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Never Dream of Dying, You'll Only Sleep When It's Read!
on 5 May 2001
Raymond Benson's fifth James Bond continuation novel is the finale of "The Union Trilogy" in which Bond finally confronts his arch-enemy from the previous two novels, High Time To Kill and Doubleshot, Olivier Cesari aka Le Gerant, head of deadly terrorist organization, The Union.
A "New War" has broken out between The Union and the world's security forces. 007 and his old French ami, Rene Mathis botch a raid on the old Bisset film studios in Nice (suspected of being a front for arms dealings) resulting in the deaths of innocent people. Bond is transferred to another assignment but has to plead to stay on the trail of the Union. Mathis is suspended but continues to make his own personal efforts to track down Le Gerant. Their work meets to reveal that the Union is using notoriously successful film producer, Leon Essinger's next blockbuster, "Pirate Island" to launder funds and smuggle stolen explosives. After a clue garnered from Belmarsh Prison, Bond follows the trail to Paris and then the South of France where he eventually gets involved with Essinger's estranged spouse, the beautiful actress-model, Tylyn (rhymes with smilin') Mignonne, has a "formal" meeting with his ex-father-in-law, Marc Ange-Draco which in turn leads him to a duel of chemin de fer in the royal casino of Monte Carlo with a certain Pierre Rodiac. Soon Bond is performing his own stunts on the ocean-bound set of Pirate Island off the coast of Corsica and tracking down his prey in the haunting paisan terrain of rustic Corsica before the full threat is revealed. With isolated episodes in the US (Sunset Boulevard, Buffalo Grove, near Chicago) and the Japanese Kuril Islands near Russia, the novel's journey finally ends at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently the new HQ of the Union.
It is difficult to be original in a James Bond story but Benson has managed to come up with some new ideas: an anti-terrorist assault on disused film studios, retinal tatoos, 007's capable male secretary, a chase through a TV set being used for a dog show, a deadly waterbound chase intercut with a fake film sequence, an undersea ride on a gadget-laden sled, an ingenius jail-break, a fight in a grand cinema, a full-scale commando raid and the most painful torture sequence since 007 met that carpet-beater!
Benson continues to earn his martinis! Bond's affair with Tylyn is a wonderful love story which is refreshing for its rarity. Draco's entrance is well-handled. The evocation of dream imagery and Corsican myth and vendetta gives the story thematic appeal. The globetrotting makes logical sense and Benson does conjour a sense of place and local colour. The central idea of the major Waterworld-meets-Cutthroat Island film production being used as a criminal front is a smart concept in these days of $100 million plus budgets. The novel is well-crafted and plotted: after the extremely exciting, prolonged ending, the resolution is cleverly neat, genuinely surprising and bittersweet. All these elements have been fashioned into an inventive and richly complex tale of international intrigue, fate and revenge in which a range of matters in the life of 007 are satisfyingly resolved in Raymond Benson's best James Bond novel yet.