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The Righteous Men - Sam Bourne

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      30.03.2010 01:09
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      Worth a read

      'The Righteous Men' by Sam Bourne is another freebie I managed to get my hands on when a friend was having a clearout. I had heard of Sam Bourne before and knew that his books have been compared to some of Dan Brown's novels. As I quite liked one or two of Dan Brown's books (especially Angels & Demons) I felt that a book by Sam Bourne would definitely be worth a read. The front cover of 'The Righteous Men' even compares Sam Bourne to Dan Brown, with a quote from the Mirror stating that Sam Bourne is 'the biggest challenger to Dan Brown's crown'.

      'The Righteous Men' is a story about a number of mysterious deaths that are taking place all over the world. No one thinks that these deaths could be connected and no one knows who is responsible. But Will Monroe, who is a reporter of a best selling newspaper, the New York Times, slowly starts to unravel clues and riddles which suggest that these deaths are murders which are incredibly sinister. Things get much more complicated when his wife, Beth, is kidnapped and her kidnappers seem to be connected with all the strange murders. In addition, all these baleful events are linked to religion and it is up to Will to find out what is going on if he ever wants to see his wife again.

      Well the story certainly had an interesting plot. In fact when I read the paragraph above this one I think I would definitely want to read a book with a story like this if I hadn't already read it! In reality however 'The Righteous Men' is more average than excellent for the fictional thriller genre. That's not to say that I didn't want to finish it - I definitely did. I liked the main character, Will, who had a good amount of realism to him which was revealed often in italic text to put across his private thoughts. Some of these were even giggle-worthy which also provided some light relief from what is otherwise a rather serious story. Having a likeable central character always helps in my opinion, and this book definitely had that.

      What makes this story an average one however is its believability. There were so many instances in which I wondered whether any of this might ever be able to happen in real life. I know this is fiction and its not supposed to be real, but I think that its always nice to be able to visualise what you are reading and that includes being able to see in your own mind each character and the events that take place. And this is where 'The Righteous Men' lets itself down. A book with a good plot but with the journey from A to B just not feasible for me. Some of the supporting characters for example, I just couldn't see as real people in a real world and this gave an overall effect of flakiness.

      The saving grace of 'The Righteous Men' however is the climax of the story and the overall conclusion. I always like it when a book concludes in way that I did not guess as this somehow makes me feel quite satisfied after reading it. This book did keep me interested all the way through but when it came towards the end my enjoyment of it definitely increased.

      So how does Sam Bourne compare to Dan Brown? Well this is the first Sam Bourne book I have ever read so I don't think it's very fair for me to try and compare. What I will say though is that there was a lot of potential for this book and I did enjoy it to a degree. And I can't say that I wouldn't be tempted to read some of his other work. All in all I would say that if you like Dan Brown then it might be worth trying a Sam Bourne novel out.

      You can buy 'The Righteous Men' for £2.70 (new) or £0.01 (used) (plus p+p) from Amazon.

      Thanks for reading.

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        15.01.2010 14:52
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        Not the suggested next Dan Brown unfortunately

        I came across this in the library a few weeks ago and decided for a change of authors within the crime/thriller genre. I'd never heard of Sam Bourne before, and I'm always a bit dubious about trying a new author after having read an amazing book by a favourite author (Tess Gerritsen - The Bone Garden, which I've recently reviewed).

        There's a lot of choice in this genre at the moment, but I guess I was tempted for two reasons. Firstly, the blurb made it sound like a religious crime thriller, that was dark and mysterious. Secondly, because of the recommendations on the cover of the book.

        A quote from The Mirror reads: 'The biggest challenger to Dan Brown's crown'. Along with an Esquire quote, that claims the book is 'more readable than The Da Vinci Code', made me think this must be something pretty special considering the hype of Dan Brown. The book is also a Richard & Judy 'summer read', so I decided to try it out for myself.

        The book is based a series of murders, so it fits nicely into the murder mystery genre of crime thrillers. The central character, Will Monroe, is a newbie New York Times Writer, previously from the UK, who has settled in the Big Apple with his wife, Beth. Appointed to cover two murder cases, both of otherwise dubious/not-so-good men who have committed acts of great kindness, Monroe is on his way up.

        That is, until he gets a message on his Blackberry (yes, it's very modernised) that his wife has been kidnapped. The kidnappers claim they're not interested in money and that no police are to be involved, so Monroe finds himself at a loss as to why Beth has been taken and how to get her back.

        The book then takes us on a discovery trail as Monroe enlists the support of his father, a big-shot lawyer and his nerdy computer genius friend, Tom. On discovering the origins of the email, Monroe is drawn into confusing and unknown territory of Jewish religion.

