After having read the last attempt to resurrect Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 in literary form by another author, I was convinced the secret agent's life in prose was over and done. Happily, Anthony Horowitz's Trigger Mortis (click here to reserve a copy) made me realize there can be an author who "gets" 007 as Fleming portrayed him.
In fact, Fleming, via an unused outline he worked on for a potential 007 TV series in the late fifties that was used as a starting point for Horowitz, is partly responsible for the way Trigger Mortis (it's a technical term used by NASA that figures into the plot) turned out. Set in 1957, directly after the events of Fleming's Goldfinger novel, Mortis finds Bond wondering what to do with the previous mission's heroine, Pussy Galore, when his boss M promptly gives him a new assignment.
Lancy Smith, a world famous British race car driver (loosely based on real life racing champ Sterling Moss) has been targeted by SMERSH, the covert Soviet assassination and terrorist organization, for death. Bond is assigned to protect Smith while they both compete in the Grand Prix. But while keeping his eyes and ears open for possible threats, Bond discovers that SMERSH also is in league with the mysterious Korean-American millionaire businessman Jason Sin. Apparently Sin is targeting America's space program, but what's his plan?
With the initially reluctant help of a female "writer" named Jeopardy Lane, Bond quickly discovers that more than just the American space program is in danger. But can he and Jeopardy stop Sin in time?!?
I can't give away anything more. Trigger Mortis is a nonstop thrill ride from start to finish. Horowitz captures Fleming's literary voice much better than others (I was always sorry the late but otherwise excellent thriller writer John Gardner was unable to write a really good, exciting Bond novel back in the 80s), as well as giving a good sense of historical perspective. The nasty Sin may invoke some memories of Bond's previous foe, Doctor No, however, and the cultural biases (which include ethnic slurs) that Bond and Fleming had back in those days are still present, which may make present day readers uncomfortable.
If you can overlook the attitudes that characterized guys like Bond back then (and who'd ever thought the previously homophobic 007 actually had a gay friend, as seen in this new novel), you'll enjoy Trigger Mortis! Recommended, and here's hoping Horowitz gets to do another Bond installment.
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