Covert-One series

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Author Robert Ludlum, Gayle Lynds, Philip Shelby, Patrick Larkin, Keith Farrell, James H Cobb, Kyle Mills, Jamie Freveletti
Country United States
Language English
Genre Thriller
Published 2000 – present
No. of books 11

The Covert-One series is a sequence of thriller novels written by several authors after the death of Robert Ludlum, presumably according to some of his ideas. The books feature a team of political and technical experts, belonging to a top-secret U.S. agency called Covert-One, who fight corruption, conspiracy and bioweaponary at the highest and most dangerous levels of society.

List of books[edit]

  1. The Hades Factor (with Gayle Lynds) (2000)
  2. The Cassandra Compact (with Phillip Shelby) (2001)
  3. The Paris Option (with Gayle Lynds) (2002)
  4. The Altman Code (with Gayle Lynds) (2003)
  5. The Lazarus Vendetta (with Patrick Larkin) (2004)
  6. The Moscow Vector (with Patrick Larkin and Keith Farrell) (2005)
  7. The Arctic Event (by James H. Cobb) (2007)
  8. The Ares Decision (by Kyle Mills) (2011)
  9. The Janus Reprisal (by Jamie Freveletti) (2012)
  10. The Utopia Experiment (by Kyle Mills) (2013)
  11. The Geneva Strategy (by Jamie Freveletti) (2015)[1]


  • Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Jonathan 'Jon' Jackson Smith, M.D.: Jon Smith was born and raised in Council Bluffs, Iowa, graduated from the University of Iowa, and attended medical school at the University of California at Los Angeles. His career is varied—a military doctor in MASH units, operative in military intelligence, and a troop commander. During the First Gulf War, he was a battlefield surgeon, and he served a short time in Somalia. In the opening book of the series, The Hades Factor, he is a research scientist with USAMRIID, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, located at Fort Detrick, Maryland. During his time there, he became engaged to another research scientist, Sophia Russell. At the end of the first novel, he's approached to join a brand-new, independent, highly secret agency called Covert-One.
  • Randi Russell: Randi is the older sister of Dr. Sophia Russell, Smith's fiancée who dies in The Hades Factor by a lethal injection. She is a skilled operative working for the CIA, and is often seconded by Covert-One to assist Smith in his endeavors. In many cases, it is by simple chance that she encounters Jon Smith. She is known to resent Smith for his failure to save her fiancé, a major in the U.S. Army, and also for failing to save her sister Sophia. In The Arctic Event, the head of Covert-One flags Randi as a possible recruit for his agency, finally taking her in during The Ares Decision.
  • Martin 'Marty' Joseph Zellerbach: Marty is a computer expert with Asperger syndrome. He is very helpful in The Hades Factor, The Paris Option, and The Utopia Experiment. He also makes a short appearance in The Ares Decision and The Janus Reprisal.
  • Peter Howell: Howell is a British national, a former-Special Air Service officer and known for working with a number of intelligence agencies, including the CIA and MI6. He is an old friend of Jon Smith's, appearing in six novels, but absent from The Altman Code, The Moscow Vector, The Arctic Event, and The Utopia Experiment. He has a secluded home in the U.S., which contains a command center and a sizeable armory. Like Randi Russell, Howell usually encounters Smith purely by chance, except in The Hades Factor and The Ares Decision, where he is recruited by Smith for a mission.
  • Nathaniel Frederick 'Fred' Klein: An obscure government agent with experience with the CIA and the Pentagon, Fred Klein is selected by President Sam Castilla to set up Covert-One, after the devastating effects of Victor Tremont's Hades Project. Klein is an extremely secretive man, and almost nothing is known about him. He often counsels the president directly, advising him on what to do.
  • Samuel Adams 'Sam' Castilla: Castilla is the President of the United States in all Covert-One novels, an experienced and wise diplomat and politician. After he and his numerous intelligence agencies failed to prevent the Hades Project before it killed thousands, Castilla orders Fred Klein, an old college friend, to set up Covert-One, an elite agency and the personal action arm of Castilla, to combat such national security threats. Though several have their suspicions, Castilla is the only man outside of Covert-One who knows of its existence.
  • Maggie Templeton: Ex-CIA, she is Fred Klein's sister-in-law and secretary, executive assistant and second in charge of Covert-One. She first appears in The Cassandra Compact.
  • Major General Oleg Kirov: Kirov is a former officer of the KGB, a self-proclaimed 'new Russian', who now operates as a senior intelligence officer at the Federal Security Service. Kirov appears in The Cassandra Compact, and also in The Moscow Vector. In both cases, he assists Lieutenant Colonel Smith in succeeding, even though in his second appearance, the enemy Smith is fighting is Kirov's own government.
  • Professor Valentina Metrace: Metrace is a professor of Warfare at Cambridge who is a special weapons expert and a skillful Covert-One agent. Her only appearance is in The Arctic Event.
  • Star: Star is the newest member of Covert-One, a former librarian in her thirties with massive computer skills.

