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When Robert Ludlum died, he apparently left behind a number of partially finished manuscripts that are being completed, polished and published posthumously. Although The Tristan Betrayal has Mr. Ludlum credited as the author, I think that cautious readers should assume that this book is only partially his. I have chosen to evaluate the book as though a new, unknown author rather than Mr. Ludlum wrote it.
That said, I thought that The Tristan Betrayal is a cut above the average espionage thriller written today. There's an abundance of action and a balanced plot that will keep you curious enough to want to get to the end. It's not quite the page-turner that will keep you up until the wee hours in the morning to finish it, but I did keep going until 12:30 one night.
The book contains two intertwined story lines. The briefer one involves the coup against Gorbachev in the early 1990s just before the collapse of the old U.S.S.R. Former ambassador Stephen Metcalfe has been summoned by an old friend to help foil the coup. The key player is a mysterious Communist bureaucrat known as the Conductor. Can Metcalfe persuade the Conductor to withdraw his support from the coup? Or will nuclear holocaust and civil war follow?
The longer story line is a flashback into the early days of World War II just after Hitler and Stalin formed their nonaggression pact. In this story, Stephen Metcalfe is a young espionage agent working for a small group authorized by FDR himself. He's picking up intelligence in Paris when his organization is penetrated by the Gestapo. Metcalfe barely escapes the fate of his colleagues who are assassinated by a dangerous counterespionage agent for the Germans. Arriving in Switzerland, Metcalfe is given a new assignment in Moscow that is even more dangerous than the situation he left behind. Before the story ends, his actions rekindle an old love and set off a series of international actions that have major consequences for the war.
I cannot remember reading very many stories that involve overcoming both the Nazis and the Communists. Such opponents provide wonderful grist for all kinds of social commentary, and make it easy to root for the good guys and gals. Even rarer, the book has a pretty credible love story in it. That plot structure is held together with lots of action as Metcalfe dodges watchers and pursuers. Although the action and plot aren't as intricate as a Le Carre plot, I found the book to be more than entertaining.
Ultimately, this book is based on the idea that one person can make a difference. As I finished reading it, I began to wonder what one thing each of us could do to make a large difference to those we love and to the world. That final reflection was a worthy gift for having read a fine novel.
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When Robert Ludlum died, he apparently left behind a number of partially finished manuscripts that are being completed, polished and published posthumously. Although The Tristan Betrayal has Mr. Ludlum credited as the author, I think that cautious readers should assume that this book is only partially his. I have chosen to evaluate the book as though a new, unknown author rather than Mr. Ludlum wrote it.
That said, I thought that The Tristan Betrayal is a cut above the average espionage thriller written today. There's an abundance of action and a balanced plot that will keep you curious enough to want to get to the end. It's not quite the page-turner that will keep you up until the wee hours in the morning to finish it, but I did keep going until 12:30 one night.
The book contains two intertwined story lines. The briefer one involves the coup against Gorbachev in the early 1990s just before the collapse of the old U.S.S.R. Former ambassador Stephen Metcalfe has been summoned by an old friend to help foil the coup. The key player is a mysterious Communist bureaucrat known as the Conductor. Can Metcalfe persuade the Conductor to withdraw his support from the coup? Or will nuclear holocaust and civil war follow?
The longer story line is a flashback into the early days of World War II just after Hitler and Stalin formed their nonaggression pact. In this story, Stephen Metcalfe is a young espionage agent working for a small group authorized by FDR himself. He's picking up intelligence in Paris when his organization is penetrated by the Gestapo. Metcalfe barely escapes the fate of his colleagues who are assassinated by a dangerous counterespionage agent for the Germans. Arriving in Switzerland, Metcalfe is given a new assignment in Moscow that is even more dangerous than the situation he left behind. Before the story ends, his actions rekindle an old love and set off a series of international actions that have major consequences for the war.
I cannot remember reading very many stories that involve overcoming both the Nazis and the Communists. Such opponents provide wonderful grist for all kinds of social commentary, and make it easy to root for the good guys and gals. Even rarer, the book has a pretty credible love story in it. That plot structure is held together with lots of action as Metcalfe dodges watchers and pursuers. Although the action and plot aren't as intricate as a Le Carre plot, I found the book to be more than entertaining.
Ultimately, this book is based on the idea that one person can make a difference. As I finished reading it, I began to wonder what one thing each of us could do to make a large difference to those we love and to the world. That final reflection was a worthy gift for having read a fine novel.
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on 28 February 2007
This book is mainly set in the dark days of 1940, when the Nazis have swept all before them in mainland Europe, and have signed a non aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

It is up to the main character in the book, U.S. spy, Stephen Metcalfe to try and sow discontent between the Nazis and the Soviet Union, and thus change the course of WWII. This plan leads to him involving and endangering the love of his life, a Russian ballerina. This love story plays quite a prominent role in the book.

