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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 5 October 2014
Possibly one of the most poorly-written books I have ever read. I made it to 40% of the way through before I had to stop reading. It's like the author is so conscious that he's writing a "Bond" book, that he has to get absolutely every single reference and Bond cliche in there.

For example, at one point meets his mission partner in a canteen on an Army barracks at 10am. While he's waiting, he is asked if he wants a drink. What does he order? Yep, a vodka martini. In an Army canteen. Of course they have the requisite ingredients just to hand, and whip him up his morning cocktail.

After the first couple of chapters I started highlighting parts that were really poorly written (Benson seems to be the master of tautology for a few chapters, then drops it) but there are far too many to put into this review. For a start, Bond keeps referring to a colleague as "Dave". Would he ever really do that?
Someone checks into a hotel: "Yes, Mr Peters your room has already been paid for. How many nights will you be staying?" How can the room have been paid for if they don't know how long he's going to be there?
He meets a Belgian contact: "Her English was good, but Bond could tell she wasn't terribly comfortable with it." Then in the next paragraph she suggests "Let's stick to English, I need the practice."

Then there's the glaringly inaccurate "facts" that Benson includes, I can only think in an effort to make himself seem smart. Sadly it would be too much of a plot spoiler to reveal a lot of these, but suffice to say when a plane crashes into a mountain, it's not going to be change from cabin pressure to air pressure at 26 thousand feet that kills you...

I urge you, stay away from this one. I've read some great "follow-on" Bond novels by Faulks, Boyd and even Jeffrey Deaver's one was pretty good. This is not. Oh dear.
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on 6 July 2009
Raymond Benson's fourth James Bond novel, "High Time to Kill" was released the same year as the EON's "The World Is Not Enough" starring Pierce Brosnan in his penultimate 007 film. Whereas that film had a convoluted plot and drifted into inanity, Raymond Benson was delivering what many Bond fans hail as one of the finest instalments in the 007 cannon.

The novel begins with a few nods to the past as James Bond relaxes on a Jamaican holiday with his secretary Helena Marksbury, with whom he is involved in a secret affair as colleagues aren't supposed to be romantically connected. They are invited to a party hosted by the Governor of the Bahamas (who appeared in the Fleming short story "Quantum of Solace" - unrelated to the Daniel Craig film) and all seems well until blackmail and murder raise their ominous heads. A chase ensues between Bond and the killer, and already we're off to a flying start.

This isn't really relevant - and after a Goldfinger-esque golf match, the main story begins when a secret formula named "Skin 17" is stolen by a traitor. M - the female chief of SIS (which M16 is now known) - sends Bond to follow the traitor to Belgium.

The formula is hidden in a pacemaker which is then implanted into a Chinese man, and during his journey via air, the plane is hijacked and crashes into Mount Kangchenjunga - the third highest mountain in the world. The organisation who stole the formula are naturally angry and plan to climb the mountain in a bid to retrieve the microdot which is worth billions. The Russian Mafia, the Chinese and also the Belgians are after it - and, under M's orders, so is James Bond. A mountaineering party is assembled, including his arch rival from Eton, Roland Marquis, and a pretty New Zealand doctor prophetically named Hope Kendall. The race is on to see who can reach the site of the plane crash and claim the priceless microdot, and storms lay await ahead.

Like Ian Fleming's classic novels, the action is downplayed in barter to suspense and espionage, but the books moves at a swift pace - even if the main plot doesn't really begin until page 130. Many fans and critics languidly compared it to the Sly Stallone flick "Cliffhanger", and maybe that's a worthy comparison, but whereas that 1993 film employed an over reliance on action scenes and set pieces, "High Time to Kill" delves heavier into suspense and mystery. There's an enemy sniper on Bond's team - but who is it? Such mystery is gripping, and the novel is a marvellous read throughout.