Plot summaries[edit]

The Hades Factor[edit]

The first main crisis that hits the life of Jon Smith is the Hades project, a very evil and at the same time deadly viral experiment. This virus was first tested on 6 Iraqi soldiers and 6 US soldiers in the First Gulf War to hit the world. Several years later, 3 people, a young teenage girl, a Vietnam Veteran, and a Gulf War Army Major all died of unnatural but very disturbing causes. In this Robert Ludlum novel which he co-authored with Gayle Lynds, he explains that the virus, even though it cannot be easily transmitted, gradually spreads across different parts of the world, killing almost half a million of the population. Jon’s Smith Fiancé and co-worker, Miss Sophia Rusells easily identifies the symptoms and associates them with some similar to a deadly Monkey Blood Virus that she encountered back in Peru when working together with Victor Tremont. After discussing with Tremont, Rusells starts to develop the virus’ symptoms.

In the meantime, Jon Smith is going back to Fort Detrick after a successful assignment but on the way he is attacked by several rascal goons, whom he overpowers after several close shaves, which sends their team leader, Mr. Nadal al-Hassan in shock and disbelief. After getting back, he finds his dear Sophia terribly sick and regardless of all the efforts he puts forth to treat and resuscitate her, Sophia succumbs and passes on within 3 hours of his arrival. After an autopsy is done and much exploration on the results, it is finally established that Sophia died of a lethal injection that was directed to her ankle by Nadal al-Hassan.

Infuriated by the loss of his loved one, Jon Smith swears revenge on the killer, and joins hands with Randi Russell, a CIA operative who happens to be the sister of the late Sophia, and Peter Howell, who happens to be a former M16 agent of the British to uncover and take revenge on whoever was behind the virus that killed Sophia.

Notwithstanding his desperate efforts and calls for action, Jon is assumed to be a villain by the US government so for him to be able to uncover Sophia’s murderer, it will mean he has to keep away from the US government by all means possible. Working together with Marty Zellerbach, a computer whiz with Asperger syndrome, they both discover that someone by the name Victor Tremont, who is the deputy director of an established medical company, has been infecting the population with the deadly virus via its widespread distribution in antibiotics. Jon Smith reveals the whole truth to the whole world before the US president, Samuel Adams Castilla, and then goes ahead to capture Victor Tremont and hold him captive until he is officially arrested.

Despite the fact that all charges against him were dropped, Jon voluntarily quits the USAMRIID. In the meantime, Nathaniel Fredrick Klein, an enigmatic man approaches Jon and requests his honor to join the Covert-One. This gives Jon a new reason to live, and he voluntarily agrees.

The Hades Factor was made into a CBS miniseries, Covert One: The Hades Factor, which appeared in the United States in 2006.

The Cassandra Compact[edit]

After a 30-year career that engendered dozens of bestselling novels of international intrigue, Ludlum died in the spring of 2001, just before publication of The Cassandra Compact, the second title in the Covert-One biotech series co-written with Philip Shelby.

