Thursday, December 6, 2018

Book Review: FOREVER AND A DAY (A James Bond Novel)

HARPCOLLINS – @HarperCollins @HarperBooks

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

AUTHOR: Anthony Horowitz – @AnthonyHorowitz
ISBN: 978-0-06-287280-7; hardcover – 6 in (w) x 9 in (h); (November 6, 2018)
304pp, B&W, $26.99 U.S.

“James Bond” is a fictional British Secret Service agent created by Ian Fleming, a British writer and novelist.  Fleming introduced James Bond in the 1953 novel, Casino Royale, and featured the character in 14 books – 12 novels and two short story collections.  Of course, most people know Bond because of the long-running James Bond-007 film series, which began with the 1962 film, Dr. No.

After Fleming's death, a number of authors continued to produce James Bond novels, including Trigger Mortis (2015) from author Anthony Horowitz.  Horowitz returns with a new Bond novel, Forever and a Day.  It is a prequel to Casino Royale and recounts the birth of James Bond as a “Double-0” agent and the formation of his identity.

Forever and a Day opens sometime in the early 1950s (1952?).  We find ourselves in the office of M, the head of the “Double-0” section of the Secret Intelligence Service.  His “Chief of Staff,” Bill Tanner is giving M information on the apparent murder of Agent 007, whose body was found in the water of the basin of La Joliette, in Marseilles, France.

Several mysterious figures seem to float in the periphery of this murder scene.  There is Jean-Paul Scipio, a Corsican crime boss.  He owns the chemical company, “Ferrix Chimiques,” but he is also known for his involvement in the heroin trade.  There is Irwin Wolfe, who is a major player in the creation of photographic film stock for movies via his company, “Wolfe Europe.”

There is a CIA agent, Reade Griffith, who also seems to be investigating 007's murder.  Most intriguing of all is Joanne Brochet a.k.a. “Sixtine” a.k.a. “Madame 16.”  She is a former British Special Operations agent who disappeared and then reappeared as some kind of free agent and go-between.  Sixtine looks out for herself rather than for any nation.

Into this intrigue arrives James Bond.  Fresh off an assassination, Bond is called before M, who makes the young agent and World War II veteran the new 007 and then sends him to France to find out who killed his predecessor and why?  Now, Bond must discover if any of the four previously-mentioned individuals is the ally or the enemy who killed the first 007.  It’s time for James Bond to earn his “Double-0” designation, which is a license to kill.

I have only read one of the fourteen James Bond books that Ian Fleming wrote and that was Dr. No (1958), the sixth book in the series.  I think that I have read two or three Bond short stories, although I cannot recall which ones (the result of four+ decades of reading prose fiction).

I found Dr. No to be a spy novel as much as it was a secret agent story.  I see spy novels as related to mystery-suspense and detective novels.  I think of secret agent fiction to be more action oriented – in some instances.  In Dr. No, Bond was secret agent with a detective's skills, and the book was a thriller with some “action scenes.”

Forever and a Day reminds me of Dr. No.  Yes, there is a fast, loud, and violent car chase scene that is straight out of the recent James Bond films which are often fast and loud with hyper actions scenes.  However, in Forever and a Day, Anthony Horowitz mixes secret agent, spy, and detective to create a novel with a measured pace that focuses on the development of Bond's character and personality in the context of being a “Double-0” agent.  Horowitz also gives us one of the best “Bond girl” relationships I have ever experienced as a Bond fan, although “Sixtine” is not anybody's “girl.”

I am a fan of Anthony Horowitz.  This is the third of his novels that I have read (although Trigger Mortis is not one of them), and I love his British television series, “Foyle's War.”  I am not going to claim that Forever and a Day is a great novel, but it is a good real that recalls the pre-film franchise, literary James Bond.  I enjoyed Forever and a Day enough to hope that Horowitz returns to Bond again.

7.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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