Trigger Mortis is the latest in a long line of novels featuring the character James Bond. Like the last, by Sebastian Faulks, this was commissioned by the estate of Ian Fleming and, also like Faulks’, the book is set in the era when Fleming wrote the originals (the 1950s and 60s). Attempts to bring 007 up to date on the printed page have failed. Anthony Horowitz has done well to capture the original spirit of the man.
Horowitz takes the unusual step of inserting this book into the Fleming timeline, rather than just afterwards like others such as Faulks and Kingsley Amis. Trigger Mortis is set directly after Goldfinger (1959) and does something that no other Bond book does, which is to carry a so called “Bond Girl” forward into a second novel. The wonderfully named Pussy Galore rolls into this tale, taking up residence in Bond’s flat off the Kings Road in London. The sassy American pilot is not quite at ease in London, and eventually returns home, but not before a glittering near death experience. The literary Bond never lets his affairs last beyond a few weeks and certainly not beyond the cover of an entire book. He was briefly married, to the Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo (Mrs Tracy Bond for short), but she was quickly killed by the evil Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Horowitz has an advantage over a few other imitators, as he was given some original Fleming material to work with, which involved setting Bond in the Grand Prix racing circuit. While this was only 400 or 500 words, it is a tribute to Horowitz’s style that I did not notice where he inserted Fleming’s original dialogue. The racing theme is a great one for James Bond, even if his job is to crash rather than to win.
I particularly like the bad guy in the novel, the aptly named Jason Sin. Given how many psychopaths and megalomaniacs we have seen bent on world domination, or even destruction, it must be increasingly hard to come up with a plausible baddy these days. Jason Sin is a genuinely evil Korean with a good reason to hate Americans. I like his modus operandi for killing off those who displease him. A specially printed pack of cards with a different means of death printed on each card. There are three blanks in the deck to give everyone a slim chance of survival.
The fictional James Bond is a very different person to his screen persona. No wise cracks and one-liners and a much more ruthless streak which only Daniel Craig has been allowed to bring to the screen. In the earlier books Bond drinks and smokes continuously, although Horowitz does not let him slip back to the 60 a day that Fleming gave him in the 1950s. Fleming also used a lot of what I suppose we would now call “product placement”, using names and brands of cars and guns, watches and wines all over the place. Horowitz tries to do this too, but it seems a little fake, perhaps because of the 60-year time gap that he is trying to fill. It is not highbrow fiction, but it is a great adventure story. Easy to read and easy to enjoy.