A Challenger to Dan Brown?
Sam Bourne: The Righteous Men
3.75 / 5
A suspense thriller that sees the protagonist Will Munroe attempt to unravel ancient Jewish folklore and decipher coded messages to rescue his kidnapped wife and to simultaneously prevent a cataclysmic event that would alter the entire world.
Will, an up-and-coming Oxford-educated New York Times journalist, stumbles into a farfetched and complex story concerning the fate of the world because of his diligent investigations in two unusual murders. He reports on a death of a pimp in New York and a radical militia man in Seattle who have both been murdered but both are killed in a way that is curious. When Will’s investigation uncovers the selfless and great deeds they have done secretly, his subsequent report ends up as headline news, and he unknowingly becomes of interest to mainly people for his selective choice of the words, “Righteous Man.”
Will delves further into the mysteries surrounding the kidnapping of his wife Beth, and notably the folklore and teachings within the Hassidic community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who are behind the inexplicable kidnapping. He enlists the help of computer geek Tom, ex-girlfriend TC and his father in his efforts to figure out cryptic messages from an unknown source and to manoeuvre through the minefield of secret and deep meanings according to the revered Rebbe and a plethora of interpretations concerning ancient texts.
Bourne delectably obscures the true meaning of Beth’s kidnapping, the people responsible for the multitude of “humane” deaths of these “righteous men” or the tzadiks, and the meaning of all of the components that make up this fascinating story in a fantastically clever and brilliant conclusion. The bringing together of all the strands of storylines spanning the globe is inescapably brilliant. Having followed Will through his trials and torments, his thoughts and feelings, and we become attached to his character even despite brief lapses of judgement. Bourne has created a character that the reader is able to root for, as many people would relate to the fact that they would also do whatever it took to rescue their loved one. He has used his own investigative knowledge, love for his wife and utilised the resources of Tom and TC in getting closer to the reason for the madness.
Though the conclusion is scintillating in bringing everything together in absorbing fashion, an aspect which may have perturbed some readers is the mass of information that is given in the first half of the book. Bourne attempts to put every single thread of the carefully constructed web delicately in place so when the mystery unravels he can bring together a brilliant and complex story to its brilliant finale. The problem with this is that, the storyline is intriguing rather than pulsating, which is probably the key difference between Bourne and another suspense thriller writer, Dan Brown. The mass of data that is in the first half is a drastic change from a Brown novel, which has very short chapters that maintain a frenetic and fast pace, something that Bourne dips in to, but not consistently.
I read this book to fill the void of not having read a Dan Brown book for a while. It is a good solid read within the field of mystery, historical and suspense thriller fiction that Brown is the head of. I particularly enjoy this genre of fiction and this book has not dampened my feelings towards it despite some flaws. Although it wasn’t an edge-of-the-seat kind of action with an electric fast pace to move the story on as Brown does, Bourne employs a more subtle and slower build up of events that helps to create a slow-burning intrigue thriller that I quite liked for the most part. I look forward to reading more of his work and I no doubt believe he will continue to produce better and more polished suspense thrillers.