With a Mind to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz has carved himself a nice little here: crafting well-researched thrillers casting 007 as the central character. Cleverly, Horowitz sets the stories in the fifties/sixties: the Cold War is entering its chilly stage, and the villains Bond faces are nationalistic (as is Bond) and ruthless, but lack unlimited funding and invisible cars (as does Bond).

The story picks up where The Man Golden Gun leaves off: Bond suffers a head injury during his mission to kill Scaramanga. He falls into the hands of the KGB who torture him, brainwash him, then dispatch him to London to murder the head of MI6, his boss, known as ‘M’.

The plan fails, Bond is reprogrammed, and is then sent back to Moscow to foil a plot to increase tensions between Russia and the west.

Needless to say, I enjoyed it. The book is written in Horowitz’s terse, workmanlike style, with little time given to flowery prose and literary navel-gazing. He does set the scene well though, with detailed descriptions of Russian locations that help reinforce the realism. The pace is moderately fast, helped by the lack of superfluous detail. Bear in mind, however, this is set in the sixties, so Bond’s attitude to women is very much of the time – and that’s not too dissimilar to his attitude towards Russians.

If you’re a Bond fan, then this book won’t disappoint.

Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz

There’s two thing that I like about these new James Bond books over the movies.

  1. They’re set in the past, which gives them a nice nostalgic feel: the heroes smoked pipes and cigarettes, the villains were stereotypically Russians, and the women were … not always the helpless creatures that writers of the time made them out to be.
  2. Getting inside Bond’s head you get to see that he’s actually a bit of a dick.

Trigger Mortis takes us back to the late 1950s. Naval war hero and British Secret Service agent, James Bond has returned from the successful completion of the Goldfinger assignment with the svelte innuendo that is Pussy Galore in tow. He hardly has time to start sniffing around for a new bedmate when his country has need of him yet again, this time to foil a sinister plot involving race cars, Russians and rockets.

Okay, there’s not going to be any surprises plot-wise: the villains are stereotypical for the age it’s set (Horowitz picks the Russians and a Korean) and Bond is … well, he’s Bond. The story is extremely well placed: Horowitz captures the feel and the attitudes of the time so well that the misogyny and occasional Gay-bashing just slots straight in. This is a good thing. Things were a lot different in those days, and Bond’s letching over women and mistrust of homosexuals was pretty much the norm.

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