Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Novel, by Anthony Horowitz.
Orion (2015), Paperback, 320 pages.
Bond is back! It doesn’t matter that this book has an execrable title, a weak villain, weaker heroine, and a “meh” story. It works because it is Bond, the original Bond of the Ian Fleming books and the early Sean Connery movies. Bond is suave and polished, but also somewhat of a thug, ruthless, sometimes brutal, even cruel. He is also fallible, he makes numerous mistakes (fails to spot a tail, leaves his gun in the car, lets a SMERSH hitman get the drop on him). In short, this is a very human Bond, far from the invincible superspy that he has become in popular culture. Anthony Horowitz, with the blessing of the Fleming estate and fresh from his Sherlock continuations House of Silk and Moriarty, has turned his hand to another iconic British character. Set in 1957, directly after the Goldfinger episode, it opens with Bond in an uncomfortable relationship with the famous Pussy Galore. However, Pussy doesnt last, exiting the story before midpoint, leaving Bond free to encounter another sassy and independent heroine, the hilariously named Jeopardy Lane. Unfortunately, her name is the most interesting thing about about her, as she is quite weakest Bond girl I can remember. Essentially she is a curvaceous, woman-shaped hole on the page, who does all the requisite Bond girl things on cue, shows a bit of flair on a motorbike, sleeps with Bond, then exits the story without ever having really captured the reader’s interest. She is matched with an equally lacklustre villain, the Korean billionaire Jason Sin. Sin has an interesting backstory, but he is bland and predictable, and his master plan to end the US space program by dropping a misfiring missile onto New York is fairly ho-hum, been there, done that. On the Bond villain scale, he isn’t even a Scaramanga, much less a Goldfinger or Blofeld. None of this matters, though, as this story works, simply because the original Bond is back. Horowitz has brilliantly captured the essence of the Fleming Bond. That alone is enough to make this a must-read. It is to be hoped that Horowitz follows this up with another, meatier escapade for Bond, but if he does nothing but keep the same Bond he has memorably re-created here, it will still be enough.