The Matarese Circle
Ludlum - The Matarese Circle Coverart.png
The Matarese Circle first edition cover.
AuthorRobert Ludlum
CountryUnited States
SeriesThe Matarese Dynasty
GenreSpy novel
PublisherRichard Marek
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages601 pp (first edition)
LC ClassPZ4.L9455 Mas PS3562.U26
Followed byThe Matarese Countdown 

The Matarese Circle (1979) is a novel by Robert Ludlum.


On Christmas Eve in 1979, General Anthony Blackburn, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is killed in a New York brothel. Some time later, Soviet nuclear physicist Dmitri Yuri Yurievich is killed on a hunting trip in the Russian countryside. Soviet KGB agent Vasili Taleniekov and American Consular Operations agent Brandon Scofield, respectively, are considered the most likely assassins. Taleniekov and Scofield are personal as well as professional enemies, Taleniekov having engineered the death of Scofield's wife and Scofield having personally killed Taleniekov's brother. War is only averted through swift communication between the American President and the Soviet Premier.

In Amsterdam, Scofield, tired of the covert intelligence world, deliberately releases a suspected mole and assaults a fellow intelligence officer when the latter kills the suspect. Meanwhile, Taleniekov, in Moscow, is summoned by his former teacher, retired Istrebiteli Aleksie Krupskaya, who tells him of an international cabal of assassins known as the Matarese. Krupskaya urges Taleniekov to find Scofield and stop the Matarese. Taleniekov visits four retired Politburo leaders and is shortly after branded a traitor and sought for execution. He flees Russia through a CIA escape route in Sevastapol and travels to the United States, sending an old subordinate to contact Scofield.

Scofield is summoned to Washington and forced into retirement. He sees Taleniekov's man in the street, traps and kills him, and delivers the body to the Soviet embassy. Scofield is placed “beyond salvage” by the State Department, and three men are summoned from Prague, Amsterdam, and Marseilles to kill him. He and Taleniekov face off in a hotel in downtown Washington in a 3-day-long exchange, eventually making contact, neutralizing the assassins, and escaping together. They contact Scofield's mentor Robert Winthrop, who inquires about the Matarese. The three meet at Rock Creek Park but are attacked. None of the three are harmed, but Winthrop disappears. Acting on Krupskaya's advice, Scofield and Taleniekov travel separately to Corsica.

Taleniekov makes inquiries about the padrone of the Matarese, Guillaume de Matarese, but is hunted by the natives. He is saved by Scofield, and the two encounter a woman named Antonia, who takes them to her grandmother, known in the hills as the "whore of Villa Matarese." She tells them story of Guillaume de Matarese, a wealthy landowner and businessman who is ruined by corrupt governments in England and France to stop his interference in international business interests. In 1911, he summoned five men who had been similarly ruined to the villa for a banquet and proposed the idea of offering assassination services, ultimately promising that those present would "inherit the earth." The names of the guests were Joshua Appleton II (USA), Sir John Waverly (England), Prince Andrei Voroshin (Russia), Count Alberto Scozzi (Italy), and Manuel Ortiz Ortega (Spain). Ortega was killed by Matarese at the banquet, and the other four conspirators leave after everyone else present, including Matarese himself, are killed by servants led by a shepherd boy from the hills. The old woman urges the two agents to find this "shepherd boy."

After escaping from the hills, Scofield and Taleniekov conclude that the Matarese are financing terrorist groups all over the world, including Baader-Meinhof, the PLO, and the Red Brigades, with the goal of paralyzing governments. Scofield and Antonia leave for Rome to track down the Scozzi family. Antonia is assaulted by the Red Brigades, of whom she was formerly a member. Scofield and Antonia fall in love. They learn about Scozzi, who married into the wealthy industrialist Paravacini family. Scofield and Antonia attend a party at Scozzi's villa, where Scofield approaches him about hiring the Matarese. Scozzi reports the conversation to Paravacini and is killed.

