Blog Tour- John Le Carre- The Little Drummer Girl

Charlie in an unhappy English actress in her twenties, longing for commitment: but to what and to whom? While holidaying on the Greek island of Mykonos, she is seduced by a handsome and mysterious embattled Israeli intelligence officer, on a mission to stop the bombing of Jews in Europe. Forced to play her most challenging role, Charlie is plunged into an elaborate plot set to entrap the elusive Palestinian terrorist behind the attacks, and soon proves herself to be a double agent of the highest order…

And so to the last stop on the John Le Carre blog tour, and with the upcoming six part BBC screen adaptation, what better book to conclude this celebratory tour with than The Little Drummer Girl . The release of the book into a Penguin Modern Classic marks the completion of a nine-year project by Penguin to publish twenty-one of Le Carre’s novels, thus making him the most published author in this iconic series, acknowledging him as a writer not only for today, but for all time. As Helen Conford, Publisher Director at Penguin Books says, ” John Le Carre is one of the most important writers of our generation. For twenty-one of his novels to be published as Penguin Modern Classics is an acknowledgement not only of his immense literary achievement and the timeless quality of his work, but a well-deserved recognition of his significance as a writer who holds a mirror up to society, and encourages us to question the world around us.” The October transmission of the screen adaptation is brought to us by the award winning producers of The Night Manager, and stars Alexander Skarsgard and Florence Pugh.

The Little Drummer Girl is a page-turning story of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of the Middle East conflict, and I found it significantly different in tone and composition to the George Smiley series, and his other spy novels generally, which I am more familiar with. I think its no exaggeration to say that Charlie goes on an emotionally and physically draining journey during the course of this book, quickly maturing from an outspoken, incredibly dislikeable, and shockingly naïve young woman as she becomes a tool of the sinister Israeli Secret Service in their plot to entrap a Palestinian terrorist- a plot full of bluff and double-bluff The book is incredibly dense and labyrinthian, and attention must be paid, as some characters have different identities, and as a reader you are always second guessing their intentions and motivations in this unceasingly complex plot. With Le Carre’s always impeccable detail to plot structure, characterisation, location, and social and political mores of this particular point in history, the book manages to balance a sense of menace and claustrophobia with a convoluted love story that ties into the themes of loss and betrayal, with an immensely powerful denouement. A complicated. but ultimately satisfying read, that any admirer of John Le Carre will savour…

*****I have a copy of The Little Drummer Girl to giveaway to one lucky entrant in the prize draw. Simply leave your details in the contact form below (your details will not be displayed) by midnight on Friday 12th October to enter. UK only.***** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED*** 

Congratulations to the winner Andrea Hedgcock

The Raven will be in contact soon for your mailing address! 

You can buy the complete range of John Le Carre Penguin Modern Classics here 

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#BlogTour- Matthew Richardson- My Name Is Nobody- Extract

Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for Matthew Richardson’s debut spy thriller, My Name Is Nobody. I reviewed this book a few weeks ago, and was struck by how it retains all the tension and atmosphere of a very traditional spy thriller, but with a refreshingly contemporary take on spies, lies and espionage. Here is the opening chapter from the book for your delectation and delight, and read my review here .

Solomon Vine was the best of his generation, a spy on a fast track to the top. But when a prisoner is shot in unexplained circumstances on his watch, only suspension and exile beckon.
Three months later, MI6’s Head of Station in Istanbul is abducted from his home. There are signs of a violent struggle. With the Service in lockdown, uncertain of who can be trusted, thoughts turn to the missing man’s oldest friend: Solomon Vine.
Officially suspended, Vine can operate outside the chain of command to uncover the truth. But his investigation soon reveals that the disappearance heralds something much darker. And that there’s much more at stake than the life of a single spy…

Prologue

Istanbul, August 2016

‘I know a secret,’ he says. ‘A secret that changes everything.’

Solomon Vine pulls out the rickety plastic chair and sits down on the opposite side of the table. The room is stark and empty. Dust clings to the walls.

‘That wasn’t my question,’ Vine says, holding the man’s gaze. His voice is without colour, bare of any emotion.

‘No. But it is my answer.’

‘I don’t want your secrets, I want names.’

There is an interruption as the door screeches open. Gabriel Wilde fills the space, offering a slight nod of apology. He pads across the concrete flooring and takes the chair on Vine’s left. He slides over a manila folder. Vine doesn’t look at it immediately, as if he has already memorized its contents. Instead, it sits there, free of any official marking or classifica­ tion, anonymous and deniable.