Overall, the book is a definitely a page turner, with a lot of action in the cities of Paris, Moscow and Berlin. I feel there is a number of flaws, in the book, though.

The main character has unbelievable amounts of good luck when trying to evade enemies, money/change of clothes rarely seem to be a problem for him either. There are also a lot of 'chance' meetings in the book, between the main character and friends or foes, which made you think, "How did person A know that person B was going to exit that building by that side door, at that exact time?'

I felt the most annoying flaw occured early on. Without giving too much away, early on in the book, the main character has to flee Paris by plane under a hail fo gunfire, yet the plane somehow manages to land in Moscow, despite having to refuel on the way in Germany, without a problem. How this is done, is never explained. Surely, an unscheduled, bullet ridden plane landing in Moscow, would have raised a few eyebrows, to say the least, with the paranoid authorities there? Not to mentioned having an unscheduled landing in Nazi Germany, to refuel as well!!

However, even allowing for all of the above, I felt the book was a good read, and certainly did manage to hold my interest, throughout.
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on 11 February 2004
Robert Ludlum returns with another super story predominantly based at the time of the second world war when Germany was at the height of its power, Britain was under siege, Russia waa a nervous ally and the US looked on nervously from the sidelines.
The story moves at pace following the adventures of a young US spy and his adventures in occupied europe and in Stalinist Moscow. In part the story centers on the old question of whether the good of the many out weights the good of the few or the one. In this case the one is the agents one true love.
A page turner in the Ludlum tradition, even if it was finished by another writer after Ludlums untimely demise.
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on 16 December 2003
Robert Ludlum has been one of my favorite writers for many years and he has seldom let me down. Unfortunately Mr. Ludlum died in 2001 and 'his' most recent books (7 have been published since his death) have therefore undoubtedly been completed by 'Ghostwriters', who are unfortunately not quite up to his standards.
This 'Tristan Betrayal' is a historical 'what if' about a daring young American spy (Metcalfe) who is sent into Moscow during World War II to ensure the existence of the free world as we know if. The Germans have just signed a non-aggression pact with the Russians and the Americans are seriously worried that the two dictators are planning to divide the world between unless someone puts a stop to it.
Corcoran, the skilled (and devious) American spymaster, is therefore sending Metcalfe to Moscow, where he is tasked with enlisting his old girlfriend Lana (a beautiful ballerina) in a daring plan that will, if it succeeds, potentially change the outcome of the war. On his mission, which takes him from Paris via Moscow to Berlin, Metcalfe is the target of not only the Russian NKVD, but also a psychopathic violin playing assassin from the German SD.
The book is fast-paced and packed with action, love and betrayal from page one. Some of the events are, as is often the case with Ludlum, farfetched but certainly adds to the entertainment value of the book.
The level of attention to detail is generally high and shows that this is the work of a skilled ghostwriter. However, with the risk of being called pedantic, I would like to point out that the book does contain a number of historical inaccuracies that should have been corrected prior to publication. In the book, which takes place in 1940, both Zhukov and Paulus are referred to as 'Marshals'. In fact both were generals in 1940 and only promoted to (Field) Marshals in 1943 (Zhukov on January 18th, 1943 and Paulus on January 30th, 1943).
Overall I believe the book is well above average and I would therefore recommend it to anyone interested in buying a good book for Christmas.
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When Robert Ludlum died, he apparently left behind a number of partially finished manuscripts that are being completed, polished and published posthumously. Although The Tristan Betrayal has Mr. Ludlum credited as the author, I think that cautious readers should assume that this book is only partially his. I have chosen to evaluate the book as though a new, unknown author rather than Mr. Ludlum wrote it.
That said, I thought that The Tristan Betrayal is a cut above the average espionage thriller written today. There's an abundance of action and a balanced plot that will keep you curious enough to want to get to the end. It's not quite the page-turner that will keep you up until the wee hours in the morning to finish it, but I did keep going until 12:30 one night.
The book contains two intertwined story lines. The briefer one involves the coup against Gorbachev in the early 1990s just before the collapse of the old U.S.S.R. Former ambassador Stephen Metcalfe has been summoned by an old friend to help foil the coup. The key player is a mysterious Communist bureaucrat known as the Conductor. Can Metcalfe persuade the Conductor to withdraw his support from the coup? Or will nuclear holocaust and civil war follow?
The longer story line is a flashback into the early days of World War II just after Hitler and Stalin formed their nonaggression pact. In this story, Stephen Metcalfe is a young espionage agent working for a small group authorized by FDR himself. He's picking up intelligence in Paris when his organization is penetrated by the Gestapo. Metcalfe barely escapes the fate of his colleagues who are assassinated by a dangerous counterespionage agent for the Germans. Arriving in Switzerland, Metcalfe is given a new assignment in Moscow that is even more dangerous than the situation he left behind. Before the story ends, his actions rekindle an old love and set off a series of international actions that have major consequences for the war.
I cannot remember reading very many stories that involve overcoming both the Nazis and the Communists. Such opponents provide wonderful grist for all kinds of social commentary, and make it easy to root for the good guys and gals. Even rarer, the book has a pretty credible love story in it. That plot structure is held together with lots of action as Metcalfe dodges watchers and pursuers. Although the action and plot aren't as intricate as a Le Carre plot, I found the book to be more than entertaining.
Ultimately, this book is based on the idea that one person can make a difference. As I finished reading it, I began to wonder what one thing each of us could do to make a large difference to those we love and to the world. That final reflection was a worthy gift for having read a fine novel.
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on 11 August 2004
As a devotee of Robert Ludlum's work, I grabbed the Tristan Betrayal as soon as it came out. Predominantly set during WW2, the book is just as gripping as any other Robert Ludlum classic. It made a pleasant change to read about a spy in the 1940s, rather than in the current day or post Cold War era. The plot was quite enthralling and well conceived.
However, I must say that it lacked some of the explosive drama that the great Bourne trilogy have, or even the previous Ludlum publication (the Janson Directive).
Still definitely worth a read though - a good yarn!
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on 18 May 2004
The Tristan Betrayal takes you back to times when war was war, and enemies were enemies. Most of the spy-stuff used is lovely low-tech and imaginable, which certainly made it fun for me to read.
Metcalfe was raised a dandy, with a family who owns business in Argentina, Russia and various other parts of the world. Although he’s not in the family business, this has allowed him to expand his language knowledge, which in turns gives him excellent opportunities to blend into the higher levels of the German army. Well, rather into the parties the German officials throw for themselves in occupied Paris during the Second World War.
But then again, the good guys are not always the ones who seem to be, and neither are the bad guys. Metcalfe, thinking he is a cool customer, goes to Russia to prepare the ultimate coup to change the course of the war. Little does he know he’ll be changing his life in the process.
The Tristan Betrayal reminds of an old war movie. It’s exciting, mostly focused on the spy thing, and it has a James Bond flavour. But better than the James Bond thing, you get to see the fear and insecurity that a spy deals with, cool as he may be.
The end of the book, set in 1989 during the fall of the Wall, is even more surprising. This is one book that makes you think if you really do know all there is to know about a war that has been put into books and cinema over and over.
Very good read.
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on 7 October 2007
This, as most of Ludlum's books, is a page-turner. The first third of the book is well written, exciting and engaging. Though you still want to follow our spy, Metcalfe, to the end of the book, though it slows down a little in believability and excitement. Though there is still minor twist that I enjoyed because there are clues given before hand for you to figure it out before it is revealed.

