Top critical review
He's no Ian Fleming
on 15 May 2017
When I was a little girl, my attention was caught by the cover of a book kicking around the house with a "bullet hole" design cut through the sleeve next to the 1/- 6d printed price. That was the start of my love-affair with Ian Fleming's wonderful writing and his all-action hero, James Bond. I have read and re-read all the James Bond novels, but of course you can't keep on (it's almost the same as re-watching your favourite films - all very well, but if it comes to the point when you are lip-synching the dialogue with the actors, it's time to move on).
I suppose I was hoping for a kind of "female James Bond" in Modesty Blaise - and indeed, the character and the concept aren't far wrong. It's just Peter O'Donnell's WRITING! Let's put it this way ... he's no Fleming. He gets lost in the minutae of flabby descriptions. Things that don't add anything to the plot: for example how a gun is held on with a double-something'ed gusset, attached to a hook dangling from a knotted do-dah, held on by a spigot attached to a back-brace, concealed by a piece of tape, strapped to the inner thigh ... zzzzzzzzz (will to live lost). You get the picture. By the time you've waded through some of those passages, you've almost lost the thread of the action and he's almost lost your interest. I put the book down several times and had to force myself to pick it up. I also found the ersatz Cockney of Modesty's sidekick, Willie, who is so "Gor' blimey guvn'or" that he's frankly a caricature really annoying. He's a music hall act - and it renders him unbelievable. The sex scenes are also decidedly un-sexy, but I didn't buy the book for that. I had hoped for a great story with a compelling "drive" to it - an un-put-downable read - just like Fleming's. It wasn't all bad - the story itself was OK - but O'Donnell's editor could have done him a few favours by, well, editing it. For anyone who has never read Fleming, this might be an entertaining read. For those of you who have - well, you probably needn't bother. To misquote Groucho Marx "I've read a superb action-adventure thriller - but this wasn't it".