Review: The Final Reckoning

By Jenni Frazer, August 8, 2008

By Sam Bourne
HarperCollins, £6.99

I wonder whether journalist Jonathan Freedland, in his alternative persona of thriller-writer Sam Bourne, winces when the Daily Mirror seeks to shower praise on him by calling him "the biggest challenger to Dan Brown's crown". It is a barbed compliment. Freedland, after all, can write, while the jury is still out as to whether Dan Brown has yet to acquire such a skill.

Nevertheless, I am confident that Freedland would not say no to The Da Vinci Code creator's many millions. And perhaps, in his third outing as Sam Bourne, Freedland has cracked the magic formula: a near-preposterous plot, just close enough to the truth to convince readers, a handsome protagonist and a burgeoning romance, plus a suitable amount of dodgy dealing, all served up in meticulous prose, bar the odd flaky Americanism.

The other rather nice thing about Freedland's books is that, for once, the metaphor of Israelis as can-do superheroes permeates the pages. If these guys want to make something happen, he tells us, it happens; and they have long arms, which reach over continents. Very different from the Israel-as-pariah which has become the norm of public discourse.

The Final Reckoning is rooted in fact, following the story of a group of young Jews who, having survived the Holocaust, set out to exact as much revenge as they can on as many Nazis as they can identify.

Freedland pays generous tribute to the former BBC Jerusalem correspondent, the late Michael Elkins, on whose book, Forged in Fury, much of Sam Bourne's account is based.

The story begins, however, with a shooting in the grounds of the United Nations in New York. The action then moves rapidly to London. Here, the victim's entire life history is discovered and his daughter becomes involved with a handsome (but slow) former UN lawyer.

The victim turns out to be a Holocaust survivor - and avenger. In scenes surely destined to end up in the film of the novel, daughter Rebecca and lawyer Tom scour the online archives of the JC to track down other post-war survivor-revengers. (Astonishingly, the archives provide more answers in the fictional world than has seemed possible in the real world, but thank you, Jonathan, for the name-check.)

Inexorably, all roads lead to the Israelis, to a figure Freedland assures us cannot possibly be Shimon Peres, but my mother didn't raise a dumb child and you can't fool me. Much.

Hugely entertaining, The Final Reckoning is the ideal Tel Aviv beach book.

Last updated: 3:17pm, February 18 2011