On the front cover of The Righteous Men, The Mirror proudly declares that this is “the biggest challenger to Dan Brown’s crown” – unfortunately that I can’t attest to having never read a Dan Brown novel.
Nevertheless, in spite of The Mirror‘s bold declaration I began reading this book without expectation. It begins rather slowly with the introduction of Will Monroe, a fledgling reporter for the New York Times, who whilst investigating a story discovers that his wife has been kidnapped. In amongst a series of strange deaths from as far afield as Thailand and Mumbai, a peculiar tale unravels of religious fanaticism, pieced together by a seemingly cryptic collection of clues.
Whilst it’s true that Bourne’s novel (Bourne being a pseudonym for Jonathan Freedland) has the potential to be an intriguing thriller, it falls glaringly short of the mark. After a slow start the novel only really picks up in the last third, by which time all interest in the characters’ fates has been lost, and hope begins for the book to end, and soon. It is at this point, that what was a seemingly implausible but not an impossible plot-line enters into the realms of ridiculous, and any believability that the novel had is lost within the last 100 pages or so.
So far I have been rather damning of Bourne’s debut novel, but I confess that I was compelled to continue if only to happily stumble upon hidden literary gems, and I use the term lightly, such as Will Monroe’s thoughts as he is blindfolded – he is “aware that he must look the way blind men always look: Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles, his head moving randomly, untethered to logic”. No, I’m not sure what that means either.
Equally fascinating is Bourne’s tender description of a moment of passion – “His [Will’s] innards seemed to melt, even as his loins hardened”. And my other favourite – “‘I believe in you and me,’ she had said. He suddenly wished he had repeated the words back to Beth. For it was true. She was his faith.”
In case you were in any doubt as to my thoughts, hopefully it will not at least come as a shock to say that I found the book wholly disappointing – if The Mirror‘s sentiments are to be believed, Brown surely faces no danger from Bourne for the foreseeable future!