This book had my name on it right from the git-go. First, I'm a diehard fan of the late Ian Fleming's James Bond books - and of the motion pictures as well, though for the most part they have little in common with the books. Second, Anthony Horowitz also authored Moriarty, to which I happily awarded 5 stars (yes, I love Sherlock Holmes as well).
For the first few chapters, though, I began to wonder if this one was destined to be not much more than name-dropping of people and places from other Bond books (it begins as Pussy Galore is ensconced in Bond's flat as a protective measure after the Goldfinger affair). Okay, I expected some of that - this one marks Bond's return after an electrifying exchange with Oddjob at Fort Knox. But would there be a real plot here with enough substance to stand on its own?
So, I consulted my Bond expert husband, who had just passed the book on to me, and his answer was a resolute yes. Even more impressive, he said, is the authenticity of writing style compared with that of Fleming. Now that I've finished, I totally agree; especially when the action began to heat up as the end was near, I really felt as if I were immersed in the pages of From Russia with Love or You Only Live Twice.
Interestingly, author Horowitz says in the acknowledgements that the concept for this book came from outlines Fleming had created for a possible TV series that was being discussed in America prior to the success of the film, Dr. No. Once that took off, the series idea was scrapped, and a couple of those outlines were used as the basis for subsequent movies. But five remained and were given to Horowitz; he picked one that piqued his writing interest and actually used about 500 words of Fleming's own dialogue in one chapter of this book.
The story here, set about a dozen years after the end of World War II, is that Bond learns his old nemesis, SMERSH, wants to kill the chances that a leading racecar driver will win an international Grand Prix in West Germany, thus allowing a Russian driver to win and demonstrating the power of the Soviets. Bond's boss, M, sends him in to prevent that from happening (yep, that means he'll have to impersonate a real driver and do laps around the track himself). But prior to the race, he spots a meeting between a top SMERSH official and a shady Korean millionaire dubbed Jason Sin, and suddenly Bond is convinced there's much more afoot than winning a road race.
Needless to say, Bond is right on the money, and the chase begins to find out what the secretive Mr. Sin really is up to (and, that accomplished, convincing the U.S. and British powers-that-be of the need to stop him). As Bond fans should expect, the whole thing comes down to resolution by the very capable secret agent, who must pull out all the stops to keep the world safe for democracy. Again.
I've missed you, Mr. Bond - great to have you back!
Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz (Harper, September 2015); 320 pp.