The Bourne Supremacy

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The Bourne Supremacy
Ludlum - The Bourne Supremacy Coverart.png
The Bourne Supremacy first edition cover
AuthorRobert Ludlum
CountryUnited States
SeriesJason Bourne,
Bourne Trilogy
GenreThriller novel
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
February 11, 1986
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)
Pages597 pp (first edition)
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3562.U26 B68 1986
Preceded byThe Bourne Identity 
Followed byThe Bourne Ultimatum 

The Bourne Supremacy is the second Jason Bourne novel written by Robert Ludlum, first published in 1986. It is the sequel to Ludlum's bestseller The Bourne Identity (1980) and precedes Ludlum's final Bourne novel, The Bourne Ultimatum (1990).

The Bourne Supremacy gave its name to the second Bourne film starring Matt Damon The Bourne Supremacy in 2004, which, however, has a completely different plot from the novel.


In the first book, The Bourne Identity, the title character suffers amnesia. Over the course of the book, he regains his memory with the help of a Canadian economist, Marie, and eventually finds out that his real name was Webb. He had previously been an operative of the Central Intelligence Agency in an elite project in Southeast Asia and Vietnam codenamed Medusa. Following the American forces' withdrawal from Vietnam, he joined Project Treadstone 71, where he was used as bait for the infamous European assassin Carlos the Jackal, and assumed the identity of a mock assassin, Jason Bourne. “Bourne" took credit for various kills in China and the rest of Asia, acting as a rival to the Jackal, in order to draw him out of hiding.

The story of The Bourne Supremacy is set during the British negotiated handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China on the expiration of its ninety-nine-year lease on the New Territories.

Bourne has recovered from most mental and all physical injuries and is teaching Asian studies at a university in Maine under his real name of David Webb. He is also living happily on campus with Marie under supervision by his psychiatrist, Morris Panov.

Meanwhile, high-ranking U.S. officials Ambassador Raymond Havilland and Undersecretary Edward McAllister discuss an increasingly alarming situation in the People's Republic of China, where the popular Communist official Sheng Chou Yang is boosting his rise to power with assassinations perpetrated by someone impersonating Jason Bourne (“impostor"). Sheng Chou Yang is a fanatical nationalist mole who they fear might trigger a war, and is to be found and killed, for which Webb alias Bourne is ideal, but owing to his mistrust of the U.S. government and Webb's deep-seated emotional instability due to the loss of his first wife and children in Vietnam, they plan to involve Webb indirectly.

A representative of the U.S. Government,Edward McAllister arrives and informs Webb of the assassin in Asia who is killing under the name of Jason Bourne, a name feared because of the accredited kills during his work with Treadstone 71. Webb is told he requires a more visible security force because there is evidence someone wants him dead.

Soon thereafter, Marie is abducted by unknown people. Webb returns to the house, finds clues to her abduction, and immediately phones government officials, threatening to leak information about Treadstone and Medusa in an attempt to get assistance. He finds out information has been manipulated in order to make him seem crazy and delusional, and that his only course of action is to follow the instructions left for him by the kidnappers. He turns to the only person he thinks will be able to help him, Alexander Conklin, even though Conklin tried to kill him once before. Conklin, now limping, is convinced there is government involvement but that they have lost control of the situation and the hired guns holding Marie are no longer in their control. Webb, who has transformed back into his hated persona of Jason Bourne, now has no choice but to go to Hong Kong and play out the scenario to get Marie back. In Hong Kong Bourne is led to a wealthy Tai-Pan who wants Webb to bring back the impostor Jason Bourne because the impostor killed his wife; the Taipan is actually played by a British intelligence officer named Lin Wenzu collaborating with the CIA to make Bourne find the impostor. Bourne agrees, saying that if his wife is not heard of the very moment he returns, he will kill his nabbed impostor without a second thought. Lin Wenzu is later fatally injured when he uncovers and kills traitors in his team passing information to Sheng.

Marie, held captive in a British hospital, fakes an illness and escapes, taking refuge with Catherine Staples, a former colleague now employed at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong. The duo make runs and go incognito to avoid the CIA and to find Webb. Unfortunately Marie runs away from Staples thinking she has joined hands with her captors and wants to take her back, and Staples gets killed by Sheng's men. Marie later contacts Conklin and Mo, who arrive in Hong Kong and confront Under-Secretary McAllister and Ambassador Havilland, the orchestrators of the plan to manipulate Webb. Mo and Conklin keep Marie safe and away.

Webb, tracking the impostor Bourne on land, water and air, through Kowloon and Macau, encounters D' Anjou alias Echo, another former Medusa operative, who is also tracking down the impostor Bourne, whom he had personally trained to be like Bourne. They join forces and track the impostor to mainland China, where they realise that a trap was laid by Sheng who was anticipating them following the impostor, and Echo is unfortunately captured. But Webb tracks him to a bird sanctuary at night, where Sheng Chou Yang is seen holding an open air conference with his rebel supporters and captured 'traitors' to his cause, whom he is going to 'judge', including Echo and the impostor Bourne. Echo is executed but not before he manages to delay Sheng and buy enough time for Bourne to mount a surprise attack on everyone. Amidst explosions and gunfire and killings, Webb captures the impostor Bourne, hijacks an empty charter plane and brings him to Kowloon, but in attempting to swap the impostor for Marie, is misled by McAllister, as Marie is not with them as was agreed, and still hidden by Conklin. Thinking Marie has been killed, an angry Webb now attacks and bombs Havilland's "sterile house" estate, called 'Victoria Peak' where the impostor gets killed and Webb nearly as well, saved only by the timely arrival of Marie, Mo and Conklin.

The cat is now out of the bag. Webb and Marie learn he was selected because no one was more skilled and lethal, and Marie was abducted because Webb would have never agreed to the mission, had the CIA told him the truth. Since Webb has seen what Sheng is capable of and since Echo died for Bourne's sake, he decides to go back into the fray and kill the zealot. McAllister accompanies Webb, and during their search for Sheng, McAllister explains that he must be the one to kill Sheng, and Sheng will only trust the former for agreeing to rendezvous, and this has been McAllister's plan from the start. They fool Sheng into meeting with them for destroying single copy confidential documents that can expose him, in return for money. The meeting between Sheng, Webb and McAllister takes place on the Chinese border with the assistance of Wong, a previous acquaintance of Bourne. During the meeting McAllister sees that Sheng has already grabbed the confidential documents from Victoria peak, and he is shot by Sheng before he can shoot the latter. But on scene arrives the lethal Bourne who stabs Sheng dead. Webb, McAllister and Wong escape in Sheng's helicopter amidst gunfire.

In the end, it is shown that Lin Wenzu and McAllister have survived, Havilland commends McAllister for his acts of bravado, saying he will be promoted, Mo and Conklin have left for the USA, and Webb and Marie have now flown to Hawaii for rest. Marie tells Webb that every one has a dark side which they must accept. Jason Bourne is David Webb's dark side, the one who saved Marie.

Publication history[edit]