The Facts of Death (1998) – Raymond Benson

James Bond is back.

Building off his previous short story, Blast From the Past, the novel, Zero Minus Ten, and his adaptation of Tomorrow Never Dies, author Raymond Benson thrusts 007 into another globetrotting adventure that takes him from London to Texas, and Cyprus in an attempt to stop a viral outbreak and a growing number of terrorist attacks which all lead to a Pythagorean cult, a fascination with numbers, and Greek gods.

With the help of his old friend, Felix Leiter, and a lovely Greek agent named Niki, James goes after a group known as the Decada, which may have some infighting of its own going on, determined to stop the attacks before they escalate to full out war between Greece and Turkey.

Benson keeps the story rocketing along, ratcheting up the tension with the panache and punchy prose one expects from the Ian Fleming-created literary universe. As always, the novels feel smaller in scale when compared to the exotic sweep of the films, but the chases and action beats all pay off, even if a reader knows what to expect from the story.

The formula is well at work here, and Benson keeps it delightfully fresh, even though you know there will be seductions, Femme Fatales, gadgets, monologuing villains, and explosions. Benson’s take on Bond still has callbacks to the events that have occurred before, grounding it in the reality of its established universe, and it’s also interesting to see a little growth in the character (he can only change so much from story to story).

In this case, it is the developing respect and relationship he has with his boss, M. Keeping in line with the film version of the universe, M is a woman, and the two are settling into a rapport and have finally developed a healthy respect for each other.

There’s sex, violence, and of course a cool car.

In fact, Benson seems to be having a great time blending a bit of the film version of 007 into the book series. The novels haven’t always been keen to use a lot of gadgets, they pop up now and again, but the new car, a Jaguar, definitely feels right out of a big-screen Bond.

Reading this one, it’s easy to tell that Benson is not only an accomplished storyteller, he really loves every incarnation of James Bond, and he seems intent on combining all the things he loves about the novel and film series and delivering solid adventures of the British agent.

I’m greatly enjoying his time with the character so far, and can’t wait to see where the franchise leads me next time. Because you know…

James Bond will return in Midsummer Night’s Doom.

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