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    Review of THE RIGHTEOUS MEN by Sam Bourne

    HarperCollins, August 2006

    It's just another senseless killing. A pimp is stabbed to death and New York Times reporter Will Monroe is assigned the story. He decides, though, to milk the murder for human interest and spends some time looking into the death--and discovers a woman who claims that the dead man was secretly a saint--a righteous man. When the same word, righteous, is used about a right-wing fanatic who dies in Washington State, Will wonders about the possibilities of a connection.

    Before he can return to New York, Will's wife is kidnapped, with a warning that he is not to contact the police. Will turns first to his father, then to a computer-loving friend, and finally, when the clues point to a Jewish fringe group, to his ex-girlifriend, TC. Will attempts to infiltrate a group of Jews who believe that their rabbi was the Messiah-candidate, and possibily the Messiah himself, and nearly loses his life in the attempt. Through a series of cryptic clues sent to his cell phone, though, Will learns that something truly weird is occuring. Someone is attempting to kill the world's righteous men. These few men stand between Earth and God's destruction, as they have since the time of Abraham.

    Author Sam Bourne takes an interesting spin on the now-popular religious thriller genre. Basing his story on the Jewish Talmud and Kabbalaa, he explores the possibility that some fanatical group might be able to bring about the world's end by manipulating the codes contained in the Bible and in the teachings of the Messiah-candidates. Protagonist Will is never sure who is on his side as everyone he trusts seems to turn against him, closing down his options and forcing him to spend more time with TC--despite the sexual attraction that remains.

    I love the Kabala connection and the idea of a shadowy group attempting to bring about the end-times by manipulating prophesy. For the most part, Bourne does an adequate job detailing the story and maintaining a level of suspense. I did, however, have some problems with the logic of the story--and in particular the identity of the hidden 36th righteous man. How, after all, could The Rebbe have identified this righteous man, given the timing? I feel that Bourne relies too much on coincidence in the identities of the righteous and in the identity of the shadowy group attempting to bring about the end-times.

    Sam Bourne clearly wanted to create a thriller in the line of THE DA VINCI CODE (see our review). His use of codes, religious secrets, and shadowy secret societies definitely follows Dan Brown's lead while his reliance on Jewish rather than Christian tradition opens up new possibilities. There is a lot to like in THE RIGHTEOUS MEN, but too much reliance on coincidence and not quite thought out connections weaken the story.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 9/25/06

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    What do you think? Too generous? Too stingy? Or did I miss the entire point? Send your comments to Give me the okay to use your name and I'll publish all the comments that fit (and don't use unprintable language).

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