Horowitz celebrates his return to the James Bond franchise (Trigger Mortis, 2015) by providing the story of 007’s very first adventure in 1950.
Five years after World War II has ended, Bond slips into the Double-O ranks by committing his first duly licensed execution. Then, on the orders of M, he prepares to go after the people who made his promotion possible by dispatching the first 007. The assignment takes him to Marseilles, where his nameless predecessor was shot three times. Was the killer Joanne Brochet, aka Sixtine, the special ops–trained freelance agent who makes a living selling information to the highest bidder? Or was it Irwin Wolfe, the wealthy, aging American businessman Sixtine’s taken up with? Or was he killed on the orders of scale-busting Corsican ganglord Jean-Paul Scipio, whose latest endeavors have made him worth his weight in heroin? Sixtine and Wolfe tell plausible stories about their presence in Marseilles, and Scipio does Bond the favor of not killing him on their first meeting. Setting his cap on getting closer (much closer) to Sixtine, Bond soon has her warbling her darkest secrets into his ear. He’s made enough waves to attract unwanted attention, though, and soon enough he’s hoping he’ll get bailed out by CIA agent Reade Griffith. Horowitz unfolds this tale in prose as knowingly workmanlike as Ian Fleming’s, and readers hungry for details of Bond’s origin story will find out why he demands his martinis shaken, not stirred. But although he conscientiously hits all the obligatory notes, taking care not to outshine his master, there’s nothing here that would make the unwary suspect how fiendishly inventive Horowitz can be when he’s not laboring in Bond’s shadow (The Word Is Murder, 2018, etc.).
Crisp, unpretentious, and bound to please the legion of fans for whom a world of Bond is never enough.