Vine lets a beat of silence fall. He needs to make the sus­ pect hear the full, noiseless force of it. There is no one else here to save him. This isn’t official embassy territory, soft­ ened by rules and edicts. There are no platoons of lawyers ready to ambush the interrogation. He is theirs, to do with what they will.

You don’t understand,’ the man says now. There is a spike of volume in his voice. He leans forwards so his upper­body weight pivots on his elbows. Despite the handcuffs, he fights for dexterity with his hands, prodding his index finger at the

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table top in rhythm with his voice. ‘What I know changes everything. Whatever you think you can do, you are mistaken.’

Vine reaches for the file and brandishes it. He opens the cover and scans the first page.

‘Mobile ­phone records show recent contact with five British citizens who have travelled to Syria,’ he says. ‘We have evidence confirming the supply of fake passports and illegal arms. Her Majesty’s government has an isolation cell pre­ pared specially for your return home. With the material we have in this folder alone, you will be sent down for life . . . Write down the names of your contacts, and we can talk.’

The man looks up, lips creasing into a smile. It is not a reflex, but a carefully calibrated action, the jaw wounded with amusement.

‘There will be no trial, no sentence, no cell,’ he says.

‘No one will save you, Dr Yousef,’ says Vine. ‘No one even knows you’re here. You have disappeared off the face of the earth. You’re lucky you ran into us before the Americans. Though if you would like to be transferred, I’m sure that can be arranged . . .’

He shakes his head. This time the smile thickens into laughter. ‘One word from me and they will let me go . . . Trust me, they will call.’

‘Who will call?’ says Gabriel Wilde, breaking his silence. He gets up from the chair and starts roaming the boxy parameters of the room.

‘The people who matter,’ says Ahmed Yousef. ‘They always do. If they want my secret, they will pay the price. It is the terms of business. Nothing more.’

‘A secret that changes everything?’ says Wilde. He stops behind Yousef ’s chair and dips his voice to a whisper. ‘It

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better be a bloody good one. A grass can never be too careful . . .’

‘It’s the best,’ says Yousef. ‘They will call. You will see.’ ‘And if they don’t?’

Yousef doesn’t answer. He looks to the closed door. As if on cue, there is the flash of the alert light, a throb of red that upsets the blankness of the room. Vine feels the first cramp of unease as he gets up from the table and makes his way to the door.

It is cool outside. There is another sound behind, and Vine turns to see Wilde following him down the long line of grey corridor to the control room. An RMP guard all fi ety eyes and nervous speed waits with the phone.

‘Who is it?’

‘The switch at HQ,’ he says, handing over the red receiver.

As Vine waits to be connected, the guard turns to Wilde. ‘Your wife also called, sir. She needs you back at base. She

said it was urgent.’

Wilde doesn’t display any twinge of anxiety. Instead, he says to Vine: ‘You OK to finish this? I’ll be back as soon as I can . . .’

Vine nods, careful not to react at the mention of Rose. The control room is full of monitors, a glassy panorama of concrete floors and airless turnings. He sees Wilde make his way down the hall and in the direction of the car park. A voice emerges through the crackle on the other line.

‘Please hold for the Chief . . .’

One burr later, the gravelly tones of Sir Alexander Cecil fill the speaker.

‘Is it true?’ the voice says. ‘I’m sorry?’

‘Is it true, Vine? You have Ahmed Yousef in custody?’

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‘Yes,’ he says. ‘He’s not talking at the moment. But we’re getting there. The product he was carrying should be enough to put him away this time.’

There is no response on the end of the line. Vine can feel the weight of it, like a silent throat­clearing. ‘I never said this, Vine. Are we clear? This never came from me.’

‘I’m sorry?’

Youre to release Ahmed Yousef immediately. I don’t care where you drop him, but see that you do so within the next half hour.’

I know a secret . . . A secret that changes everything . . .

Vine halts, unable to reply immediately. Sweat begins to gather on his forehead, a tightness pressing on his gut. ‘The line’s bad. Repeat please.’

‘You caught it perfectly well, Vine. Just do it.’

Vine waits for another moment, topping up the compos­ ure in his voice. ‘What’s going on?’

‘Nothing’s going on,’ says Cecil. ‘Drop him and continue with whatever you were doing. Don’t ask questions. Not this time.’

