The Bourne Identity | Study Guide

Robert Ludlum

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The Bourne Identity | Book 2, Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

Book 2, Chapter 15 opens in an entirely new setting at the Pentagon in the United States. "The man is Cain" is the opening sentence spoken by Colonel Jack Manning around a conference table of various civilian muckety-mucks and military brass. A member of the Congressional Oversight Committee, Congressman Walters, is not to be treated seriously though he is a U.S. Representative from Tennessee. Alfred Gillette is from the National Security Council. Peter Knowlton is an associate director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). David Abbott is the quiet power in the room, a man known as the "Silent Monk," and the spookiest of the spooks.

The men thought "Cain" was in Brussels when it turned out he was in Zurich. They don't understand how they could have made such an error. They also are wondering about the information they received six months ago (the date of Ambassador Howard Leland's assassination).

The information from Brussels is as follows: a diamond dealer with connections to Russia and Switzerland was killed. The signs point to Cain's involvement. Apparently, his favored method of murder is by use of a needle in a crowded place. The men discuss other killings using the same method as well as why Cain would have killed the man.

The conversation turns to Zurich. The reader already knows the details. Four men died there, including Chernak and the watchman by the river. The Americans know the deaths are connected and tied somehow to Cain. They reiterate that Chernak was a Nazi and the man from the Drei Alpenhäuser (a.k.a. the Fat Man) was an intermediary. When they interrogated the restaurateur, he admitted to Cain's visit.

The conversation complicates as the men grow angry at each other. If Cain is a source of military intelligence and CIA, why did the various agencies not share information? The congressman is especially outraged by their lack of communication. Alfred Gillette from the National Security Council (NSC) explains, "There's been no cross-pooling for origins of fraud." Gillette continues, explaining that their concentration on Cain led to ignoring the greater threat, which is Carlos. The Monk argues that following Cain will lead them to Carlos.

Eventually, the men settle on the need for more investigation into Zurich, Brussels, Carlos's activities, and Cain's, too. Six months ago they received intelligence Cain was headed to Marseilles and Ambassador Howard Leland was killed then as well. However, they realize, Cain could not have killed Leland. He never showed up for a rendezvous with a CIA informant before the assassination.

Congressman Walters finally tells all the assembled that they are ridiculous, squabbling like children, attempting to claim credit and place blame. He's been on the House Assassination Subcommittee for a year and a half and this is the first he's heard of Cain. He would like to know who he is.

Analysis

This in medias res (Latin for "in the midst of things") plot device is a shocking setting and point of view switch. If a United States Congressman is not to be treated "seriously," what are the rules of this setting? Warning: this chapter can be tricky in terms of meeting many new characters, all men, speaking simultaneously. Ludlum does not use many gestures or actions to differentiate the new names and situations. Following along with the character identifications will be particularly helpful here.

Almost halfway through the novel, this is the first time the reader receives context on Jason Bourne. It's a high-wire act on Ludlum's part. How long could he go without "helping" the reader with some background about his protagonist's identity? Why has he chosen to do so now? Perhaps it is because Jason Bourne and Marie St. Jacques are closing in on Carlos. Though there is still much for them to learn.

The pace of this revelation is, again, interesting. Contemporary films and books move so fast now. Are modern-day readers patient enough to wait 250 pages before confirming Bourne's CIA connection? As one of the foundational texts of its genre, The Bourne Identity moves quickly but releases information slowly.

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