Its excellence is infinitely higher than Sebastian Faulk's ultimately mundane "Devil May Care", and Benson's novel is staggeringly more deserving of the former book's incredulously high marketing efforts. With "High Time to Kill", Raymond Benson shoots high - and lands right on target.
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on 23 July 2000
In the novel, Bond, first encounters The Union, a terrorist organisation reminiscent of SPECTRE. Unlike most Bond novels in which you are aware of the villains and their intentions, the book keeps you guessing all the way through the expedition up Kangchenjunga, the third tallest mountain on earth. I thought the expedition was a most origianal setting far superior to the the work of John Gardner. It was also faster moving than any other Bond novel I have ever read, and also had a very contempory feel to it which I liked. There were three main women in the book and two bad guys- Harding and Marquis. I give the book top marks for plot, originality and over all being the best Raymond Benson effort to date.
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on 5 February 2001
High time to kill succeds where other bond novels failed with the tension and suspense created throughout the novel. Beginning with the stealing of a susperior material, skin 17, bond has to track the villians who stole it, but meanwhile comes accross the Union. The Union is a criminal organisation who have bribed, blackmailed and killed many high authority figures to get their way. As good as SPECTRE and just as ruthless, bond has a real threat to his aspirations, which I feel has been missing for quite a while!
Bond has to track and find skin 17 for the British Government so they can get back some of their political and economical strength, but the book also sees bond going head to head with his old rival Roland Marquise. The Climax of the book is an expedition up the 3rd tallest peak in the world to retrieve this skin 17. But Bond has to overcome members of the Union who have infiltrated the expedition group as well as the extreme conditions.
Bensons writing really creates a tense atmosphere and makes you feel like you are up the mountain. This book is superbly written and makes you want to keep reading and reading. Bond at his best and back to basics.
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on 12 September 2013
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!
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on 25 July 2000
Quite a good novel for a man I didn't think could cut the grade as Bond's writer. In this this instalment of Bond's escapades, Benson has truely created a BRILLIANT criminal organisation to equal that of SPECTRE which was created by the late Ian Fleming. Each individual character has been fully fleshed out and makes you interested in their objectives. This particular story has some great set pieces, some quite dramatic pose and truely evil villians. Benson has lost none of Flemings capablities in capturing the reader from the very start, though the story does tend to bog down during the middle, though it does raises itself towards the end. Thoroughly enjoyable and welcome back Mr. Bond.
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on 3 May 1999
I've been a fan of the Bond books since the early sixties, and I feel Benson has done a tremendous job in capturing Fleming's original mood and flavour. 'High Time to Kill' is his best yet, miles above the first two (no pun intended) as Bond has a unique adventure in the Himalayas. I found the book immensely suspenseful and the characterizations having the kind of depth certainly missing from the films-- and I don't see this novel as being 'film-like' in any way. If anything, it reminds me more of something along the lines of Fleming's own 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service.' This is a bloody good Bond novel.
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on 28 September 1999
After Benson's previous efforts, I did not expect much from High Time To Kill. But I was pleasantly surprised. The book is pretty well written and has an engaging storyline. What continues to annoy is a spate of Americanisms which Benson has Bond saying. Benson's Bond behaves differently from those of Ian Fleming and John Gardner and despite Benson's best efforts, there is a lack of continuity with previous Bond novels. But on the positive side, it's a novel which is so exciting, it virtually turns the pages itself! A thrilling easy to read book which I finished in two nights. Recommended.
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on 27 May 2001
Having read most of the Fleming Bonds and a few of the Gardner's I was prepared for a good solid spy story. What I found was a fantastic Mountain climbing adventure that I started at Ten at night and could not put down till Six in the morning when I had read it to the end!!!! I've always enjoyed 007's adventures and this one had me enthralled his illicit affair with yet another MI6 assistant, his long time rivalry with Roland Marquis, and his remarkable skill in yet a whole new field, mountain climbing!! i'd reccomend this book to any Bond fan instantly.
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on 25 November 2003
HIGH TIME TO KILL is a unique James Bond adventure. It's very experimental in its use of a single setting in the second half of the book, while still deftly adhering to the classic James Bond formula. No "continuation novel" demonstrates a better understanding of what makes a classic Bond story (and HIGH TIME TO KILL surpasses even some of Fleming books in this regard). Most of my feelings come from the second half of the book when Bond is in the Himalayas. This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen Bond participate in before – yet all the Bondian ingredients are in firmly in place: Villain, sidekick, Bond girl, contest, breathtaking (literally this time) locales, exotic culture, set-piece showdown and coda. But every one of these "classic" elements (which in the movies have drifted toward clichés) feels 100% fresh because it’s all set within the context of a reality-based high concept idea: Mountain climbing. The overlaying believaility of the concept elevates the characters and makes the book truly suspenseful in a FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE sort of way. Even the almost always fumbled "this time it’s personal" element works perfectly here. We understand that the villain is driven by his competitive masculine/sexual ego (a subtext of almost all Bond villains), but the possibility of altitude sickness motivates his classic Bond Villain megalomania in a completely believable way. The ice axe throwing competition between Bond and the villain is as gripping as any casino face off. Bond catching a glimpse of Bond Girl Hope Kendell undressing in her small tent is much sexier, IMO, than a Halle Berry bursting from the sea like a Bond Girl Jack in the Box. Bond's sidekick, a Sherpa, is indispensable in a way most of the Bondman sidekicks are not. The "gadgets" this time are all real, but still exotic (cutting edge climbing equipment, the oxygen tent), and what better test of 007's stamina than a savage mountain climbing expedition? There is a return to the idea of 007 as a master of the extreme sport in this book that is very much a part to the world of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. In fact, I think Fleming would have eventually written a book just like HIGH TIME TO KILL.
There's more, but suffice to say HIGH TIME TO KILL is the perfect fusion of the high-concept Bond formula and the completely believable and fascinating world of high-altitude mountain climbing. If you're looking to sample a non-Fleming James Bond novel, THIS is the one to get.
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