This review is from: High Time To Kill (James Bond - Extended Series Book 32) (Kindle Edition)
The plot is simple: a new terrorist for hire organisation steals British military secrets only to lose them at the top of the world's 3rd largest mountain. As the vast resources of unfriendly foreign governments & criminals alike are employed to retrieve them, the UK puts its faith in one man with a little mountaineering experience & a Walther PPK.
Score: 9/10. What to say that hasn't been said? Probably Benson's best, a fine thriller in its own right and a great Bond novel. Derivative in the best sense, ideas and set pieces that echo Fleming's books abound: an opponent 007's equal; free market terrorists; high stakes golf match; car chase. Even the multinational expedition into icy territory with a traitor in the midst is reminiscent of Gardner's favourite 007 whodunits. More broadly Bond himself feels like Fleming's man: competitive, passionate, conflicted and brooding over relationships.
The point is that it's done so well, the writer sufficiently confident to make each element his own. Thus the golf game is no mere rehash of Goldfinger but feeds Bond's lifelong rivalry with Marquis, whose similar background means he's no KGB superman. The mountain itself is the showpiece, playing to all Bond's strengths as a resourceful man of action, sportsman and international trouble-shooter. As exotic a locale as may be found in Fleming's work, it's uniquely remote for a modern 007 tale; dangerous and physically & mentally taxing.
There's lovely writing about Nepal, a building sense of doom and gripping violence. The pace is superb, with characters killed off as we try to guess their loyalties. Benson's in control of a raft of different characters, all of whom pursue well thought out and logical motives without depriving our hero of page time. As villains the Union & Le Gerant are given time to breathe by making this the first of a trilogy, allowing the book to focus on the near at hand villains.
With Simmons going out of business like Morlands before them, Bond now smokes bespoke Tor cigarettes and he's drinking both vodka and bourbon in keeping with the Fleming books. He's in a relationship with his secretary Helena Marksbury that truly develops, and we even encounter the Governor of the Bahamas from Quantum of Solace!
The only downside is the sometimes patchy prose and dialogue. Admittedly heavy handed in places, several commentators have overstated the problems here. Whilst characters are apt at times to think or state the obvious, Benson successfully gives each their own voice- often successfully conveying character with a surprisingly delicate touch. It's immensely readable, the most fun since Gardner's best 007 novels and with the greatest sense of adventure since Fleming himself wrote!