James Bond returns in Trigger Mortis, by far the best of the continuation novels to be penned by a big-name author (it follows official Bond books by William Boyd, Jeffery Deaver and Sebastian Faulks). Anthony Horowitz is clearly a fan of 007; more importantly, he’s captured the relentless cruelty and lean action that make Ian Fleming’s novels such an enduring body of work despite the antiquated Cold War scenario. Horowitz doesn’t mess with the formula – no modern-day setting, inner turmoil or downplaying of Bond’s 1950s opinions. Yet there are some modern touches that ensure this isn’t just Horowitz mimicking his literary hero. He’s also audacious enough to reintroduce Pussy Galore in a story set in 1957, a few weeks after the events of Goldfinger. “The conquest had been particularly satisfying to Bond,” we learn of the relationship between the British spy and the American leader of an all-lesbian crime gang based in Harlem. Perhaps it’s not a union built to last, though.
Luckily for Horowitz, he also gets to play with a recently discovered TV outline for Bond, written by Fleming, that was never used. Murder on Wheels is incorporated into Trigger Mortis and has Bond on a German Grand Prix track attempting to steer a Maserati at 160 miles per hour while preventing a Soviet assassination of a British racing champion. You don’t need to be a fan of Top Gear to find it utterly thrilling. The fiendish Russian plot also involves a sinister Korean businessman, the early days of the space race and rocket technology, though Trigger Mortis is not a re-run of Moonraker. Nor is it replete with boys’ toys like many of the films. Horowitz has remained true to the novels of Ian Fleming with this masterclass in James Bond.