, and probably will, be greatly enhanced by being turned into a movie. There are so many high-impact action scenes in this book that Hollywood would have a ball making the story explode on the screen! This audio edition of the The Cassandra Compact is read by Michael Prichard, who brings a sense of military reserve to the reading of this conspiracy laden thriller.

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