The Last Testament

The Last Testament



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The Last Testament by Sam Bourne, George Guidall

April 2003: an Iraqi boy loots an ancient clay tablet from a long-forgotten vault in the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities.

Years later, at a rally for the signing of a historic deal between Israel and the Palestinians, a suspected assassin pushes through the crowd toward the Israeli prime minister. Bodyguards shoot the man dead. But in his hand there is no gun—only a blood-stained note.

A series of seemingly random revenge killings follows and tensions boil over. Washington calls in star peace-negotiator Maggie Costello. With her relationship in trouble and old sins to atone for, Maggie finds herself in an impossible situation, especially when she discovers the murders are not random. Someone is killing archaeologists and historians—those who know the buried secrets of the ancient past.

Menaced on all sides by violent extremists, Costello is plunged into a mystery rooted in the last unsolved riddle of the Bible. The truth could end hostilities—or spark the war to end all wars.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781436124706
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 06/05/2009
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)

About the Author

Sam Bourne is the literary pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland, an award-winning British journalist and broadcaster. He is a weekly columnist for the Guardian (UK), having served as that paper’s Washington correspondent. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and the New Republic. He is a regular contributor to the Jewish Chronicle (UK) and presents BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series The Long View.

Bourne is the author of the New York Times and number one UK bestseller The Righteous Men, which has been translated into twenty-eight languages, and The Last Testament. He has also written two nonfiction works, Jacob’s Gift and Bring Home the Revolution. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

Read an Excerpt

The Last Testament

Chapter One

Tel Aviv, Saturday night, several years later

The usual crowd was there. The hardcore leftists, the men with their hair grown long after a year travelling in India, the girls with diamond studs in their noses, the people who always turned up for these Saturday night get-togethers. They would sing the familiar songs—Shir l'shalom, the Song for Peace—and hold the trusted props: the candles cupped in their hands, or the portraits of the man himself, Yitzhak Rabin, the slain hero who had given his name to this piece of hallowed ground so many years earlier. They would form the inner circle at Rabin Square, whether handing out leaflets and bumper stickers or softly strumming guitars, letting the tunes drift into the warm, Mediterranean night air.

Beyond the core there were newer, less familiar, faces. To veterans of these peace rallies, the most surprising sight was the ranks of Mizrachim, working-class North African Jews who had trekked here from some of Israel's poorest towns. They had long been among Israel's most hawkish voters: 'We know the Arabs,' they would say, referring to their roots in Morocco, Tunisia or Iraq. 'We know what they're really like.' Tough and permanently wary of Israel's Palestinian neighbours, most had long scorned the leftists who showed up at rallies like this. Yet here they were.

The television cameras—from Israeli TV, the BBC, CNN and all the major international networks—swept over the crowd, picking out more unexpected faces. Banners in Russian, held aloft by immigrants to Israel from the old Soviet Union—another traditionallyhardline constituency. An NBC cameraman framed a shot which made his director coo with excitement: a man wearing a kippa, the skullcap worn by religious Jews, next to a black Ethiopian-born woman, their faces bathed by the light of the candle in her hands.

A few rows behind them, unnoticed by the camera, was an older man: unsmiling, his face taut with determination. He checked under his jacket: it was still there.

Standing on the platform temporarily constructed for the purpose was a line of reporters, describing the scene for audiences across the globe. One American correspondent was louder than all the others.

'You join us in Tel Aviv for what's billed as an historic night for both Israelis and Palestinians. In just a few days' time the leaders of these two peoples are due to meet in Washington—on the lawn of the White House—to sign an agreement which will, at long last, end more than a century of conflict. The two sides are negotiating even now, in closed-door talks less than an hour from here in Jerusalem. They're trying to hammer out the fine print of a peace deal. And the location for those talks? Well, it couldn't be more symbolic, Katie. It's Government House, the former headquarters of the British when they ruled here, and it sits on the border that separates mainly Arab East Jerusalem from the predominantly Jewish West of the city.

'But tonight the action moves here, to Tel Aviv. The Israeli premier has called for this rally to say "Ken l'Shalom", or "Yes to Peace"—a political move designed to show the world, and doubters among his own people, that he has the support to conclude a deal with Israel's historic enemy.

'Now, there are angry and militant opponents who say he has no right to make the compromises rumoured to be on the table—no right to give back land on the West Bank, no right to tear down Jewish settlements in those occupied territories and, above all, no right to divide Jerusalem. That's the biggest stumbling block, Katie. Israel has, until now, insisted that Jerusalem must remain its capital, a single city, for all eternity. For the Prime Minister's enemies that's holy writ, and he's about to break it. But hold on, I think the Israeli leader has just arrived . . .'

A current of energy rippled through the crowd as thousands turned to face the stage. Bounding towards the microphone was the Deputy Prime Minister, who received a polite round of applause. Though nominally a party colleague of the PM, this crowd also knew he had long been his bitterest rival.

He spoke too long, winning cheers only when he uttered the words, 'In conclusion . . .' Finally he introduced the leader, rattling through his achievements, hailing him as a man of peace, then sticking out his right arm, to beckon him on stage. And when he appeared, this vast mass of humanity erupted. Perhaps three hundred thousand of them, clapping, stamping and whooping their approval. It was not love for him they were expressing, but love for what he was about to do—what, by common consent, only he could do. No one else had the credibility to make the sacrifices required. In just a matter of days he would, they hoped, end the conflict that had marked the lives of every single one of them.

He was close to seventy, a hero of four Israeli wars. If he had worn them, his chest would have been weighed down with medals. Instead, his sole badge of military service was a pronounced limp in his right leg. He had been in politics for nearly twenty years, but he thought like a soldier even now. The press had always described him as a hawk, perennially sceptical of the peaceniks and their schemes. But things were different now, he told himself. There was a chance. 'We're tired,' he began, hushing the crowd. 'We're tired of fighting every day, tired of wearing the soldier's uniform, tired of sending our children, boys and girls, to carry guns and drive tanks when they are barely out of school. We fight and we fight and we fight, but we are tired. We're tired of ruling over another people who never wanted to be ruled by us.'

As he spoke, the unsmiling man was pushing through the crowd, breathing heavily. 'Slicha,' he said again and again, each time firmly pushing a shoulder or an arm out of his way. Excuse me.

The Last Testament. Copyright © by Sam Bourne. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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