Posted 13 September 2007 - 01:15 AM
Vladimir Scorpius sounded like a classic James Bond villain. Linked with religious cult leader Father Valentine (clever name), Gardner was capturing the zeitgeist in 1988. The corrupted TV evangelist was the villain du jour.
The book itself was a change in pace - sort of Moonraker mixed with Dr No. The mainly UK locations and pacing worked well for me. Gardner conjured a sense of atmosphere and mystery. The opening car chase from the SAS base was fantastic and the SAS character, Pearlman was the first successful supporting character in the Gardner books. Harriet Horner was a fun character. Things went downhill when the plot moves to Hilton Head Island - it is just too silly. Fun, but silly. The suicide bomber/financial meltdown threat feels tagged on. However, the downbeat ending is good. Scorpius as a character is built up well, given an interesting history but actually does nothing and has no real presence. No Bond villain should be identifiable by his bling! However, the book was a continuation of the development of Gardner's Bond. That characterization had really come into his own in the last few books: a special SIS operative who trains with SAS and SBS, drives a gorgeous Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, uses an ASP 9mm and interacts with M, Moneypenny, Tanner as well as Q'ute at HQ. The in-joke about Sean Connery being Bond's favourite actor is in the tradition of the Fleming knowing wink. All in all, there was a confidence about the writing that held sway.