After a long absence from the United States Army Military Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID, a real military organization), Jon Smith continues to wander without meaning in his life, upset by the death of his fiancée, Sophia Russell. After meeting Sophia's old childhood friend, Megan Olson, an astronaut and scientist, he has begun to rethink his destiny.

The head of Covert-One, a relatively innocuous man by the name of Nathaniel "Fred" Klein, approaches Jon for his first assignment: the extraction of a Russian military scientist named Yuri Danko, whom, by coincidence, is also a good friend of Jon. Although Jon reaches Yuri and exchanges words with him, Danko is murdered by a pair of Sicilian assassins. Peter Howell – a former SAS officer and MI6 operative – acts as backup support for Jon, and quickly recovers a document off of Danko's body. Upon analysis, they realize that Danko tried to warn them about the planned theft of a smallpox sample from Russia's Bioaparat biological disease research center.

Jon travels to Moscow, where he meets Randi Russell, the sister of his dead fiancée and a CIA agent currently under the guise of a Moscow venture capitalist looking to recruit gifted young Russian trainees as computer analysts for the Central Intelligence Agency. She gives him the name of General Kirov as a trustworthy government liaison. After meeting Smith and being warned about the situation, he and his lieutenant/lover Lara Telegin warn the Russian president about the impending theft. Immediate orders are given to secure Bioaparat.

A Russian guard, however, steals the smallpox sample and gives to Ivan Beria, a Serbian terrorist who is being paid to take the smallpox out of the country. Beria treacherously murders the guard and immediately passes off the sample to Dr. Adam Treloar, a NASA scientist traveling to Russia under the pretense of visiting his dead mother.

At this point, Telegin has been exposed as the traitor within Russia's military, who warned the guard about the cordon to be set at Bioaparat. Kirov, devastated, agrees to help Smith out under all circumstances. They capture an image of Beria and Treloar on tape. Through computer enhancements done by Randi's protégé, Sasha, Treloar is exposed and comes within seconds of being captured by Smith.

Treloar has been secretly working for Dylan Reed, another NASA scientist and colleague of Megan Olson. Reed in turn has been working for Dr. Karl Bauer, the CEO of Bauer-Zermatt A.G., a pharmaceutical company known for its philanthropy – and its secrets during Nazi Germany in World War II. Bauer's allies in the U.S. Government, General Frank Richardson and Deputy Director of the NSA, Anthony Price are the main players in the scheme of the convoluted Cassandra Compact, which revolves around modifying the smallpox into a doomsday virus to use against the enemies of the United States.

Beria is ordered to kill Treloar, who is considered the weak link and a possible liability. After Smith recognizes a connection to NASA, Reed panics and orders Beria to kill Smith. Kirov and Smith, however, anticipating Beria's actions, disable Beria and interrogate him.

Meanwhile, Peter Howell discovers – after a failed attempt on his life – that the U.S. Military is connected to this entire scheme. He also uncovers the name of a Swiss financier who handles the money used by Karl Bauer, and with the help of Smith, he helps uncover the identity of Bauer as the leader of the entire scheme.

Randi, meanwhile, with the help of her protégé Sasha, unlocks the files of the Cassandra Compact found upon Telegin's laptop, and pinpoints Richardson and Price as the moles in the United States government working for Bauer. Smith decoys both men into revealing their secrets to the President, and the moles are killed by a trap made by a team of Klein.

Reed smuggles the smallpox on board the Space Shuttle Discovery, which is bedecked as a laboratory to monitor bacteriological phenomena in space. After the launch, Reed exploits the gravity-free environment of the shuttle to secretly modify the smallpox to become larger and much more potent, gaining the ability to kill within minutes instead of weeks. He releases the smallpox on board, killing most of the crew except for Megan Olson, who is revealed to be a Covert-One agent as well.

