James Bond is back, and while I’ve enjoyed Gardner’s efforts with Ian Fleming’s 007, with the minor exception of The Man From Barbarossa, this entry, his thirteenth (of sixteen) feels like a real stumble. It seems to want to be more in line with the cinematic 007, but without a solid story, or set pieces to hang on the narrative.
Paired with a Swiss agent, Bond is off across The Continent to investigate a series of assassinations, and to ferret out the guilty party and bring them to justice, making James a policeman in this entry in the series, and while it tries to play out as a bit of a mystery, there is no real question of who the guilty party is, James and his female counterpart simply have to prove it, and stop them.
Gallivanting throw Switzerland, France, Italy, and the UK, James once again grows increasingly close to his partner, Fredricka von Grusse, and once again, Bond seems to think there may be a future with her, even as they set off in pursuit of a retired actor, a Lon Chaney/Gary Oldman type who may have turned assassin.
There’s an elegant castle, a climax in Euro Disney (which lets Bond ride the Haunted Mansion, and Star Tours experiences as well as Pirates of the Caribbean) and a very basic story that doesn’t do much to involve or engage the reader.
Bond is drawn on to the case when an MI5 agent is murdered, and M gives him the assignment which will eventually lead him to David Dragonpol, a famed, retired actor who may just have a murderous side.
There are a number of silly mystery tropes employed in the story, I won’t lay them out here, as it may ruin the reading experience for others, but I was less than thrilled with this tale. And while it’s great to see Bond developing feelings for a woman, and inviting her back to his flat (something that has almost never happened) the series still isn’t dealing with the fact that the character is getting older.
Fredricka, or Flicka, as 007 refers to her, is an interesting character, and is portrayed almost as Bond’s equal, and despite some playful banter between the two, I never really felt that James connected with her beyond the physical, and the respect for her abilities, no matter what Gardner wrote. It just didn’t feel that way.
This one is probably the lightest, and arguably the simplest of Gardner’s tales, perhaps he is getting tired of working with Bond, or coming up with ideas for the secret agent. He has two original novels, and one adaptation left before he passes the reins on to Raymond Benson. So let’s see what he delivers when James Bond returns in…