- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2015


By Anthony Horowitz

Harper, $27.99, 320 pages

It is most difficult to resist a book called “Trigger Mortis” and you shouldn’t. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, surely would have been delighted by this confection that recreates the hilariously bizarre and bloody times of the immortal Agent OO7, not to mention Pussy Galore.

Anthony Horowitz, already famed in England as a novelist as well as for his brilliant wartime series “Foyle’s War,” has stepped neatly into Fleming’s handmade shoes and takes a footnote to admit how much he enjoyed it. Indeed, it is as much fun to read about the return of James Bond as it must have been to write it. The author has deftly moved back in time to an era when the marvelous phrase “trigger mortis” is used by technicians as a dig at the struggles of the over-bureaucratized American space program and the embarrassment of rockets that blew up to the glee of the Russian competition.

It’s not as if the plot could or should be taken seriously except by perfectionists who grumble at Bond’s choosing to drink a Negroni instead of a martini before he beds Jeopardy Lane, a Secret Service agent who is more serious about her work than Pussy Galore. The author gives only fleeting attention to the notorious Pussy although she has her moment of fame when two bad guys paint her a lethal shade of gold which will clog her pores to the point of painfully asphyxiating her. Rescued by Bond, she survives and ungratefully runs off with a glamorous English lesbian whose charms apparently appeal to her even more than those of Mr. Bond.

Mr. Horowitz obviously did his technical homework, as he generously acknowledges in an admission that he could not have offered such details without the help of genuine experts. He demonstrates his reliance on their aid in quite remarkably detailed chapters on daredevil car racing when Bond is assigned to a Grand Prix to save an English driver and for good measure turns a Russian secret agent to toast. He displays equal skill again as he explains why a space rocket didn’t succeed and the reasons for its failure. Then there is the train he blows up. You can’t complain about any lack of melodrama.

The reader has to keep in mind that the book is set in the Cold War and the race for space, with evil Russians represented by Bond’s old enemy SMERSH. The chief fiend this time around is a Korean known as Jason Sin who uses a pack of lethal playing cards offering assorted forms of nasty death as his means of executing offenders. He tries to bury Bond alive and the reader is treated to all the grisly moments of suffocating on dirt. Sin wants to blow up Manhattan with a bomb-carrying train, not so much because of his political bias as to revenge himself on Americans who killed too many Koreans during the war over there. Americans don’t come out too well in terms of space efficiency. There is a Colonel Blimpish quality to some of the staff and there is a nice irony in the fact that the CIA expresses its gratitude to Bond in the shape of a suite at the Plaza.

There is more violence than sex for entertainment and Jeopardy Lane is less impressed by the charms of Mr. Bond than most of his conquests. There is the impression that she is not only good at her job as an agent, but that is her primary interest in life. This is, an attitude on the part of women with which Bond is not usually familiar.

However, the climax is pure Bond, the agent who fails to pay attention to who is trying to murder him now and almost succumbs to the murderous intentions of Dimitrov, the Russian agent whom Bond reduced to what he thought was toast in the Grand Prix. Dimitrov is still badly scorched but his target is still Bond. And of course he underestimates the English agent. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it to say, Bond shines. And so does his Bentley. It’s all great fun.

Muriel Dobbin is a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy newspapers and the Baltimore Sun.

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