        It's at this point he also enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend, TC, and together they try to work out the links between the religious bearings and his wife's kidnap. Monroe soon finds himself in the middle of it, taking it upon himself to enter Crown Hights, a religious meeting place, to participate in a ceremony during Yom Kippur to try to infiltrate the crowd and discover who would want his wife and why.

        It appears his wife is safe, with Jewish kidnappers, but Monroe is warned off trying to find his wife, being told her kidnap is part of something much bigger; a series of events so significant and delicate that Monroe must be patient and stay away unless he is to endanger work for the greater good. But someone wants to help will, and soon he and TC are trying desperately against the clock to decode cryptic clues sent via text.

        By the end of the novel, we see the story unravel and light is shed on all of the questions that were created from the start of the book. Unexpected twists are delivered at the very end also, so we're kept guessing throughout, and then taken by surprise as the somewhat bizarre story comes to a climax.

        I found Bourne's writing style to be very readable. He was able to create interesting characters, form a clever plot and build enough suspense and intrigue to keep me reading. The main thing I liked about this book was the integration of technical aspects, such as religious references and knowledge, so it seemed as if the book were based on facts and interesting snippets concerning religious texts and beliefs. I found that it this gave the book a quality feel to it, and added another layer of depth the text as I was reading it.

        What I wasn't so keen on, however, were perhaps a few twists the plot took. I felt Monroe was, at times, a little unbelievable. Then again, who's to say that in a time of such intensity and bizarreness, that he wouldn't do the things he did? I just felt as if sometimes things were happening and I was wondering how things had got to that point, leaving me a little lost.

        Whilst the plot, especially the ending, may be a tad exaggerated and unbelievable, it was original and surprising. The book did have a sense of mystery and intrigue to keep me hooked on reading, but it lacked some of the seriousness, the dark and chilling emotiveness, that I was hoping for. This is because the book at times seemed to be a little too transparent and try-hard, such as the when there are references to the UK, so it didn't always feel too natural or to have a smooth flow.

        The book is 565 pages in total, with an epilogue, and is divided into 64 chapters. That sounds like a lot, but it actually made it easier to read and digest the information. There were a few points where I felt there was too much repetition & it became slightly tedious, but then there were also times I felt things were happening but wasn't sure why, so the general pace wasn't always perfectly balanced.

        The Daily express describes this as 'compulsive reading...bears all the hallmarks of a blockbuster'. Whilst I wouldn't necessarily agree with this, it was worth reading and I did enjoy it, especially the technicalities and dark corners of religion and the surprising twists throughout the book. It just didn't have the feel of an accomplished crime/thriller writer because the overall feel of the book lacked the serious and tension-inciting edge that makes a good novel gripping. I therefore probably wouldn't highly recommend it, or suggest buying it, but if you come across it in the library it may be worth a look if you want to introduce yourself to a new crime/thriller author.

        RRP £7.99, but it's selling on Amazon for £5.49.

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          23.07.2009 07:56
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          Religious non-thriller

          Another wannabee Da Vinci Code which misses the target by a long way I'm afraid....

          This book was lying on my desk at work, a colleague picked it up and said "Ah. Dan Brown's written another book at last". An easy mistake to make, with the identical title font and background religious symbols. Even the author's name, Sam Bourne, is short and monosyllabic, easily mistaken for Brown's as happened with my colleague. A cynical marketing ploy that grates with me and no doubt many others. I thought pseudonyms had gone out with Lewis Carroll. Why not put your own name to your own work, Mr Jonathan Freedland ? Name not "catchy" enough?

          If you think I'm banging on about Dan Brown/DVC comparisons that is because the blurb invites it and insists it is "more menacing" and better. Comparisons are made on the front and back covers and several times on the inside page. See my point..?

          Anyway, Dan Brown gripes aside, this is not a very good book. It has an ok plot that is dragged out across over 500 pages, with few twists and turns and little intrigue. Our "hero's" quest to find his kidnapped wife makes little sense and is convoluted in the extreme. The bad guy is easily guessed before half way and as for menace, well the Andrex puppy is more menacing than the "sinister" assassins in this. Afraid, to offend any religious groups, Freedland misses opportunity after opportunity to create fear and suspense; even the murderers are humane and pray for their victims. The "blue eyed" killer is no match for Brown's albino monk and the other characters all fall into neat stereotypes. When Will Monroe discovers who his kidnappers are very early on, rather than call the police or point a gun to their head he skulks off on his own following a trail led by ridiculous text messages from a "friend". His (stunningly attractive, naturally) sidekick is close to the kidnappers and suspects their motives all along also but keeps it from him for some reason.

          Freedland insults our intelligence with junior school coded messages to crack which eventually lead the charisma-free Mr Monroe back to where he started from. With time running out, why "the friend" did not just send him there in the first place beats me. You feel like you've driven 200 miles to visit your neighbour by the time you arrive at the climax. The ending redeems the book somewhat but the journey there is unexciting, overblown and frankly dull in parts.