Meanwhile, Taleniekov travels to Leningrad in search of the Voroshins. He arrives over Finnish border and is met by a KGB traitor. He goes to see his former lover Lodzia, who is being held hostage by a Matarese soldier. They disable and kill him, and discover a blue tattoo on the left side of his chest. Meeting with his former university professor Mikovsky, Taleniekov searches the revolutionary archives. He finds the account of Voroshin's death, but realizes it is false. Lodzia and Mikovsky are both killed by other Matarese soldiers. After exposing the traitor, Taleniekov follows a lead to Essen, Germany. There, with the help of lawyer Heinrich Kassel, Taleniekov learns that Voroshin secretly left Russia and became Ansel Verachten, founder of an arms competitor of Krupp. He visits Ansel's son Walter, who is guilty over his family's history. Walter's daughter Odile is revealed as the true Matarese inheritor. She invites Taleniekov to join the Matarese, but is killed.

After escaping from Rome and Essen, Scofield, Taleniekov, and Antonia travel to London. In the wake of the Verachten murders, connections between that company and a Boston-based conglomerate called Trans-Communications are brought to light. Scofield contacts Roger Symonds, an MI6 colleague, and asks him to set up a meeting with David Waverly, the grandson of John and England's current Foreign Secretary. He and Taleniekov make a plan to capture Waverly, but Waverly and his entire family are killed. Scofield meets again with Symonds. During this meeting Taleniekov and Antonia are kidnapped by Matarese and taken to Boston.

Scofield follows the Matarese to Boston. He becomes convinced that Joshua Appleton IV, a prominent U.S. Senator who is the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency, is the true Matarese inheritor. Scofield meets with a Harvard business professor and learns of many more connections between Trans-Communications and other conglomerates. He also learns the story of Nicholas Guiderone, the founder of Trans-Comm, and identifies him as the shepherd boy. After a visit to Appleton’s mother, Scofield visits Massachusetts General Hospital, where a graduate student named Amos Lafollete helps him obtain Appleton's dental X-rays. Comparing these with X-rays obtained from when Appleton was in prep school at Andover Academy, Scofield determines that Appleton is in fact Julian Guiderone, the son of the shepherd boy.

Scofield is summoned to Appleton Hall, the Matarese headquarters. He meets with Antonia and Taleniekov, who has been tortured and cannot speak or walk. Robert Winthrop is also there, having been taken prisoner by his chauffeur Stanley, secretly a Matarese soldier. Nicholas Guiderone is revealed as a child prodigy from the hills of Corsica discovered by Guillaume who wants to build a world based on the economic marketplace. It is revealed that the Matarese council includes Secretary of State, the directors of the CIA and the National Security Council, and the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Scofield and Winthrop fight back, killing Stanley, Guiderone, and the rest of the Matarese council, while the Boston police converge on the estate due to a device of Scofield's. Taleniekov refuses to escape and sets the house on fire, while Scofield escapes with Antonia. Nations around the world arrest members of the Matarese and unanimously agree to cover up the conspiracy. Scofield and Antonia are given a boat and retire to the Caribbean.

The story is followed by a 1997 sequel, The Matarese Countdown.

Real life references

In an introduction to the novel, Ludlum writes that he based the conspiracy on the Trilateral Commission.

The "Shepherd Boy" assassin character is based on Juan March Ordinas.[citation needed]

The title appears to have been inspired by a popular, now-gone steak restaurant and jazz spot named (Rocco) Matarese's Circle in Newington, Connecticut, about 10 miles from Wesleyan University, Ludlum's alma mater. The restaurant was in business when the novel was written and for many years before.[1]


Film adaptation

MGM and Relativity Media picked up the rights to Ludlum's novel for $3 million in 2008.[2] Writers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas were signed to write the script, Denzel Washington was attached to star as Scofield and Tom Cruise was in negotiations to star as Taleniekov.[3]

The film adaptation, originally scheduled to be released in 2013, was derailed when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on November 3, 2010. Director David Cronenberg stated that he did not think the project would be resurrected [4]


  1. ^ McNally, Owen (23 February 2014). "Jazz In Connecticut -- The Early Years". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  2. ^ Fleming, Michael (2008-04-04). "MGM spends big for Ludlum book". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-02.
  3. ^ "Tom Cruise & Denzel Washington To Face Off In Spy Thriller". Access Hollywood. 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2009-08-02.
  4. ^ "Why The Matarese Circle Closed". IGN. 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2018-10-18.