The book starts with Metcalfe in his old age being summoned to 1991 Russia to help with interior turmoil. With that we flash back to where we can see him in action in NAZI occupied Europe. We see him operate in Paris, Moscow and Berlin. This is not his best book, but it is still worth reading.
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on 19 September 2004
'The Tristan Betrayal' is a marvelous story. It took me three evenings to read the 600-odd pages. Stephen Metcalf is an able agent, even if he does occasionally come over rather clumsy. Nevertheless, he manages to evade the SD/Gestapo/NKVD in Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Berlin (again), whilst finding his former lover and setting up an operation - with a lot of help from his boss - to deceive the Nazis into believing that an invasion of the Soviet Union is a cakewalk.
The second plot of a potential nuclear disaster following the 1991 coup in the Soviet Union appears to be an unimportant sideshow. Even though its raison d'être is revealed at the end, there isn't enough evidence of it showing up in the main story to make this conclusion plausible. But apart from that, I enjoyed the book.
Robert Ludlum died back in 2001, yet he continues to write and publish books. His death has obviously not significantly disrupted his writing career. Nevertheless, you notice that he is no longer entirely present. The pace of 'The Tristan Betrayal' is more leisurely than a typical Robert Ludlum novel (I mostly know his early work right up to The Bourne Supremacy). Yet it is still sufficiently gripping to keep you at it for prolonged periods of time.
The one complaint I do have is that "Since his death the estate of Robert Ludlum has worked with a carefully selected author and editor to prepare and edit this work for publication". I would rather prefer it if Robert Ludlum remained where he departed to in 2001 and the book would be published under whoever actually wrote it because it is more his writing in style than that of Robert Ludlum.
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