Everyone knows who James Bond is, or at least they think they do. The James Bond I know is the James Bond of the films, particularly those featuring Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig as the man with a license to kill.
But that James Bond – suave, smooth, likeable if a little angsty and high maintenance – is not necessarily the James Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels. Granted, I’ve never read a Fleming novel, but by all accounts Anthony Horowitz’s Trigger Mortis is a pretty faithful rendition of Fleming’s character, and Horowitz seems the perfect person to write a Bond novel, having created a young spy, Alex Rider, who is kind of Bond junior.
In Trigger Mortis Bond is sent to Nurburgring to prevent SMERSH from killing a British racing driver. While there he becomes suspicious of a meeting between SMERSH and a Korean millionaire, Jai Seong Sin. Bond has to team up with the clever Jeopardy Lane to stop a plot that could destroy the western world.
Horowitz’s Bond isn’t a pleasant person. He treats women badly (including Pussy Galore, who is living with Bond at the beginning of the novel), and while Jeopardy Lane is a feisty, independent heroine, she’s still treated largely like an object by Bond. We do see Bond show some humanity once, when he hesitates before killing someone, but if anything that moment doesn’t do him any favours, instead it just feels out of character, even if that character is unpleasant.
I found the start of Trigger Mortis fairly slow. We spend a lot of time hearing about and seeing Pussy Galore, again I think to show a softer side to Bond (at least briefly). I wasn’t really interested in this aspect of the novel, and just wanted to get straight to the action.
Once it arrives, the action is brilliant. There’s a great car chase (Trigger Mortis includes some original material by Fleming written for TV but never used, and that material is around the race track – I have no idea exactly what part it is because it fits in seamlessly), a glamorous party Bond has to make a quick escape from, and a climax that is as good as any adrenaline-fuelled ending to a Bond film.
Trigger Mortis is a good read, but I read it as more of an experiment, to try and find out about the literary Bond. It turns out he’s not really a character I like, although Horowitz writes him very well. I think though, when it comes to Horowitz and spies, I’ll stick to Alex Rider.
How I got this book: From work