Newest Review: ... of a secret that has stayed under wraps for sixty years... ==---Opinion---== I'll admit, the first couple chapters of 'The Final Reckoni... more
An accidental shooting reveals to be much more in this thriller.
The Final Reckoning - Sam Bourne
Member Name: Anti
The Final Reckoning - Sam Bourne
Date: 29/06/12, updated on 10/07/12 (44 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent story, well-rounded characters, perfect balance of suspense and drama
Disadvantages: Slightly slow start.
'The Final Reckoning' is a 2008 thriller novel by Sam Bourne (pen name of journalist Jonathan Freedland). I've read a couple of Bourne's novels before, both of which were solid reads as very Dan Brown-esque, "conspiracy/secret society" focused thrillers, so I picked up 'The Final Reckoning' upon recognising the author in my library, but wasn't expecting anything mind-blowing.
A suspected suicide bomber approaching the United Nations building in New York is shot on sight, causing panic and lockdown in the area. However the suspicious man, Gerald Moreton turns out to be an innocent, seventy year-old Lithuanian Jew. Desperate to cover up the accidental shooting from the press and general punblic, UN Under-Secretary General Henning Munchau sends his friend, unscrupulous UN lawyer Tom Byrne, to Britain to keep the deceased's family quiet.
However Tom's mission becomes more complicated when not only does new evidence show the man to have been less than harmless in his intentions for coming to New York, but he also unearths him as part of an underground resistance of Jews who sought revenge against Nazis and Holocaust perpetrators and caused thousands of "accidents". But the more Tom and the deceased's daughter, Rebecca, try to learn about Gerald Moreton's history, the further the two of them head into danger as various parties worldwide try to keep hold of a secret that has stayed under wraps for sixty years...
I'll admit, the first couple chapters of 'The Final Reckoning' were a little slow as it focuses on the event that is the catalyst for the whole story- the death of Gerald Moreton. However once main character Tom is introduced the story got my attention much more and I was hooked for the rest of the night getting to the bottom of the mystery.
I liked how different chapters focused on different groups of characters around the world going through the turn of events: Tom and Rebecca; the detective in charge of the case back in New York, Detective Jay Sherrill; Henning Munchau back at the UN base; and the mysterious group that is trying to prevent Rebecca and Tom from discovering too much. Some chapters even consist of flashbacks to Gerald Moreton's life as both a Holocaust survivor and then trying to kill ex-Nazis around Europe. In my opinion these flashbacks were the best written because they really bring this dead man to life with his emotionally harrowing accounts of holocaust events, including the deaths of his parents as a child and the slaughter of his sisters. At times these flashback chapters made me feel for Gerald Moreton (aka Gershon Matzkin) more than any other character in the story, and it made me, as well as the protagonists, question if his underground slaughter of ex-Nazis who escaped a capital punishment is as morally reprehensible as what he endured during World War II.
That said, the rest of the characters were very well-written too. Tom Byrne begins as a slightly unlikeable protagonist, as a lawyer who will work for any shady character and use all the tricks in the books to get his clients off if the money's right. In truth, Tom is in fact cynical of how the UN runs and has come far from the idealist young lawyer who fought for justice at the beginning of his career. Fortunately this particular case allows him to open up his true feelings about what he expected to be as a lawyer and what he ends up doing, and I empathize with him much more once this happens in the story. Rebecca Moreton is Gerald's daughter and at first begins as a very calm and capable woman in the presence of others, partially because of her job as a doctor. However there are many moments when her emotions suddenly get the better of her and she becomes fiery and irrational, just showing how the sudden death and other events within the story have affected her. The romance/sexual tension between Tom and Rebecca is developed well and seems realistic given the conflicts between the characters as their investigation reaches its climax. Yet there are a few secrets that she hiding from Tom as well, though, and I was surprised to realise these things as we approached the conclusion of the story. Supporting characters are also well-rounded. Tom's friend and superior Henning Munchau as a guy who knows full well how the politics of the UN works but trusts his friend to get to the bottom of the situation before it blows up in their faces. I found detective Jay Sherrill quite likeable because, despite his WASP-y nature and supposed smugness in dealing with the case, his elevated position makes him quite insecure with regards to his lack of inexperience and it shows as he makes his way in his investigation. My only problem is that despite his importance he disappears in the last few chapters despite being a crucial minor character to the story's progress.
As a whole the story is well paced and has a couple of twists and red herrings to make you unsure as to who or what the purpose of Gerald/Gershon's visit to New York, and the final chapter was very tense with me unsure how everything was going to end, but fortunately it concludes smoothly and (save for Sherrill's aforementioned disappearance in the epilogue) everything is tied up.
'The Last Reckoning' is an enjoyable read from Sam Bourne with only tiny flaws. It's based on real events (the research of which is recorded in the Author's Note and Acknowledgements) and these have been perfectly intertwined to make a suspenseful, but also emotionally powerful, thriller. If you like "intelligent" thriller novels then this will certainly whet your appetite. You can buy it for £5.59 on Amazon (or 1p and p&p on the Marketplace) which I think is a pretty good price.
(Review also found on Ciao under the username Anti_W)
Summary: An excellent thriller which comes fully recommended.