‘Sir, we have direct evidence implicating Ahmed Yousef in the cases of at least five British citizens arriving in Syria. He is a priority­one target on the NSC and CIA Most Wanted lists. We have more than enough material here to prosecute. This makes no sense.’

Cecil’s voice frosts over now, the words newly brittle. ‘This isn’t a discussion, Vine. There are more important things going on here than you can possibly imagine. Carry out this order or I’ll damn well get someone else to.’

With that, the line cuts off. Cecil’s voice is replaced by a scratchy monotone. Vine hands the receiver back to the RMP guard. He glances at the monitors.

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He turns to the guard. ‘Is there anyone else in the building?’ ‘No, sir,’ he says. ‘Just you, me and the prisoner.’

Vine waits. Once said, the words can’t be unsaid. ‘Good. I want you to go dark until I say so. If anyone asks, blame it on a power cut.’ He notices the scrunch of concern on the man’s face. ‘Refer any questions to me.’

He looks up at the monitors for a final time to see Gabriel Wilde’s car inching out of the driveway escaping all conse­quences with immaculate timing. He watches as the guard begins methodically turning the cameras off, each screen blinking fuzzily and then blank.

Then he leaves the building and walks into the blast of heat outside. He unfurls a lighter and a cigarette. The sun bruises his face. He can already feel the pincers moving to­ wards him. Cecil will have engineered things in London to make sure the call was never logged. If it goes wrong, Cecil will be able to plausibly deny he ever gave instructions to let Ahmed Yousef free. But, if Vine doesn’t follow through, he will find the full might of the fifth floor against him. The game demands a scapegoat, and he is now theirs.

He keeps on smoking, letting the minutes drift away, try­ing to will things clearer. Eventually, he douses the final one and turns. As he walks, the words repeat, tumbling over themselves.

There are more important things going on here than you can possibly imagine . . .

Curiosity compels him forwards now. The secret looms like a challenge. He treads back through the dour hallways, not yet sure what he will do. But he finds himself suddenly longing to be away from here, tired of patrolling the huts and compounds, starved of oxygen and scenery; tired of the decisions and the choices.

5

He buzzes back into the secure area and makes his way down the thin final corridor. The interrogation room lies at the end, aglow with a harsher whiteness. Vine wonders again what hold Yousef has on London. What does he know? What grubby deal has he engineered that sees him immune from further questioning? Why would the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service intervene personally to demand his release?

I know a secret . . . A secret that changes everything . . .

Vine reaches the door and pauses for a moment. He feels a new anger begin to work its way up from the pit of his stomach until it fills his throat.

He presses his card against the scanner and hears the door click open. He tries to brush aside any final doubt as he steps into the brighter light. He knows what he will do, what he must do.

It is then that he stops. In front of him is an empty chair, a hollow space where Ahmed Yousef should be. But that isn’t it. There is something else wrong. He looks down at the floor and sees the first splashes of colour against the grey­ ness. It seems to ooze and wander according to a logic of its own. Slowly, he traces the source, a lump of shadow behind the table.

Ahmed Yousef is lying on his back, blood haloing around him. It looks like a gunshot wound. Without stopping to cal­culate the consequences, Vine finds himself pressing the alert button. A keening noise smothers the building.

Soon the steps of the RMP guard sound outside. The door opens with a ponderous click.

He knows they have minutes at best. With the amount of blood loss, they could already be too late. He strains to feel a pulse. But there is just flesh, slippery and raw.

6

‘Call for an urgent medical team,’ he shouts. ‘We need to evacuate him now. As the guard turns, Vine says: ‘Find out who’s been in here and how the hell this could have happened.’

The delay seems to last for ever. He takes out the emer­gency medical kit and begins doing everything he can to stem the blood loss. But the blood spatters his fingers and up his arms. His clothes become damp and sticky. He tries again to find any signs of consciousness, feels just the fading echo of a pulse.

Minutes later, the guard returns. ‘Evac team on their way from base, sir. ETA five minutes.’ He starts to walk further into the room then stops and hovers.

‘What is it?’

Vine turns. He realizes what he must look like a butcher, or a surgeon.

‘I’ve found the card that was used to enter the building, sir,’ he says. ‘Ten minutes ago. With the CCTV down, that’s the only identifier we have.’

And?’ Vine says impatiently. Who was in here? Who did this?’

The guard doesn’t answer at first. He looks nervous, as if unable to summon the words.

‘It was you, sir.’

