Behind the Iron Curtain, a group of former Smersh agents want to use the British spy in an operation that will change the balance of world power. Bond is smuggled into the lion's den - but whose orders is he following, and will he obey them when the moment of truth arrives? In a mission where treachery is all around and one false move means death, Bond must grapple with the darkest questions about himself. But not even he knows what has happened to the man he used to be.
Fleming’s books are spare, fast-paced, and better written than you might expect. But they are shot through with sadism, cruelty, and revulsion at non-Anglo-Saxons. They make you wonder about the author. (The standard photo of Fleming—insouciant, with cigarette holder—is not reassuring.) Within bounds, a modern writer needs some freedom ... With a Mind to Kill is Horowitz’s third Bond novel, and the most ambitious in this trilogy. Whether ambition is an asset will be a matter of taste ... Horowitz is a master of quick portraiture ... With a Mind to Kill is one of the best-written Bond novels ever published. It’s also one of the more ambitious: It tries to get inside Bond’s head, and in fact it needs to ... One can ask: How three-dimensional do we want 007 to be? His existence as a cipher is itself a dimension, mysterious and seductive.
Horowitz does brave work capturing the style of the originals...and you suspect the author enjoyed himself hugely ... Horowitz manages a wide variety of tone ... The plot – honestly, not sure it matters – is Fleming-like in its restlessness, people forever moving from one place to another to have another adventure ... The original books are of their time: sexist, nonsensical, but still a fantastically good read. The new version is just as compulsive – exciting, atmospheric and with non-stop action. Resistance is futile. Just give in and enjoy.
A bold set-up ... Bond in the USSR is a neat conceit, but it’s not an escapist one. Although some of the quite short novel takes place in a swish hotel, shabby Moscow in the 1960s has little of the glamour that distinguishes the character (and not just in the films) from what George Lazenby might have termed 'the other guys'. Instead, much of the action boils down to a duel between Boris and Bond, often taking place in the latter’s head, which is a different kind of thriller ... Horowitz is faithful to Fleming’s conception of 007, albeit pared of some of Bond’s toxic masculinity for modern sensibilities. The homages are all there — betrayal, a comely female psychologist, a brutal fight in a metro station. Horowitz, though, is more interested in contemplating an older Bond filling up with accidie, wondering what it’s all for ... Bond’s appeal is rooted in his not ageing, in a self-possession and self-regard that is not blunted by experience. He’s the eternally cool hero for eternal adolescents. Skilfully though Horowitz writes, and exciting as it often is to be in the company of his Bond, the version that remains inviolate is the one forged by our imaginations. The word is not enough.