          Dan Brown's publishers will not be losing too much sleep about Jonathan Freedland, oops sorry, Sam Bourne.

          (also reviewed on amazon)

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            25.03.2009 10:11
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            Righteously convenient story

            This wouldn't be my 'normal' choice of reading material and I always judge a book by it's cover, and this looked like a regular crime novel. Unfortunately it does not do it for me. I really like historical fiction (The Book Of Air & Shadows I reviewed recently is a prime example) and with a twist of modern life - is brilliant.

            The blurb on the back of this book promised me exactly the above. But it was awful. A few people have seen it on my desk in the last couple of weeks as I read it on the train to work. As the title and the cover look quite appealing. I have told them to forget they ever saw the book, but if they did never to read it.

            William Monroe (Jr) is a journalist on the New York Times, he spent time in England so has a lovely English accent. He is sent to report on a murder that has happened to an 'unsavoury' character, a pimp, but then is faced with witness stories and a personal account, albeit brief of this person, and saying they were righteous. For example, a woman went to the pimp and needed money for her husband, so went to the pimp to set her up working. Instead of her being one if his girls, he sold his bed and blankets to give her the money so she wouldn't have to prostitute herself (I know unlikely - it gets worse!).

            William discovers another murder with a similar vein that the person while bad on the outside was 'righteous'. Beth, Will's wife has been kidnapped and he receives clues to her whereabouts via his Blackberry, he is able to find out where these messages originated because, just by chance his best friend is a computer hacker (I told you it gets worse!). The messages came from the area where the Hassidic Jews are based. Noting this Jewish influence, Will remembers his ex girlfriend, TC - the only person he knows who is Jewish and speak Hebrew (I'm not even going there!).

            TC tries to help Will understand the messages sent to him and helps to try and recover his missing wife. According to the Jewish Faith (religion is not my strong point, so bear with me) there are at least 36 righteous men in the world (in each generation) to prevent the destruction of the world and to justify 'Man's' place in the world. This is based on Abraham in the Book of Genesis as he bargains with god to find righteous men to save the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah. If the world is ready for him to reveal himself, it is said one of these 36 men will be the Messiah.

            Back to the story, so one by one across the world these 36 men are starting to get murdered, but they don't know by who or when the next one will be. The Jews know who the 36 are by GPS(Global Positioning System) (I almost started to pick my own eyes out by this point). And they are trying to save them all. There is a twist or two at the end which are interesting, but the coincidences of the last couple of hundred pages didn't cut it with me.

            You get to like Will Monroe and his character is developed well as is the character of TC, however the peripheral characters are almost there just to push the story along and you tire of wondering if you have seen this person before in the book.

            On the front cover it compared this book to The Da Vinci Code (which I haven't read but have seen the film) and the film was much better than this book could ever be. This is easily readable and you might want to read it on the beach. It is a shame they didn't use more legend in this book as that's what I find interesting and could be used in so many ways. It is a shame that the writer 'made things fit' for a quick buck.

            All in all I had to finish it, or wonder forever. The 'Righteous' story interested me as not being religious or having any knowledge, it interested me I had never heard of this, but aside from this it was dull rpedictable and obvious. Read it when your brain doesn't want to think !!

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              20.08.2007 20:09
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              The debut Novel from Sam Bourne

              When a New York Times reporter’s wife is kidnapped his first instinct should be to phone the Police and get some professional help. For Will Monroe however, that is not an option as the people holding his wife have warned him if he does inform the police she will die. As Will tries to solve a series of riddles to find her he stumbles upon a much bigger conspiracy, one that is costing lives all across the globe. With the help of his best friend and his ex girlfriend Will races against time to find his wife, fearing if he isn’t quick, it may be too late.

              This is one of a number of new novels that have been written since Dan Brown hit it big with the Da Vinci code. The Righteous Men follows the same trend as the majority of these books, using religion as its primary subject. This time it’s the Jewish faith that comes under the microscope in Sam Bourne’s debut novel. Bourne is infact the name that Guardian journalist Jonathan Freeland is currently writing under. With the religion aspect taking the centre stage again it is a matter of how well he can pull it off if this book were to work or not.

              Personally I really didn’t feel that he did manage it. His description of the Jewish faith is incredibly insightful and gave me a new knowledge of the faith. The story itself however was incredibly pedestrian and didn’t particularly make me want to carry on reading. The opening 200 odd pages of the book are hard work and although there are a few things happening, none of them particularly grab your interest enough to make you think this is a book your really going to enjoy reading.

              I’ve read a few of this current trend towards religious novels and while this isn’t the worst I’ve read, the effort it takes to get into it really isn’t worth it. It has a decent story eventually, but it can be described as no more than average, considering the amount of time and effort that had to go into getting that far into the book. In fact the cover of the book quotes the Mirror as saying that Bourne and this novel is the biggest challenger to Dan Brown. I’m not too sure how much Mr Bourne has paid the Mirror for this comment but as you read on you’ll see this isn’t at all true.

