Having just read this book, I feel as if I've just been let off a maddening, yet thrilling merry-go-round. Ludlum has written a thriller with the premise that J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), did not die a natural death in 1972, but had been murdered.
One of the principal characters is Peter Chancellor, a man in his 30s, who had failed in his defense of a Ph.D thesis into which he had devoted 2 years of his life. (It was a highly controversial thesis, which called into question various historical events which had been played out on the world stage between 1926 and 1939.) Frustrated, Chancellor makes his case to an old authority figure (Munro St. Claire) who wielded considerable influence within Chancellor's school. St. Claire advises Chancellor to take up a new career, suggesting fiction. With nothing left to lose, Chancellor embarks upon a literary career, writing over the next 4 years 2 best-selling novels whose conspiratorial themes would lead to Chancellor's life being turned inside out.
Ludlum creates here a novel that has all the hallmarks of a classic action thriller: car chases across highways, horrific deaths at dawn in secluded rendezvous in New York or in plain sight of passersby in the heart of Washington DC, secret codes, clashing of rival groups, and secret quasi-governmental/private organizations.
Chancellor cheats death many times. One of the lessons hard learned from him was the following:
"When making a contact, position was everything. Protect yourself by being able to observe all approaching vehicles; keep rapid, undetectable escape available.
"Friends were enemies, and enemies taught one strategies with which to fight them. It was part of the insanity that was all too real."
Any reader in search of a high-octane action novel mixing fact and fiction will find much in "The Chancellor Manuscript" to keep him/her engaged and breathless.