Critics have praised Anthony Horowitz’s James Bond novel Trigger Mortis (Orion), although there has been some criticism over his inclusion of Bond girl Pussy Galore and his characterisation of Bond as more sensitive than Ian Fleming’s original hero.
The book, set two weeks after the end of Fleming’s Goldfinger, features Bond girl Pussy Galore and sees Bond battling against SMERSH and a Korean supervillain.
The Telegraph’s Jake Kerridge said the Ian Fleming Estate “has made a canny choice in Horowitz”.
Horowitz “has had the ingenious idea of showing us Bond in the act of doing something which we know he does a lot, but Fleming would never have dreamed of writing”, said Kerridge, referring to Bond “dumping his conquests”.
“For the most part, Horowitz makes a good fist of capturing Fleming’s tone of casual cynicism,” said Kerridge, who gave the book four stars out of five.
Kerridge continued: “Ultimately, Horowitz seems to me to have captured the spirit of Fleming more successfully than his recent illustrious predecessors in the Bond-sequel game, Sebastian Faulks and William Boyd. But one can hardly be surprised to find that Trigger Mortis doesn’t quite have the compulsive quality of Fleming’s best work.
“Fleming’s genius...was to make the reader truly believe in his cartoon baddies and wish-fulfilment-fantasy hero. It would be a miracle if another writer could pull off the trick to the same extent.”
Sarah Ditum in the Guardian said that as “long as Trigger Mortis follows the contours established by Fleming, it’s a brisk and effective ride” but that “problems arise when Horowitz deviates from the model”.
Ditum said Pussy Galore was a “deeply difficult character to revive for a modern audience: a lesbian gang boss who is turned by Bond…and who reveals in pillow talk that she is the victim of incestuous child sexual abuse”.
“It’s to Horowitz’s credit that he brings her back as something like a three-dimensional woman, giving her an arc that surpasses Bond’s hackneyed Freudian masculinity,” said Ditum. “On the other hand, that arc takes up fully the first quarter of the book, which feels like a long time to defer the thrills of a thriller in order to make a joke at the hero’s expense, however gratifying the punchline.”
Ditum also said Horowitz’s Bond “is curiously not quite Bond”.
“He’s still a sexist and a xenophobe, although the narrator no longer endorses this chauvinism,” she said. “But this Bond is uncharacteristically cultured: he has a habit of literary allusion that suggests a sudden personality change… Even weirder, this Bond has qualms about killing – not the after-the-fact ruefulness on show at the beginning of Goldfinger, but a genuine respect for human life that intercedes in acts of violence.”
Barry Forshaw in the Independent said: “In an era of new exploits for characters by dead authors…there are those who will feel that this is a pointless exercise – who could write Bond books better than Fleming? Not Horowitz, but this is nevertheless a clever and enjoyable pastiche, which manages to press many of the buttons that were the purview of 007's creator.”
Nicholas Lezard in the Evening Standard said Trigger Mortis is a “bonkers but hugely enjoyable story, which has everything in it we want from Bond, and more”.
Felix Salmon in the New York Times said the task of writing a sequel of sorts to Goldfinger is “impossible” beause the Bond of Fleming’s novel is a “sexist drunk” and “unapologetic racist”.
“So although Trigger Mortis begins two weeks after the end of Goldfinger, its protagonist isn’t — could never be — the same Bond,” said Salmon.
But, said Salmon, “the heart of any thriller is the plot, and here Horowitz doesn’t disappoint”.
“Horowitz also stays true to the Bond of Fleming’s books rather than the Bond of the movies,” said Salmon. “His hero is human, self-doubting, weak, in a way that is hard for a movie star to be in the context of a decades-long franchise and Monty Norman’s immortal James Bond theme. And while Horowitz’s loving pastiche lacks Fleming’s flashes of brilliance, it should be more than good enough for the fans. The only real question is why anybody felt the need for this book to be written in the first place. Much of the excitement of Bond comes from his contemporaneity. Instead of trying to rehabilitate the bigoted Bond of the 1950s, we should keep our dapper spy in the movies of the present, where he belongs.”
Trigger Mortis is out today (Tuesday).