After wobbly attempts to meld the quipping movie Bonds with the brooding British knight of the John Gardner stories, Benson brings the ageless superspy back to his Eurotrash roots—the French Riviera and the casino at Monte Carlo.
This time, Bond is pitted against a supervillain as suave as anyone Ian Fleming dreamed up: the Union, that ghastly international crime club reminiscent of Fleming’s Spectre, has made a deal with crazed Japanese industrialist Goro Yoshida, and it gives nothing away to say that the scheme brings new meaning to the concept of “bombing” at the Cannes Film Festival. Masterminding the plan is Union boss Olivier Cesari, introduced in Double Shot (2000), who, while sightless, has eerie psychic abilities that let him sense his surroundings and read playing cards before they’re dealt. As Bond dispatches a horde of minor Union thugs in some of the best action scenes Benson has brought to the series, Cesari dreams in turn of luring Bond to an early death at Cesari’s Corsican hideout. Along the way, Bond this time beds only one woman, the superrich, supersuccessful, French actress-couturier-supermodel Tylyn Migonne, “arguably the most beautiful girl [Bond] had ever seen, and he had certainly seen many.” Estranged from her husband, the odious French film producer (and secret Union member) Leon Essinger, Migonne seduces the all-too-willing Bond, who, having just lost 300,000 francs at the Monte Carlo Casino to Olivier, is in need of emotional uplift. Benson brings back a minor character from the Fleming series, equips Bond with a laser-spewing camera, and, after our man saves the day, leaves plenty of plot threads untied for a sequel.
Flaccid prose and creaky dialogue no worse than Fleming’s. Benson seems to have hit his stride in this, his liveliest and nastiest Bond book yet.