Title: The Icarus Agenda
Author: Robert Ludlum
Ludlum, Robert (1988). The Icarus Agenda. New York: Random House
- Spy stories.
- Middle East
Date Posted: April 6, 2015
Reviewed by Peter L. Robertson:
With a page count close to 700 and a scheduled first printing of 500,000, thriller fans are confidently expected to hand over cash in large numbers for this latest taut, highly charged, multilayered adventure from Robert Ludlum.
In several senses, readers of The Icarus Agenda are getting their money’s worth. Ludlum is light-years beyond his literary competition in piling plot twist upon plot twist, until the mesmerized reader is held captive, willing to accept any wayward, if occasionally implausible, plotting device.
On a more basic level, Ludlum fans are getting two books in one as the author initially delivers the rescue, then the inevitable retribution.
American hostages are being held in the Arab city of Masqat. The major powers are helpless. The gunmen are a motley crew of young fanatics, owing allegiance to no one yet controlled by a few dedicated master terrorists.
As if from nowhere, the job of getting them out falls to Evan Kendrick, a Colorado congressman. Kendrick is anonymous, tending toward political ambivalence, very wealthy, resourceful, a confirmed bachelor. His wealth was made in Arab countries, working with his wily mentor Manny Weingrass in design and construction.
A terrorist act destroyed the company, wiping out employees and their families. Kendrick and Manny survived, sold the remains of the company and retired.
For Kendrick, the deaths meant the loss of his “family” at the hands of the hated Mahdi, an all-powerful and ruthless terrorist. Kendrick believes the Mahdi is responsible for the situation in Masqat. He volunteers for a clandestine rescue mission. And so it begins.
The pacing is kinetic for the first section of The Icarus Agenda.
Kendrick poses as a half-Arab terrorist and befriends the leaders. This unlikely charade succeeds thanks to the congressman`s awesome command of Arabic dialects, some tough talking, and the liberal use of a skin cream that turns his Caucasian features an authentic Arabic hue. Kendrick is not without allies on his mission; a sultry woman shadows his progress, probably friend, possibly foe. She answers the question in part by sneaking into bed with him. A young sultan, educated in America (and a big Patriots fan), also offers aid. The problem of sorting out the good guys from the bad is compounded by the fact that everyone is making sneaky telephone calls behind Kendrick`s back. Khalehla, the girl, calls the U.S. and talks to her uncle, a high-placed CIA official. Ludlum is exceptionally good at building the reader`s expectations to a fever pitch, then pulling the whole structure crashing down with an unlikely piece of finely tuned hokum. Part 1 ends with Kendrick heading back to his home, secure in the knowledge of a job well done and with a government assurance that his part in the proceedings will remain forever secret.
Part 2 begins a year later, with a glimpse into the hearts of two secret organizations, or as Ludlum likes to refer to them, “governments within governments.”
One is the evil bunch of money-grabbing, arms-dealing weasels behind the political career of the vice president of the U.S. The other is the Inver Brass, an ultrawealthy collection of philanthropists with admirable beliefs and questionable methods. They have someone else in mind for the second-highest office in the land-the modest Mr. Kendrick.
The Inver Brass reaches into the CIA and finds Gerald Bryce, an ambitious computer whiz kid who uncovers the details of the Masqat affair.
If Ludlum possesses an Achilles heel in his literary arsenal, it is his characterizations. Kendrick, Khalehla and Manny, stranded in mid-narrative for long periods of hiding out during the slower-paced second section, have their character traits overstated repeatedly. Kendrick is a hero, we are continually reminded, and not an impulsive, egotistical, under-equipped dabbler in world politics.
At the conclusion, Ludlum pulls out all the stops and dazzles his readers. He delivers another in a series of literary killer blows, effectively dominating the field in strong, tightly plotted, adventure-drenched thrillers.
 Peter L. Robertson(a freelance reviewer), “Ludlum`s Nonstop Pace Keeps `Icarus` Flying High,” Chicago Tribune (February 28, 19988), downloaded April 6, 2015. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1988-02-28/entertainment/8804030194_1_evan-kendrick-ludlum-fans-arab