An American is found floating in the Mediterranean Sea with several bullet wounds, including a head wound which has given him amnesia. The doctor treating him finds a message surgically embedded in his hip that contains details of a Swiss bank account, presumably anonymous.
In Zürich, Switzerland, the protagonist learns that his name is Jason Bourne. While attempting to retrace his steps on his previous visit to the city he attracts the attention of several people who either fear him, warn him of danger, or try to kill him—but they all unhelpfully assume that he already knows why. He begins to suspect, on the basis of circumstantial evidence, that he may have been a professional assassin prior to losing his memory. He also meets a woman named Marie St Jacques in Zürich and on the spur of the moment, uses her as a sort of hostage to escape an attempt on his life in a crowded convention hotel. Realizing that he has put her life in danger as well, he risks his own life to prevent her from being executed. This is the first clue that there may be more to the protagonist than a cold-blooded killer.
The 1988 miniseries, The Bourne Identity is reasonably true to the plot of the novel, but the story of the film, The Bourne Identity (2002) was changed to exclude the subplot about the terrorist Carlos The Jackal and, equally or more significantly, the fact of Bourne's innocence—it is maintained that he actually was an assassin, though of CIA employ.
Comparison with film
|THE BOURNE NOVELS|