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The Last Testament

by Sam Bourne


Israel and Palestine are close to finalizing an unprecedented peace treaty when a well-known public figure is killed by security agents who suspect an attempted assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister. More dead bodies follow and appear to be unrelated until an American negotiator, Maggie Costello, investigates further. Her original task was to deliver the final touches on the historic peace treaty, but this quickly changes when the killings begin. Motivated to prevent a collapse of the peace talks, Costello digs deeper and what she uncovers could have a dramatic impact on three major world religions.

The public figure killed by the Israeli security forces was an academic who had recently made a shocking discovery—alluded to in the book's title. He died while attempting to deliver this information to the Israeli Prime Minister before any peace agreement was signed, and Costello soon discovers that his death was more than a case of mistaken identity. Her subsequent investigation becomes much more adventurous as hidden forces become obvious, no doubt intent on keeping the dead professor’s secret from being discovered. Her journey maintains sufficient danger and excitement (along with the obligatory clues to decipher) to keep any thriller fan engaged to the end.

The comparisons to Dan Brown are inevitable for all readers of this genre, so I’ll include some of my own. You won’t get too far into this one without noting the similarities. Admittedly, Brown writes at a better pace. The Last Testament doesn’t quite have the smooth flow. However, the pace of the novel definitely picks up beyond the mid-point, making this a very nit-picky criticism; and the premise more than compensates. Sam Bourne puts together a theologic thriller written with grace and style. But, more importantly, he writes with respect for his religious subject matter, thereby avoiding some of the more harsh criticisms that Mr. Brown endured.

Bourne’s main character has an intriguing past, which is where her development as a character ends. Critics may have a problem with this and perhaps her history is a bit overdone. I, for one, strongly value character development even more than plot and subject matter. However, I understand Maggie Costello's purpose within the story, which makes me realize that this criticism is also a bit nit-picky. The character’s purpose is to carry the reader through the story of the secret testament, which is the backbone of the novel. Shallow or not, Bourne is effective at doing this. One could say that Maggie Costello acts as an effective mediator between the reader and the true main character—the last (secret) testament—despite her shortcomings as a literary character. It is interesting and not unnoticed that Costello the character had her own closet skeletons but still remained a sought-after mediator.

The theologic thriller has become a popular entity in recent years as evidenced by Dan Brown’s success. Having read a few of these myself I can say that The Last Testament ranks higher on the quality scale than most. This may not be a novel that will be discussed at dinner parties, but it certainly won’t disappoint those who enjoy a good mystery / thriller.

The Book

April 28, 2009
0061470864 / 978-0061470868
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The Reviewer

John Washburn
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer John Washburn is the author of When Evil Prospers.
© 2009