The Righteous Men (2006) & The Final Reckoning (2008)
I had been looking forward to reading something by Sam Bourne, the nom-de-plume of UK journalist Jonathan Freedland as he is recognised as one of the leading lights of this genre. He is also a former Newspaper Columnist Of The Year for his weekly output in “The Guardian”. So I began with his first book and rapidly followed it up with book number 3. (I didn’t have a copy of his 2007 “The Last Testament” to hand). The blurb on the front of “The Righteous Men” claims that it is better than the “Da Vinci Code” but it is not. Plot-wise, it’s sheer nonsense, but that does not stop it from being very readable . It concerns a Jewish myth concerning the demise of 36 Righteous Men as a means of determining the beginnings of the end of the world. I hadn’t heard this one before. It is perfect for incorporating into a plot. It looks as if this prophecy is coming true and that we are heading for Judgement Day and an English reporter on the New York Times, Will Monroe, becomes embroiled. Hassidic Jews are at the centre of this one but I have now read enough of this kind of book never to rule out the extremist Christian fundamentalists!
The book benefits from good pacing but there is some bewilderingly erratic behaviour from the main character. This leaves the reader with the impression that there are holes in the plot. I had anticipated more from this and although I enjoyed it, there’s quite a gap between this book and the best of Dan Brown.
Still, it wasn’t enough to put me off having a go with “The Final Reckoning”. An elderly man is shot entering the United Nations building as it is mistakenly believed he is a terrorist and lawyer Tom Byrne is dispatched to England to make peace with the man’s daughter. The dead man is Jewish and as his own history is revealed it calls into question the innocence of his presence at the UN. It is the turn of the Holocaust and vengeance to take central stage. This book has a very convincing “back story” set during the war and I actually preferred this narrative strand to the modern-day one involving Byrne and the daughter, Rebecca. On balance though, because this seemed to hold together better I would put it just ahead of “The Righteous Men”.
Both books were published by Harper Collins in the UK. Since their publication there have been two more books by Bourne “The Chosen One” (2010) and “Pantheon” (2012)