BOOK REVIEW: Solo, a James Bond novel by William Boyd

James Bond is back – and back-dated.
William Boyd, SoloWilliam Boyd, Solo
William Boyd, Solo

Up until now, all the novels featuring James Bond have been set in the present day, but there is a gap in Bond’s career in-between Colonel Sun (1968) and Licence Renewed in 1981.

William Boyd, the latest author to be invited to pen an official Bond adventure, has taken us into that gap for a story set in 1969.

The action starts at The Dorchester Hotel where Bond has just celebrated his 45th birthday alone (Boyd has got this biographical information from the ‘obituary’ published in the Ian Fleming novel ‘You Only Live Twice’).

After a meeting with M, Bond is sent to Africa to end a Civil War in the small country of Zanzarim.

The mission is plagued with problems and following the outcome, Bond sets out for America in a quest for vengeance.

He has gone ‘solo’ and receives no assistance from the Secret Service.

Whilst in the States, Bond meets up with an old friend as well as renewing his acquaintance with a ‘man with two faces’.

Boyd has picked up the Bond baton very well; his attention to detail is very like Ian Fleming, who revelled in such fine detail.

The food Bond is served is described in minute detail, and the care given to the brand names is exemplary.

In the Bond novels, the action is always set in a ‘real’ country, but in this case, Zanzarim is totally fictitious, although it could be any West African country.

The tropical heat and Bond’s discomfort is almost palpable as Boyd really sets the scene.

We also have a more emotional Bond, something that isn’t dealt with very much in the books, and this makes 007 more human in our imagination.

The action scenes are dealt with with pace and clarity and Boyd has done his homework well.

The characterisations of the individuals involved are believable and the villains are as menacing as any in the Bond canon. Although, I would have loved to have had Q in the story instead of one of his staff.

But the twists in the tale still surprise the reader.

For instance, Bond’s mission in Africa is ending, and you notice that you’re only halfway through the book – then the twist comes and we’re off on another journey.

A thrilling read throughout.

The door is left open at the end for another mission for Bond, and it has rather whetted the appetite for more adventures for the agent, set in the 70s.

I sincerely hope so.

Published by Jonathan Cape.

322 Pages, hard-back.

ISBN 978-0-224-09747-5

£18.99 RRP.