The Icarus Agenda

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Evan Kendrick is a rugged individualist whose favorite recreation is solo-canoeing down the most dangerous rapids in the Rockies. He ran for Congress to fight local corruption but is unpopular in Washington because he is not a team player. When Arab terrorists seize the American embassy in Masqat, Oman, killing eleven people, Kendrick volunteers to rescue the 236 surviving hostages single-handedly. He has an old score to settle with the mastermind behind the terrorists, a shadowy figure known as the Mahdi.

When enormously powerful interests decide to make Kendrick their political stooge, they publicize his role in the rescue to turn him overnight into a national hero. Unfortunately, they also make him the target of terrorist revenge. What happens as he copes with would-be assassins and unwelcome benefactors takes Robert Ludlum several hundred more pages to describe. The reader of other books by this author will not be surprised to learn that the cabal of financial interests which in Ludlum’s view controls the United States government comes out “bloody but unbowed.”

As usual, Ludlum gives the impression that he has parted the curtain behind which the key decisions of world events are being made. A skeptic may wonder whether his tales of conspiracy really do manifest secret knowledge on his part. THE ICARUS AGENDA more often suggests comic strips such as “Terry and the Pirates” than genuine expertise. People in a Ludlum novel rarely enter dwellings in a conventional manner: They kick down the door or crash through the window in a hail of Uzi bullets. With Ludlum the unexpected is to be expected; he follows the hoary formula of ending nearly every episode with a cliff-hanger. Nevertheless, millions of readers enjoy Ludlum’s books, and his latest work will very likely prove to be exactly what his fans want. It is hard to fault a writer whose books have sold more than 160 million copies in nineteen different languages.