Meet the author…

Matthew Richardson studied English at Durham University and Merton College, Oxford. After a brief spell as a freelance journalist, he began working as a researcher and speechwriter in Westminster, and has also written speeches for senior figures in the private sector. My Name is Nobody is his first novel.

My Name Is Nobody is available now- published by Penguin Books

 

 

 

Matthew Richardson- My Name Is Nobody

Solomon Vine was the best of his generation, a spy on a fast track to the top. But when a prisoner is shot in unexplained circumstances on his watch, only suspension and exile beckon.
Three months later, MI6’s Head of Station in Istanbul is abducted from his home. There are signs of a violent struggle. With the Service in lockdown, uncertain of who can be trusted, thoughts turn to the missing man’s oldest friend: Solomon Vine.
Officially suspended, Vine can operate outside the chain of command to uncover the truth. But his investigation soon reveals that the disappearance heralds something much darker. And that there’s much more at stake than the life of a single spy…

Oooh I do love a good spy thriller, and a behind the scenes look at the secret world of espionage, so was more than a little tempted to read My Name Is Nobody, having heard debut author Matthew Richardson talk about the book at a recent crime fiction event. Tapping in perfectly to this popular genre, inhabited by such heavyweights as John Le Carre, Charles Cumming, and Mick Herron, how did this spy thriller measure up? Hailing from Cheltenham, the home of world renowned government listening post GCHQ, and currently working within the hallowed walls of Westminster, the home of British democracy, or skulduggery, depending on your viewpoint, Matthew Richardson brings his knowledge of both locations to the fore. Set aside the mysterious shadowy worlds of MI5 and MI6, and an obvious appreciation of spy tradecraft, Richardson serves up a twisting, and duplicitous tale of counter-bluff, and dishonesty worthy of his contemporaries. Beginning with violent events during an interrogation of a suspected terrorist in Istanbul, and the abduction of MI6’s Head of Station in its aftermath, disgraced agent Solomon Vine, begins his own unsanctioned investigation into these startling events, inviting a whole heap of trouble…

Overall, I found this a well-plotted and multi-layered spy thriller, resplendent with detail on the workings of some of Britain’s most secret inner sanctums, and a never less than accurate and atmospheric portrayal of Richardson’s chosen locations. This applied to the echoing chambers of Westminster itself in the pulsing heart of London, the dreaming spires of Oxford, the rolling countryside of Gloucestershire and the excruciating blandness of Cheltenham rail station and its environs. The action moves quickly and seamlessly between these locations, as Vine endeavours to uncover a major conspiracy, where the old adage applies of trust no one, be this in Vine’s investigation or as we discover in a series of flashbacks, those closest to him. Indeed, my prevailing thought throughout was that I felt unable to trust anybody, and more than a few characters may not appear to be all they seem. I’ll say no more than that on the plot.

Although the plot of My Name Is Nobody was incredibly well structured, with its attention to the workings of Britain’s security services, and some nice old school spy tricks, I was a little less convinced by the characterisation, and a slight over-reliance on repetition in the plot. I don’t know how convinced I felt by the main players as they were a wee bit cardboard cut-out, and some of the personal upheavals in Vine’s life were too well signposted, and a little predictable for this reader, but I think the strength of plotting, storytelling and location counterbalances these small hiccups. A good old fashioned spy thriller with a good contemporary feel. Recommended.

(With thanks to Penguin for the ARC)

Blog Tour- John Sweeney- Cold- Review

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In the feeble light of a London winter, Joe Tiplady walks his dog in the snow. He is not alone. Two men are tracking him, as is a woman with wolf eyes. Soon Joe will find himself caught in a storm of violence and retribution that he does not yet understand.

Around the world, a chain of events is in motion that will make Joe a priceless target. A retired Soviet general hunts for his missing daughter after a series of brutal murders. A ruthless assassin loses something so precious he will do anything to get it back. And in the mountains of Utah, a brilliant ex-CIA chief wrestles with his religion.

In the shadow of them all lies Zoba, strongman ruler of Russia and puppet-master of the world’s darkest operatives. Can Joe save himself from this dangerous web of power and revenge? Where can he run when there’s nowhere left to hide?