              The biggest problem with the book is the lead character. For the first 100 pages, Bourne follows the live of Will Monroe and what he does before his wife goes missing. In truth as much as Will is a reasonable character he isn’t really a lead character and despite his predicament I really didn’t find myself hoping he succeeded. His Father too seemed to be the type of character that had he not been mentioned every now and again, you could easily have forgotten about.

              In fact I think that is Bourne’s biggest failing. The story could have worked ok with reasonable characters but his characterisation really let him down. The only character that seemed to have anything about them is Will’s ex girlfriend TC. I always find that if a book has likeable characters it makes it far easier to read and this one fails on that score. And of course because of this it means that no matter how good the story might have been this was never going to be anything more than an average novel following in the path of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and the cash cow it has spawned.

              Overall I was incredible disappointed with this book. I’d been told it was quite a good read and so I had opted to give it a go. While I’ve been off sick from work I’ve found books are taking me 2 days at most to read, whereas The Righteous Men took me over a week and a half. In fact at times it seemed like a chore picking it up to read some more. With the reputation it has gained this was very disappointing and having persisted with it to the end I would be going against all my instincts if I actually recommended this to anyone.

              Amazon: £4.44
              Amazon Marketplace: £0.01
              Pages: 562
              ISBN: 978-0-00-720330-7

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                13.11.2006 14:13
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                '24' goes to Brooklyn !

                I've just finished reading this book and have enjoyed it immensely. I won't add a synopsis here, others who enjoyed the book less than I did have already done that. All of the loose ends are tied up in the last few chapters, as they should be. It is almost written in 'real time' so the characters barely get any sleep ! The author is in the right place at the right time, i.e. during a Dan Brown lull and at a time when religious fanaticism is so high profile, so fair play to him, he and his team have carried out their research diligently. I look forward to his new novel in summer 2007, and it should make a decent movie. Haven't we heard that somewhere before ?

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                  20.09.2006 15:43
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                  Not one to read

                  Before I decided to read this book Sam Bourne had been compared to Dan Brown and as a major fan of the Da Vinci Code I decided to read this book. To be frank there is no comparison between Dan Brown and Sam bourne, I found this book hard to get into and hard to keep up with. It is not an easy read and the characters are unbelievable and shallow. The reporter featured in the novel Will Monroe is hardly likeable and you don't really care what happens to him or his wife. This book tries way too hard to be clever that it jaut get confusing and you end up fighting to reach the end of the book, and it is a relief to finish it.

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                    11.08.2006 19:19
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                    "Sam Bourne" should stick to journalism

                    Sam Bourne is a pseudonym for Jonathan Freedland, a journalist and broadcaster. He has a weekly column in the Guardian, as well as a monthly column in The Jewish Chronicle. He has published a couple of non-fiction books, but "The Righteous Men" is his first novel. It is one of Richard and Judy's Summer Reads.

                    Ever since "The Da Vinci Code" hit the shelves, there has been a flood of religious thrillers on the market. I am a big fan of the thriller genre, and I can honestly say that this is one of the worst I have ever read.

                    Will Monroe is an English reporter, working for "The New York Times". As he follows up on the story of a local murder, he discovers a connection with a murder committed on the other side of the country. When his wife Beth is kidnapped, the men who took her send him mysterious messages on his mobile phone and Blackberry. He enlists the help of his friend Tom and former fiancee TC to track them dowm.

                    There is no depth to the main character whatsoever, and I felt no empathy for him as he searched for his wife. The reader is expected to believe that he would be lusting after TC while Beth's life is in danger. It is utterly ridiculous.

                    The trail leads Will to the Brooklyn Jewish Community, where the reader is then subjected to endless drivel about an ancient prophecy, and riddles buried deep in the Bible. Basically, there are 36 righteous men in the world. These men may appear to be lowlife, but they commit random acts of kindness. A mysterious sect is trying to bump them all off, in order to bring an end to the world.

                    At this point in the story, I did not want to read on, as I felt that the ending of the story was totally predictable. However, I did spend £3.73 of my hard earned cash on this book, so finish it I did! Was I pleasantly surprised? No.

                    A caption on the front cover describes Sam Bourne as "The biggest challenger to Dan Brown's Crown". This is slmost as silly as the novel itself. "The Righteous Men" lacks the suspense and pace of "The Da Vinci Code". The cryptic clues are uninteresting, and the characters are two dimensional. The only good thing I have to say about this novel is that it does give you an insight into the Hassidic community.

                    You can buy this book from most supermarkets for less than four pounds just now, but I really wouldn't bother.

                    ISBN 0007203306

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