The books have been out for years and summaries are easily found online. I’d like to highlight what stood out for me: immense pain. Let’s dive in.
WARNING: spoiler alerts!
Trigger Mortis (2015) has breathtaking moments and an incredible pace with the plot unfolding while the villain is monologuing. His cruel and empty soul is partially understandable, but his actions are of course, inexcusable. His cruelty has a voyeuristic and sadistic element as he makes his victims select their own method of death. He then watches as the light leaves their eyes.
Bond’s fate is to be buried alive. Here’s what stands out for me: Horowitz describes being buried alive and figuring out a plan to escape in such detail, that you feel claustrophobic just reading the scene. I checked the acknowledgements to see what research was done to shape this part of the book. If I overlooked it, let me know but I didn’t see it. Being buried alive transported me briefly to “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe. But I shook those images off reading how Bond figured out a way to escape.
Forever And A Day (2018) is the second in the trilogy. When Bond is faced with a most horrible, disfiguring fate Horowitz takes it up a notch. His words let the reader see and feel the skin-shriveling disabling consequences of acid throwing that makes you instinctively touch your face. And if you think that after surviving the acid throwing scene you can relax and just enjoy pure Bond action, forget it. Horowitz has another painful torture scene in store for his readers. Bond gets injected with drugs and the author describes the hell of becoming addicted. These torturous drug scenes are so well written that you clutch your veins and are ready to swat away anyone approaching you.
What irritated me in this book was how Bond was taken in, maybe too quickly, by characters who are affiliated with organizations he wants to trust, at least with his life, and of course, those whose appearance he likes.
The attacks on his health in this book are substantial but wait until you read the next book.
With A Mind To Kill (2022) Bond is subjected to brain washing. This whole book was a raw experience. Loyalty is tested to the extreme, cruelty is explored in depth, emotions that come naturally with blood ties are shredded to pieces and so are conscience and integrity, until you ask: what would you do to survive?
When you pick up this book look at the page behind the table of contents. We are in 1973-1974. We are amid the oil crisis that targeted my home country of the Netherlands. We went through car-free Sundays which meant biking and roller skating on the highways. Not realizing what caused this unexpected adventure, we kids rolled on and off the ramps. Another thing we were too young to realize was of course the Cold War and how we were affected by the USSR and the USA. Too young to realize yet details remain. That is exactly this book.
Bond has fallen into the hands of the KGB. Their torture and brainwashing methods are described in a very plain worded manner that leaves nothing to the imagination. The words chosen by the author make you feel Bond’s helplessness as he gets brainwashed to kill M. Back in London, he does indeed make that effort. However, he fails because to M’s credit, precautions were taken. You fully expect M to be done with Bond but he is reminded of who Bond once was and so he plots a different course.
The cruelty of brainwashing is probably why I like Bucky or better James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes as a character in another franchise. Despite the swiping of the brain and undoubtedly the torture that preceded it, a small detail latched on and will not let go. He needs Shuri to finally break the code in his head and you wonder, who will be there to help Bond break his code? Find out for yourself.
This book is a nail biter and not just because of the great plot. It is a fast-paced train wreck that will grab hold of you. But what grabbed me more than the unfolding of the layers in the plot, was Bond’s mental struggle with his memory and sense of self-preservation.
One of red threads that runs through Horowitz’ trilogy is that having a license to kill does not mean you have to kill. In each book there is a reflection point where Bond easily could have lost control of his humanity and killed just because he can. But he doesn’t. Read for yourself who it is he lets live.
Last notes about the trilogy
*Best cover: Forever and A Day. Designer James Iacobelli created a retro cover that immediately transported me to the Riviera. To learn more about the cover, Iacobelli’s work process, and the other cover version of this book, check this link.
*Best villain: Colonel Boris. A man who not just loves absolute control, he is thrilled to see how his absolute control will destroy another person, even a close one. The man does not need food to life. He thrives on people’s pain. Pure coldness. Of all the villains in this trilogy, the Colonel is the best developed character.
*Regrets: I wish there was more about Ms. Moneypenny, Sam King, and Zypher.
Highly recommended reading!
My other book reviews are here.