So, eyes down and here we go on the first stop of the Cold blog tour. Welcome aboard to a striking new thriller from intrepid journalist John Sweeney, who neatly uses some of the less savoury characters he’s encountered in his professional career to populate his cast of baddies. That Zoba, for example really reminded me of…er…whatshisname…you know the short Russian guy. But joking aside, I really rather enjoyed this tangential and breathless caper…

Split into three main storylines, and globe trotting from America to Europe, Sweeney weaves a tale of greed, deception and violence, that affords ample opportunity on the part of the author to expose and explore some well known conflicts and acts of dissension by weaving them into the back stories of his main protagonists. This also builds a rapport with us as readers, as we recognise both the more obvious, and sometimes more secretive allusions, to familiar events in history, and the less well documented incidents of corruption within governments or security services, that Sweeney has obviously witnessed. Sweeney consistently puts his characters into the hands of shady forces operating outside of their jurisdiction, causing them, and us as readers, a great deal of chagrin. There is a good use of circumnavigation throughout, and Sweeney places his characters, and thereby drives the plot forward, in his judicious use of a number of locations.

To be fair, I’m not sure that all threads of the story worked completely in symmetry with one another, as some characters seemed forgotten about for prolonged stretches of the book, or there was a certain amount of unexplained serendipity that transported other characters from A to B in the plotline so seamlessly. However, the plot did, for the most part, trot along quite nicely, and I liked Sweeney’s control of pace, ramping up the tension at the optimum moments. Overall, I found the story of Gennady, the retired Soviet general, seeking the truth about his daughter’s death, the most absorbing of the strands, and was genuinely moved and fearful for the resolution of his story as his actions became more desperate. His story also afforded us an opportunity to see inside the socio-political life of Russia a little more which added further interest to his narrative.  I was also quite taken with the quiet stoicism of ex- CIA operative Ezekial ‘Zeke’ Chandler, questioning his Mormonism, and revealing himself as an astute and wily operator when his razor sharp intelligence is called upon to help other characters out of a jam. I was less convinced by the pseudo James Bond pairing of Joe Tiplady, a former terrorist, and the sultry Russian femme fatale Katya Koremedova on the run from one of her particularly nasty compatriots- cue cut-out Russian baddies- and found their story arc slightly less credible overall, with some elastic plotting to push their story onward, and a smattering of slightly clunky dialogue when they are forced into more intimate scenarios. There’s also a couple of thankfully brief, excruciating sex scenes,  with a couple of lines of which made me laugh out loud, (howling like a wolf anyone?) which was probably not the intention, and again the Bond motif loomed large, as 007 always manages to squeeze in a bit of saucy business too. But on the subject of humour there are also some perfectly placed moments of levity and acerbic wit which were genuinely funny, and I also liked the slightly cheesy poetry recitation in the midst of peril. All will become clear.

As I said at the beginning of my review, I did rather enjoy this, and anyone looking for a new thriller with interweaving strands, locations and incisive socio-political comment can not go far wrong with this one. I really quite liked the intermittent naivety of plotting and characterisation,  as there were some real edge of the seat moments packing a proper punch, yet tempered by some interludes of clear sighted consideration of social ills, and other weighty issues. All in all,  an enjoyable thriller.

 

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Blog Tour- Yusuf Toropov- Jihadi: A Love Story- Review #Jihadi #BlogTour

4Well, this blog tour for Yusuf Toropov’s Jihadi: A Love Story is on to the final furlong, but stopping off today here at Raven Crime Reads for a review of this clever and thought-provoking book…

A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist whose annotations paint a much darker picture. As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment, but who is the real terrorist. Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, Jihadi: A Love Story is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions. Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind…

Suffused with unreliable narrators, shifting timelines and locations, addendums to the text encased in grey boxes with a miniscule font, and short diversions from reality, this is not an easy read, and attention must be paid throughout. I really found that a few precious moments reading time snatched throughout the day were not conducive to the pleasure of reading this book, and only when reading substantial sections at a time did the real intelligence and cleverness of this book impact on me more. It is also by extension, one of the most difficult books I have had to review, so bear with me…

The nature of the writing from the outset is challenging, and you may feel a little ‘all-at-sea’ when first embarking on this, until the characters gain a foothold in your mind, and the swift changes of narrative begin to establish a pattern and rhythm. But beware because, as a further ramification of this initial state of confusion, you will be further toyed with by Toropov as things happen, both cruel and unusual that will surprise and shock you in equal measure, further heightening the strange state of unreality, and the pure unpalatable truths of reality that the author seeks to convey. In simple terms, the whole book reads as a memoir, narrated by an American special operative on his return from a particularly ill-fated incursion into an unnamed Islamic state, and the characters and incidents that impact on his personal experience. However, this story then delineates to address far bigger themes, amongst them, the nefarious grasp of religious radicalism counterbalanced by the beauty of true religion, feminism, love and loss, and the clash of cultures that leads to violence and human collateral damage. Consequently, the essential style of this book is difficult to pinpoint as it reads like T. S. Eliot, fused with Homeland, with a soundtrack of The Beatles The White Album (referred to in the aforementioned grey boxes), interspersed with references to the Koran, whilst ultimately fulfilling its criteria as a heightened socially, and culturally aware, literary thriller.

