Anthony Horowitz’s third and final James Bond novel (2022) is an excellent finale.
In many ways this feels and reads like an Ian Fleming novel. Horowitz has yet again captured the voice, the mood, the period, even to the point of naming his chapters such as ‘A Room with No View’.
The story is taken up two weeks after the conclusion of Fleming’s The Man with the Golden Gun. So it’s set in 1965. You don’t have to have read this last Fleming novel, though it might help.
It begins with the funeral of Admiral Sir Miles Messervy, known to some as ‘M’. (Too many other characters in this chapter have names that begin with ‘M’ – Sir James Molony and Sir Charles Massinger). A dramatic beginning. But. Things are not what they seem.
Bond is assigned to investigate a new organisation in Moscow, Stalnaya Ruka – Steel Hand. They seem to be planning some outrageous action that will tip the balance in Russia’s favour in the Cold War. We are then privy to the machinations of the members of Steel Hand guided by Colonel Boris who was previously responsible for brainwashing Bond after You Only Live Twice. This section is reminiscent of Fleming’s insight into the Smersh meeting in From Russia With Love, though somewhat shorter. In this scene there is a chilling exhibition of the power of Boris’s mind-control over a subordinate (p47).
Indeed, there are numerous cross references to previous assignments, villains, female conquests and books; none of them are heavy-handed, merely apt.
Bond was ambivalent about the assignment. Re-entering the brainwashing lair was dangerous. Could he survive? Yet ‘Bond needed death, or the threat of death, as a constant companion. For him, it was the only way to live.’ (p209)
Needless to say there is a beautiful Russian woman, Katya. And he is faced with a particularly unpleasant Russian whose name is so unpronounceable it is invariable shortened to Colonel G.
A satisfying conclusion to Horowitz’s series.