4 stars (out of 5)
Any time someone new "takes over" a series of books after an author has passed away, I'm a bit skeptical that the new guy (or gal) will do the original author up proud. In the case of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, perhaps my all-time favorite character, it seems to me an almost insurmountable challenge. Since Fleming's death in 1964, I believe six authors have taken on the task, including such well-known writers as Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Jeffery Deaver. Most did a passable job; in 2011, in fact, I gave Deaver's Carte Blanche 4 stars for coming up with an interesting story and doing a pretty good job following Fleming's style.
Now comes William Boyd, also an award-winning author in his own right, who may be the best of the lot. No, he's not Fleming, but he manages to keep the "flavor" of Bond intact while writing a story that is intriguing, filled with surprises and, of course, plenty of action.
This one is set in 1969 just as British special agent 007 Bond reaches his 45th year. He's summoned to headquarters by his boss, M, who assigns him to go to Zanzarim. The West African country is in the throes of a civil war, and Bond is charged with the difficult task of stopping the rebels, thus ensuring that the established regime remains in place.
The difficulty, though, becomes nearly impossible once Bond gets to his destination and realizes that nothing is as it seems (and certainly not as he was told). The uprising is far from straightforward, and almost from the start, he learns no one can be trusted. A conspiracy is afoot, and Bond must figure out the real reasons behind all the violence and who's really responsible - hopefully without losing his own life in the process. This one's a page-turner that kept me hooked from beginning to end.
Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd (HarperCollins Publishers, October 2013); 341 pp.