Every single character within the book is shrewdly drawn, causing a gamut of emotions within the reader themselves, from the appalling actions of Mazzoni, an American marine, the religious rabble rousing of Abu Islam, the road to conversion of our main narrator Thelonius himself, and my favourite character Fatima, a good Islamic woman whose personal experiences lead her on an unexpected but completely justified path to revenge and retribution. Between all the protagonists we bear witness to the very best and worst of human behaviour, their prejudices and goodness, and how the predatory nature of some individuals wreaks havoc on the innocent, and undermines our faith in each other. This blend of assured characterisation to pass comment on issues that ultimately affect us all is extremely cleverly done, not with browbeating and preaching, but with a thought-provoking and subtle prod for us to consider our own responses to these weighty issues.

So shut out the world, turn off that phone, ramp up The White Album by The Beatles, and devote time to this to appreciate it fully. It is a challenging and, at times, a difficult read, but this is a good thing. Embrace it, and I think you’ll find this a pleasingly different reading experience.

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(With thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for the ARC)

 

Catch up with, or continue to follow this excellent blog tour at the sites below…

8

Anthony Horowitz- Trigger Mortis

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Following in the footsteps of Sebastian Faulks, Jeffrey Deaver and William Boyd, Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz proves itself one of the best retro-James Bond novels to date. Having been left a little bruised and confused by Horowitz’s excursions into the world of Sherlock Holmes, I was more than a little wary of his contribution to the Bond ouvre. But as my recent quote to customers of this one being a ‘really Bond-y Bond novel’ attests, it’s been a total delight to have my apprehension over this one so delightfully undone…

The absolute stand-out feature of this book, is with how much care, attention, and respect, Horowitz affords his depiction of James Bond himself. The little references and attention to the smallest details of Fleming’s legendary secret agent is first class, and more than once a wry smile of recognition passed my lips, as some character detail was inserted effortlessly into the narrative. It was also gratifying to see a small section of Fleming’s own writing woven into one of the chapters, accrued from Horowitz’s obviously studious reading of Fleming’s work authorised by his estate. Hence, Horowitz’s depiction of Bond carries with it a wonderful sense of familiarity and authenticity, which has been sometimes noticeably absent from a couple of the proceeding Bond pastiches. Equally, when one mentions Bond it cannot go without comment that there will be women involved! There is a welcome reappearance of the kick-ass Pussy Galore at the start of the book, but somehow this felt a little unresolved, and didn’t quite gel within the book as a whole. However, with the inclusion of the brilliant Jeopardy Lane, who steps in when Pussy Galore departs , Horowitz has created a female character who encapsulates all that you want from a female character being both feisty and brave, but posing the all important question… is she immune to Bond’s charm? You’ll have to read it to find out!

The plot is terrific carrying all the quintessential moments of extreme peril for our hero, as he becomes immersed in a plot to perpetrate a terrorist attack on New York, under the cover of a U.S. Rocket launch in the fifties space race. There is a good balance between all the attendent details of the U.S. vs Russia space race, and as a bit of a space nerd, I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the story. Earlier in the book there is a heart in mouth episode as Bond also takes part in a death defying motor race at Nurburgring, which is wrought with tension, but again underscored by Horowitz’s obvious research into the motor-sport of this particular period. The book consistently contains an air of peril, with all the action and violence one naturally expects from a Bond adventure. Bond’s nemesis in the book is the sinister millionaire Korean- Sin Jai-Seong aka Jason Sin- who in true Fleming style arouses a strange kind of sympathy in the reader with the tale of his damaging formative years, but is still a total megalomaniac ne’er do well- an archetypal great Bond villain. His twisted verbosity and deranged demeanour is brilliantly rendered, and he is a villain worthy of the attention of the debonair and dangerous Bond.

So altogether quite keen on this one, with some superb characterisation, a good high quotient of derring-do and all the little details that fit this book so nicely into Fleming’s legacy. Maybe for this reader just not enough Pussy- Galore that is…

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)