Title: The Ambler Warning
Author: Robert Ludlum
Ludlum, Robert (2005). The Ambler Warning. New York: St. Martins
- Psychiatric hospital patients–Fiction.
- Intelligence officers–Fiction.
- Identity (Psychology)–Fiction.
Date Updated: April 16, 2015
This is Ludlum’s twenty-sixth, a remarkable feat given that he is deceased. For some bestselling authors, death is no impediment to an enduring career. But the latest Ludlum (d. 2001) novel, penned by an unnamed hired hand, reveals the problems inherent in such an arrangement: neither sufficiently like Ludlum’s originals nor compellingly distinctive, it inhabits a kind of thriller purgatory to which only the most dedicated Ludlumite will be eager to venture.
After a two-decade career as a clandestine operative, Hal Ambler is drugged and warehoused in the Parrish Island Psychiatric Facility, a government nuthouse for spies. The locale is a barrier island six miles off the coast of Virginia and officially part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. At Parrish Island, “potential security risks could be carefully managed and the patients are identified by number, never by name.” A sympathetic nurse aids his escape, and soon Ambler is on the run, trying to figure out who he is and, more importantly, who he was. There are a few interesting characters—particularly CIA accountant Clayton Caston, a man who knows little about feelings but who can tease a mountain of information out of a spy’s expense account—but the villains are mostly invisible and everybody else ends up dead before you really get to know them. Just because a writer can copy what was once a successful style does not automatically assure his publisher a successful book.