As with Jeffrey Deaver's Carte Blanche a few years back, the Ian Fleming estate has commissioned another writer -this time, William Boyd- to produce a new James Bond 007 novel. Solo (click here to reserve a copy from us) is the result.
1969: British Secret Service agent Bond has just turned 45* and is suddenly having very vivid flashbacks to his time in World War II. After an encounter with the stunning Bryce Fitzjohn, our hero gets a rather unlikely -for Ian Fleming's Bond, anyway- assignment from his boss M: Stop a civil war that's broken out in the (fictional) African country of Zanzarim.
Posing as a journalist, Bond makes contact with MI6's female operative Blessing Ogilvy-Grant (whom he quickly beds) and with a group of mercenaries led by the repulsive Kobus Breed, who likes to impale and hang his prisoners with meat hooks. There's also a reclusive military leader, Brigadier Solomon Adeka, and a mysterious millionaire, Hulbert Linck, adding to the intrigue.
Then something bad happens. And Bond winds up following most of the
principals to Washington D.C., (not the most exotic location), where he
goes solo (get it?) to get revenge. That is, if his people and the CIA
Solo isn't a bad way to spend a few
hours, but after a promising start, Boyd lets the narrative drag
somewhat. Bond going rogue isn't new (the 1989 film Licence To Kill
with Timothy Dalton as Bond ring a few bells?), and the idea of placing
the character in an impoverished Third World county's internal conflict
has merit, but the execution just doesn't pay off.
Bond doesn't change internally despite knowing he's complicit in -SPOILER ALERT!- allowing the West to continue exploiting the people of Zanzarim. (They have lots of oil, you see,) And there's a very unsettling tone to the last few chapters that Boyd probably intended to shake up the reader. However, all the author does is leave his audience dangling.
Oh, and the villains- one of whom seemingly escapes- are hardly heavyweights in the Goldfinger/Doctor No/Blofeld league. Since Boyd has indicated this book is his only shot at Bond, it's doubtful Solo's loose ends will get tied up.
does have some good moments (the WWII flashbacks are suspenseful and
exciting, but disappear midway through). Bond fans may appreciate Boyd's
offbeat take on the character. I just wish the finished product was
*(Wasn't it established by Fleming that all
British Secret Service field agents like Bond were "retired" to a
full-time desk job when they turned forty,,?)