The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

‘The Bourne Identity’ is the book that started the whole Bourne saga. There are now 10 books in the series plus a series of movies, although the relationship of the later books and the movies to the original book is a bit tenuous.

I have read the most recent two Bourne novels by Eric Van Lustbader ‘The Bourne Dominion’ and ‘The Bourne Imperative’. These two novels and the movies I’ve seen are pretty standard action hero fare (that’s not necessarily a criticism). In contrast, this novel is extremely clever and subtle as with most of Robert Ludlum’s work.

The story starts with Jason Bourne being rescued from the ocean, riddled with bullet wounds and close to death. He is gradually nursed back to health over a period of months. Throughout this time, he has no memory of who he is and how he came to be there – apart from occasional, out of context, memory flashes. When he was found, a microfilm containing a Swiss bank account number was discovered surgically imbedded in his hip. So, once he has sufficiently recovered, his first aim is to go to the bank in Zurich to see if that will lead him to discover his identity.

Almost as soon as he reaches the mainland, Bourne is recognised by someone who thought that he was dead. And, now it seems that everyone is trying to kill him and he has no idea why. His memory flashes make him fear the person that he is starting to believe he was before his accident.

He kidnaps a woman – Marie St Jacques, and after some initial hostility, they work together to try to discover Bourne’s past.

The famous assassin Carlos (loosely based on the real Carlos the Jackal) is out to kill Bourne. The organisation for whom Bourne worked – Treadstone 71 believes that Bourne has turned and is also trying to kill him.

There is incredible tension throughout the book as Bourne and Marie try to uncover the truth while avoiding killers who they can’t identify from organisations they don’t know.


This was an excellent thriller, although it was incredibly detailed in some sections. I can’t wait to read the next in the series – ‘The Bourne Supremacy’. I’m interested in finding out what happens to Bourne next and how he gets to be the Jason Bourne of the most recent novels.


Book Published 1980


See a full list of books by Eric Van Lustbader

See a full list of books by Robert Ludlum

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