Published simultaneously in hardcover, Kindle and audiobook, Anthony Horowitz’s latest James Bond thriller returns readers to the exciting Cold War era from which 007 emerged. ‘With a Mind to Kill’ sends Bond on a dangerous mission to the other side of the Iron Curtain. The events of the novel follow directly from James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s final novel, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, which was originally published posthumously in 1965. That classic title, and its predecessor, ‘You Only Live Twice’, are referenced throughout ‘With a Mind to Kill’ and influence the unfolding story.
Bond is damaged goods after his mission in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Captured by the Soviets, he was brainwashed and returned to the UK as a double agent. ‘With A Mind to Kill’ opens with M’s funeral, and Bond is conspicuous by his absence from the graveside. Surely he couldn’t have played a part in his commanding officer’s death? In a world of double and triple bluffs, and double and triple agents, nothing is as it seems. Bond is convinced to return to the field because he has unfinished business and the opportunity for revenge. But to pull off the mission successfully, he has to use all of his powers of restraint and conviction to persuade the Soviets that he remains a sleeper agent and under their control. Little does he know, in wading into the enemy territory of East Germany and Russia, he is going to be tasked with assassinating someone whose death would change history…
As Bond infiltrates a new secret organisation operating within the Soviet Union, a natural successor to Smersh, he comes face to face with an old tormentor, Colonel Boris. Originally created by Ian Fleming for ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’, Horowitz fleshes out the sadistic Colonel Boris here, and crafts him into a classic James Bond villain. There are others too in the upper echelons of the terrorist group, but it’s Bond’s personal animus towards Colonel Boris that makes him such a memorable character.
‘With a Mind to Kill’ is a clever and highly-satisfying espionage thriller, which is full of neat twists and ingenious reversals that will keep even the most attentive listener guessing until the final page. The labyrinthine course that Anthony Horowitz takes his reader on has been plotted with exceptional skill, so much so that it is an unalloyed joy to be lead along by a writer so fully in charge of his material. This title will especially delight aficionados of Fleming’s canon. With every economic yet vivid description, it’s hard to believe that ‘With a Mind to Kill’ has not come from the pen of the legendary Ian Fleming himself. The attention to detail in capturing Fleming’s literary style is the mark of a true craftsman: the way in which Bond lingers over tobacco and alcohol is pure Fleming. So too is Bond’s taciturn nature and his gruff sense of morality. He saves the lives of those on his side when he can, even if it means making his own escape more difficult, but he does so begrudgingly, with an absolute refusal to suffer fools gladly.
There is the complexity, too, with which Horowitz stays truthful to Bond’s view of romance. In the figure of Bond girl Katya, Horowitz successfully keeps us guessing as to whether she will turn out to be a femme fatale, tragic heroine or just simply a love interest. The only thing the reader is certain about is that Bond would discard her if he ever suspected treachery. Brutal, perhaps, but informative of Bond’s character: the emotions we mere mortals take for granted, such as affection, remain for Bond on precisely the same knife-edge as his own survival. It’s a dangerous but seductively risky world, fuelled by mistrust and an alertness for deceit. There is no room for sentiment. Horowitz nails precisely why Ian Fleming’s novels were so popular in the first place. Put simply, he gets James Bond. Horowitz is the natural successor to Fleming, and the alluring world of James Bond is safe in his hands.
The audiobook is narrated by Rory Kinnear, who has played the recurring character of Bill Tanner in four out of Daniel Craig’s five James Bond films. He proves the perfect choice, and pleasingly, Tanner pops up in this title too. His voice is engaging and nuanced, but steady rather than stilted. His characterisations are consistent. He plays Katya with more of a delicacy than is suggested by the text, but it is the age-old problem of male actors embodying female characters convincingly for audiobooks. However, his delivery of James Bond’s lines is superb, achieving (though possibly not by design) a satisfying cross between the natural authority of Sean Connery and the charming baritone of Roger Moore.
‘With a Mind to Kill’ kept us hooked and thoroughly entertained from the intriguing opening at M’s funeral through to the epic final showdown. The ambiguous ending hints at more adventures to come, and we certainly hope so. Readers who love a good Cold War story will find much to enjoy here. Now that world events are setting Russia apart from the West once again, the fictional events set in the 1960s resonate even more strongly. Here’s hoping that the movie producers eventually go for that reboot and take us back to the Swinging Sixties to put Horowitz’s Bond titles on the big screen. In the meantime, James Bond lives again on Anthony Horowitz’s pages.
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK audio Release date: 26th May 2022 Buy ‘With a Mind to Kill’