Posts Tagged ‘Bond’


Detective fiction is a funny thing. The moment of most conflict and drama generally takes place outside the narrative, often before detective has been called in. The narrative arc is pretty formulaic: scenes are inspected, witnesses interviewed, discrepancies explored. And the conclusion is pretty predicable: the culprit is identified and society made safe from him or her. And they can become self-parodic: the body count in the various villages around Midsomer and Cabot Cove and St Mary’s Mead; the stereotypes of the detectives – the lonely genius of Holmes and Morse, the cantankerous Inspector Frost, the rebellious Luthor; the implausibility of the amateur sleuth.

But they are beloved!

And I love them.

They are the form of writing where the relationship between the reader and writer is at it’s most active and mutual. It is a dance, a tango; it is a battle of wits; it is a running joke. The reader is constantly building his own narratives, reconstructing the clues presented to him, re-evaluating the interviews. We judge and weigh up both the characters and the writer: we know that the early obvious suspect is a red herring with another 300 pages to read or another hour to watch.

And this book is a hymn to these classic, golden age cozy novels and their modern television counterparts – perhaps unsurprisingly as Horowitz has written for Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War and written two new “official” Holmes novels as well as taken on Bond.

The novel is, as they say, a book in two parts: the first half is a presented as the ninth Atticus Pünd novel by Alan Conway – echoes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot abound in Pünd: dapper, clever, gentlemanly, foreign and a consultant to various police forces in 1950s England; the second part is a contemporary investigation by editor Susan Ryeland into the death of Conway himself and a search for the missing final chapters of his book.

Ryeland as a narrator is herself steeped in detective fiction and the novel is a delightful homage to and pastiche of the cozy detective novel – eschewing the darker notes that have grown with the growth of “nordic noir”.

Whilst well crafted and engagingly written, it is not a deep portrayal of character: Susan as a character and narrator was a little two-dimensional and her relationship with Andreas was not terribly fleshed out; the characters within the Atticus Pund novel had no more depth. In both parts, the characters felt like little more than chesspieces moved around and into place by the writer.

And there did seem to be an awful lot of summarising and of recapping of the information given in the previous couple of hundred pages which, ironically, could have been edited out quite happily. And the opening chapters which methodically showed every main character’s reaction to the first death in Conway’s novel felt somewhat formulaic and by-the-numbers.

Horowitz played with a range of different voices in the novel: Conway’s narrative voice in the Pünd novels, his true voice and his somewhat pretentious derivative literary voice; we hear snippets and extracts from these and from his sister and a rival would-be writer. It did come across as a little smug in parts, a little too self-consciously clever. Did he name his author Alan Conway after the conman who impersonated Stanley Kubrick? Did he rely on plant names for his characters in the same way that Susanna Ryeland, working for Charles Clover, derided Conway for doing? Invented interviews between Horowitz and an author who doesn’t exist promoting a book that Horowitz wrote himself…

It’s a great, fun read and a cosy winter’s treat, like an open fire and mulled wine. But it’s no literary masterpiece.


Miniature review due to absence of Internet and wifi. In fact, only now possible because phone can – sometimes – get some reception…

There was quite considerable hype about this book online which led to my getting it: phrases like Bondesque and Bournesque appear to have been coined in order to describe it.

It is a commitment of a read at well in excess of 750 pages! But it also rattles along at a very good pace: it is structured in four parts of fourteen, fifty-one, seventy-two and fifty-two chapters in each. That makes one hundred and eighty-nine chapters of four pages each. Not a very scientific approach – nor a terribly literary one – but an indication of pace.

Personally, I thought Part One was the strongest: our narrator, Pilgrim, was called to a seedy motel to advise on a particularly unpleasant murder. It is written in an effective and familiar CSI-style: slick, professional and effective in what it does.

From this starting point, the narrative entwines various threads into a solid rope. We learn of Pilgrim’s own background as a member of a shadowy secret service investigating the secret services prior to 9/11 and the twin towers’ destruction; we learn about the backstory of a character known as The Saracen – a name that possesses somewhat chilling connotations of American demonisation of the Arab world. Pilgrim and The Saracen become embroiled in the sort of high stakes cat-and-mouse hunt across international borders to avert a huge terrorist threat to the USA.

Some reviews I’ve read have compared this with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It is not in that league by a long shot: Pilgrim is a far less engaging or damaged character that Lisbeth Salander; the writing is more slick but also more conventional and familiar and perhaps cliched.

In conclusion, this was a decent, competent and effective espionage thriller. There were no real surprises. No really compelling characters. A significant hint of Americanism which, depending on your tastes, could jar – it did with me! Overall… a classic summertime boys’ beach read.