After shuttle lands back on Earth, Jon rescues Megan. Bauer, who kills Reed to keep the secret of the smallpox safe, takes the sample but is locked inside the spacecraft by Jon Smith. The auto-destruct sequence destroys the spacecraft, along with the doomsday strain and Karl Bauer, ending the Cassandra Compact. Megan, counted among the dead upon shuttle Discovery, is given a new identity and is reshaped by plastic surgery. The novel ends with Jon Smith laying flowers on Yuri Danko's grave – without whom the world would now be at the mercy of a madman.

The Paris Option[edit]

This third Covert-One was co-written with spy novelist Gayle Lynds, who helped to create the Covert-One series.

A horrific explosion destroys the Paris lab of computer genius Emile Chambord on the eve of his breakthrough in the development of a revolutionary molecular DNA computer that has the ability to control virtually all the world's computerized operations. Overnight, military satellites, international data banks and worldwide communications threaten to crash. Faced with the enormity of this malevolent power play, Dr. Jon Smith sets out to find the perpetrators. Arriving in Paris just as Chambord's daughter, Therese, is being abducted, Smith trails the terrorists to Toledo, Spain, then back to Paris, Algeria, and finally France again, where French nationalists are secretly planning to use the remarkable computer to initiate a nuclear attack on the United States.

The Paris Option was a People magazine "Beach Read of the Week."

The Altman Code[edit]

In the middle of the night, on the dark waterside docks of Shanghai, a photographer is recording cargo being secretly loaded when he’s brutally killed by a man named Feng Dun and his camera destroyed. Shortly thereafter, Covert-One director Fred Klein brings word to the U.S. President that there’s a Chinese cargo ship rumored to be carrying tons of chemicals to be used by a rogue nation to create new biological weapons.

The President cannot let the ship land and risk the consequences of a new stockpile of deadly chemical weapons. Klein is ordered to get the President solid proof of what the Chinese ship is ferrying.

Covert-One agent Jon Smith is sent to rendezvous in Taiwan with another agent who has acquired the ship’s true manifest. But before Smith can get the document, the two agents are ambushed, the second agent, Avery Mondragon, is murdered, the proof is destroyed, and Smith escapes with only his life, scant clues to the mystery behind the cargo ship, and a verbal message—the President’s biological father is still alive, held prisoner by the Chinese for fifty years.

As the Chinese cargo ship draws ever closer to its end port in Iraq, Smith must race against the clock to uncover the truth about the ship and its cargo, a truth that probes the deepest secrets of the Chinese ruling party, the faction in Washington working to undermine the elected government, and the international cabal who is thrusting the world to the very brink of war.

A strength of the book is the insider information about how the Chinese government works. It was co-written with Gayle Lynds.

The Lazarus Vendetta[edit]

Co-written with Patrick Larkin, the novel follows the Lazarus Movement, the dominant force in the eco-conscious, "anti-technology" protest movement. It has sent rumblings down the halls of the world's intelligence agencies. Led by a mysterious, never-seen figure known only as Lazarus, this increasingly prominent group is believed by some to be preparing a bold strike.

When an attack on nano-technology research facility leaves thousands dead – protesters and scientists alike – from what appears to be a cloud of inadvertently released, but gruesomely deadly nanobots, pandemonium reigns. Lt. Col. Jon Smith is activated by Covert-One to find and uncover the truth about Lazarus where all others have failed. As Smith slowly uncovers the deadly underpinnings of the group, he soon learns that the Lazarus Movement is only the very tip of the iceberg in a deadly scheme that threatens billions of lives and will forever change the nature of the world.

The Moscow Vector[edit]

Determined to rebuild their shattered empire, Russia's increasingly authoritarian leaders led by Viktor Dudarev are preparing a lightning military strike designed to overrun several republics formerly part of the USSR before the West can intervene. To succeed, they must first sow confusion and fear in the ranks of their enemies, so they turn to Konstantin Malkovic who is one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful men. By taking on the services of a cold and calculating bioscientist from the remnants of the old East German days, he finances the development of an undetectable, unstoppable and incurable bioweapon, the perfect assassin's tool. Created using a microsopic strand of each victim's own DNA, it is the ultimate silent killer. This bioweapon is used against leaders, analysts and other persons dangerous to the plans to great effect such that the Covert-One operatives need to act quickly. Jon Smith, approached by a Russian doctor about this disease, uncovers the plans of the Russian leaders whilst at the same time CIA operatives are closing in from another lead they have discovered. Moles and informers in various agencies make the whole plot far more interesting than would otherwise be the case, but there is a final sting in the tail...

