James Bond is back in this week’s book shelf, as I continue my adventures with 007, and John Gardner’s sixth novel chronicling the missions of the British secret agent. This time, Bond’s adventure takes him from England into Ireland and then to the Far East with a tension-filled ending set in China.
M assigns 007 to a troubling mission, one that connects to one he conducted five years earlier – he helped a couple of people out of East Germany, a couple of, as the saying goes, honeypots, who were there to turn German and Soviet leaders and get them to inform on their government.
Now, it seems someone is hunting these people, and those they turned, down, and murdering them brutally. Intentionally keeping his agent in the dark to keep him safe, Bond is sent off with the barest of information of an operation known as Cream Cake, and is behind the eight ball almost from the off.
With a couple of essentials proved by Q Branch, 007 sets off to recover three women, and one man, who helped turn KGB and GRU officials before they are hunted down and murdered. But what if someone amongst them is a double or even triple agent?
As usual with Gardner’s Bond stories, the double agent is easy to figure out, but that doesn’t stop some pretty enjoyable sequences, including a manhunt that serves as the climax of the tale, with 007 as the target.
Joining him on the adventure, one of the young women who was turn a KGB officer, Ebbie Heritage, is the love interest for the story. Unfortunately, she doesn’t really distinguish herself from any of the female characters that have appeared in these stories before her. She’s simply the trope beautiful love interest in the story, no matter her supposed abilities as a would-be spy.
And there are some incidents early in the novel which serve as a clear signal of who the double agent is, and you honestly want to smack 007 in the head for not realising it as quickly as you, as the reader does.
That being said, there are some fun moments throughout, and there was a truly fun reveal that I didn’t see coming as the story progressed to its inescapable conclusion. I also love the fact that the few gadgets Bond is given in this story are basic, and make sense as standard issue items.
Gardner’s tales for 007 are fast-paced, and over quickly, lacking the scope of the films, even with the exotic travel. That’s not a complaint. These missions seem smaller, but just as important, and the goals are laid out for the reader and Bond… the fun is getting to them.
Gardner still has a number of missions for James Bond, so I will be digging eagerly into another tale, because James Bond Will Return in Scorpius!