A kitchen sink of arcane elements—twisted biblical prophecy, Oedipal complex, computer-hacker sabotage—together with such thriller staples as kidnapping and serial-killer psychodynamics makes this one messy whodunit. But it’s a riveting mess.
The concept’s hot: One-by-one, three dozen are targeted for killing, each corpse to be laid out carefully, swaddled in a purple blanket. Bourne, a London journalist aka Jonathan Freedland (Jacob’s Gift, 2005, etc.), cribs from Dan Brown’s well-thumbed manual on mystic atmosphere, and creates a nefarious sect, the Church of the Reborn Jesus, who madly masterminds the murders. Those homicides are head-scratchers for the police—among them, a Manhattan pimp with a heart of gold, a Wild West, right-wing militiaman who’s also a kidney donor, and a Baptist pastor in Brazil. Will, a New York Times reporter, is drawn into this blood-spattered web when his pregnant wife, Beth, is abducted by Hasidic zealots. What connects Beth’s disappearance and the dead men, dropping nearly daily like dominos? Even Will’s adored dad, a federal judge, can’t seem to aid his son, who turns to a Jewish ex-girlfriend to penetrate the heart of Hasidism. Together, they decode the Torah passages the kidnappers send and negotiate a maze that leads, shockingly, back to Will’s own father. Turns out he’s none other than “The Apostle,” high priest of the Reborn Jesus cult. Their mission? To bring the End Times, the Rapture, by knocking off the 36 righteous men Jewish tradition maintains are necessary, at any given time, to keep life on this dark planet alive. Turns out, too, that the Hasidic perps are actually good guys, and the Reborn vicious anti-Semites, adherents of the ultra-fundamentalist doctrine of “replacement theology”—that the Jews, as chosen people, have been replaced by Christians.
Murder mystery meets conspiracy theory meets theological commentary.