Like Pentagon dinosaurs laboring to adapt to a new world order by finding telltale traces of the old in every dark shadow, Gardner's reincarnation of James Bond examines a string of serial killings and finds a freelance terrorist just as dangerous as his old adversaries from SMERSH and SPECTRE. Bond's called in when MI5 agent Laura March is killed at Interlaken. Going through the things in her hotel room, he and Flicka Von Grasse, his leggy opposite number from Swiss Intelligence, find a disturbing letter from Laura to her late brother, a serial beheader of blonds, and fax a copy back to M. While they're coupling in Bond's room, the letter itself is stolen, and M, citing the "grave moral scandal" (so much for updating Bond's morality), ostensibly removes Bond from duty. Back in England for Laura's funeral, Bond notices a bizarre floral tribute--a red-tipped white rose--linking Laura's death to four other recent assassinations, and to the flower's only breeder: Maeve Horton, sister of Laura's onetime fiancÇ, distinguished actor David Dragonpol. There follow the requisite scenes of tourist-trap mayhem--at Schloss Drache, Dragonpol's Alpine aerie, atop the roof of the Duomo in Milan, and at EuroDisney, where the murderer has planned one last, ultra-high-profile strike--but Gardner's lack of conviction reduces everything to retro-fluff. Bond really isn't cut out for the work of tracking down serial killers, even the ones whose targets include Yasir Arafat and Kiri Te Kanawa. As Gardner struggles to update the perils his superstar hero faces, Bond himself remains the biggest anachronism of all.