The shooting of an old man at the U.N. sends a lawyer to London, where he uncovers yet another dark tale from the Holocaust, in British journalist Bourne’s thriller, which is based on actual events.
As heads of government arrive in New York to speak to the General Assembly during U.N. Week, the world organization’s security staff has good reason to be on high alert for terrorists. And a U.N. guard also has good reason to shoot and kill a suspicious man who appears to be carrying an explosive. The victim, Gerald Merton, seems a harmless, unarmed 77-year-old man. But at once, and to no great surprise, clues and questions emerge suggesting he actually may have been an assassin. During an autopsy, lawyer Tom Byrne, called in on the case by the U.N., notes how muscular the man was, especially for his age. Also curious is the fact that Merton, a Jew, was un-circumcised. Moreover, Merton’s phone shows he made a call to a Russian arms dealer and, later, New York police uncover a gun beneath the floorboards of his apartment. To find out what Merton was up to, Byrne flies to London to question the victim’s daughter, Rebecca. Spurning Byrne, she lashes out at the U.N. for killing a Holocaust survivor. Passion, of course, has its way: “[Byrne] could smell her, the scent flooding him with lust.” Soon they share an “urgent” kiss and then endeavor to learn the nature of Merton’s mission. From Merton’s journals, Byrne learns that during World War II, Merton was spirited into the Jewish underground, eventually leading a mission that would continue long after the conflict. Byrne also discovers several passports that suggest Merton traveled under several aliases and news clippings that may explain his intentions. When Rebecca’s flat is ransacked, it appears someone else is on to Merton’s case.
Byrne’s journey and its genuinely surprising discoveries provide an engaging core to a tale hampered by repetitions, unnecessary subplots and preachy dialogue.