The book was co-written with Patrick Larkin.

The Arctic Event[edit]

Lost for several years in the Arctic, a mysterious World War II-era aircraft is located by research crews. The Russian Federation is forced to acknowledge that the Soviet strategic bomber was a mobile biological weapons platform, carrying over two metric tons of weaponized Anthrax.

Lieutenant Colonel Jon Smith is called into action by Covert-One to ascertain if the plane is intact and recover it, assisted by CIA officer Randi Russell and weapons expert Professor Valentina Metrace, as well as the secretive Russian liaison, Major Gregori Smyslov. However, the objective is hard to accomplish in the frigid landscape with his team fighting two enemies, ones they cannot see and ones in their own ranks.

The book was written by James H. Cobb.

The Ares Decision[edit]

In Northern Uganda an American Special Forces Team is wiped out by a group of normally peaceful farmers. Video of the attack shows even women and children possessing almost supernatural speed and strength, consumed with a rage that makes them immune to pain, fear, and all but the most devastating injuries. Colonel Jon Smith is sent by Covert-One to investigate and discovers evidence of a parasitic infection in the area that for centuries has been causing violent insanity and then going dormant. But this time the infection is being manipulated by an unknown man. At the same time, the director of Iranian intelligence is in Uganda trying to acquire a sample of the parasite to make it into a biological weapon to unleash on the West. While trying to stop the deadly plot, Smith and his team are cut off from outside support; however, they soon realize that they must face not only the Iranians, but other, more powerful enemies, conspiring behind the scenes from the inner circles of Washington itself.

The novel was written by Kyle Mills.

The Janus Reprisal[edit]

Covert-One operative Colonel Jon Smith is attending a conference in The Hague on infectious diseases, together with important scientists and politicians from all over the world. All of sudden, ruthless terrorists attack the conference hotel, and a horrible carnage ensues. Smith is caught in the crossfire and barely escapes... but not before discovering a picture of himself and two other targets in the pocket of one of the terrorists.

Simultaneously, the whole city is under attack: bombs are going off at the train station, the airport, and the International Criminal Court, where Pakistani warlord Oman Dattar manages to escape.

Dattar was under trial for crimes against humanity and nurses a special hatred for the United States and its allies. Now he controls a mysterious new weapon and is ready to unleash it against the West to exact his revenge and destroy his enemies once and for all - unless Covert-One can stop him.

The novel was written by Jamie Freveletti.

The Utopia Experiment[edit]

When Dresner Industries unveils the Merge, a device that is destined to revolutionize the world and make the personal computer and smartphone obsolete, Covert-One operative Colonel Jon Smith is assigned to assess its military potential. He discovers that enhanced vision, real-time battlefield displays, unbreakable security, and near-perfect marksmanship are only the beginning of a technology that will change the face of warfare forever—and one that must be kept out of the hands of America's enemies at all costs.

Meanwhile, in the mountains of Afghanistan, CIA operative Randi Russell encounters an entire village of murdered Afghans—all equipped with enhanced Merge technology that even the Agency didn't know existed. As Smith and Russell delve into the circumstances surrounding the Afghans' deaths, they're quickly blocked by someone who seems to have access to the highest levels of the military—a person that even the president knows nothing about.

Is the Merge really as secure as its creator claims? And what secrets about its development is the Pentagon so desperate to hide? Smith and Russell are determined to learn the truth. But they may pay for it with their lives.

The novel was written by Kyle Mills.

"The Geneva Strategy"[edit]

The novel was written by Jamie Freveletti.


  1. ^ "The Geneva Strategy". Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved 2014-08-09.