Daniel Craig’s take on suave super-sleuth James Bond will once again leave audiences both shaken and stirred as Her Majesty’s finest challenges the might of shady super-villain organisation SPECTRE in the film of the same name, his fourth in the role and the 24th official Bond flick.
Italian filmic royalty Monica Bellucci brings epic class to the traditional Bond girl role alongside French up-and-comer Léa Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour, The Lobster), joined by Naomie Harris’ rebooted Miss Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes’ post-Judi Dench M and Ben Wishaw’s new Q.
But Bond fans clamouring for new adventures can bridge the gap to Spectre’s November release date by grabbing hold of the latest in a long line of literary outings penned by authors following in the footsteps of Ian Fleming.
Assuming the voice and tone of Fleming’s original novels, author and TV screenplay writer Anthony Horowitz’ Trigger Mortis is set in the Cold War era in 1957 and brings back one of the most iconic Bond girls in lesbian cat burglar Pussy Galore, portrayed by Honor Blackman in the film adaptation of Goldfinger alongside many film buffs’ number one 007, Sean Connery.
Bond has stiff competition for book lovers’ attention this month in the shape of Make Me, the 20th Jack Reacher thriller from best-selling novelist Lee Child.
Packed full of smarts, this latest outing for the towering ex-army cop amusingly portrayed by Hollywood’s shortest leading man Tom Cruise in the 2012 Jack Reacher movie, is a scintillating page-turner. A second film, simply titled Jack Reacher 2is due next year.
We compare Jack and James across five major categories so you can decide which book to grab – or go for broke with both:
A mysterious man traversing America at his leisure and invariably ending up knee-deep in dodgy business, following honourable discharge from military service, Reacher finds himself co-opting the investigation of statuesque private detective Grace Chang in a nowheresville named Mother’s Rest. She’s looking for her missing detective partner, Keever.
Funnily enough, Reacher even nods to Bond when he refers to Keever. “However washed up he was, he was James Bond compared to the population of Mother’s Rest. But they still got him.”
When Chang asks him what he does on his wanderings he replies, “I travel. I see things. I go where I want.”
The kind who likes to keep his cards close to his chest, there is, nonetheless, a frisson of sexual chemistry between the pair that keeps the readers guessing will they, won’t they?
But Jack is hamstrung in this category up against Mr Bond. Not only does the secret agent accrue a new fabulously named speed freak Bond girl called Jeopardy Lane, who ably assists him on motorbike.
The smoothie also bedded Galore at the end of the Goldfinger novel, despite her sexuality, with James saying: “They told me you only liked women.” Pussy replies: “I never met a man before,” and Bond’s mouth “came ruthlessly down on hers”.
She’s still shacked up in his Chelsea apartment as Trigger Mortis kicks off so Bond takes home the seduction prize.
It’s not an easy gig saving the world, and Bond has had a rougher time than most, what with testicular-seeking lasers, metal-toothed henchmen and Russian femme fatales attempting to strangle him with their thighs. Trigger Mortis pulls no punches.
As well as the obligatory car chases, including German-set race sequence drawing on original material penned by Fleming, plus Bond and Jeopardy both showing off their quick wits behind the wheel, the final act ignites with a genre classic missile launch finale and train-top battle as 007 races to defeat his latest psychotic nemesis in Korean millionaire and SMERSH operative Jai Seong Sin.
While Trigger Mortis teases its missile annihilation plot from the epilogue, Make Me takes its sweet time unravelling the central mystery with what appears to be a small-town cover up of a single murder unexpectedly erupting into a threat far bigger.
That’s not to say it’s a dull ride, rather it emanates a sort of Stephen King-style dread from every page before entering a thoroughly modern breed of terror I won’t reveal here.
It’s a shocker, but for bang for your buck, Bond goes two for two on this category.
Jack Reacher combines military precision and investigative smarts, displaying an almost computer-like ability to calculate risk and likelihood of coincidence in any given situation. A remarkable motel-set scene sees him describe, for the benefit of the reader more than detective Chang, the common hiding spots in a standard motel room then deducing an insane amount of detail from a discarded post-it note.
Though Bond has never been short of a smart plan up his tuxedo sleeve, and the hefty Reacher never shies from a punch up or a gunfight, the former more often votes for the muscular approach, so we’re giving the brains battle to the savvy Jack who trails one to two.
This one would seem like a done deal, right? I mean, James Bond has some of the world’s most iconic villains, including The Man With The Golden Gun’s three-nippled Scaramanga, the razor-sharp, bowler hat-tossing Oddjob and pussy (not Galore) stroking Blofeld.
Though Sin certainly has a name fit for evil, not unlike Blofeld spoof Dr Evil in the Austin Powers movies, the Korean megalomaniac isn’t the most memorable of Machiavellian monsters James has faced.
And that’s where Make Me wins out over Trigger Mortis to take things neck-and-neck. Though the bad guys take quite some time to surface, when they do, their dastardly plan sears into your brain in a technologically updated take on the sort of sickening horror that would do Hannibal Lecter proud.
How could you win out over the real bad girl gone mostly good though never totally straight Pussy Galore? As awesome a character as she is, challenging the patriarchy as best she can, Horowitz is somewhat constrained with what he can do by having to play within the late 50s setting, a decade short of the Summer of Love.
Jeopardy Lane is a welcome addition to the Bond girl pantheon and it’s always a pleasure to see Miss Moneypenny, whose decidedly un-green fingers are clearly unimpressed with the office girls’ gift of a plant she immediately sets about trying to drown as Bond visits M.
Michelle Chang has tough competition in this trio of bold, brainy and beautiful broads, but she manages to hold her own in the end, delivering an overall win for Make Me thanks to her determined hunt for missing partner Keever, Jeopardy-like ability in a hot pursuit and her cool, calm and collected handling of a gun in the novel’s finale. But will she and Jack stick together? Only Lee Child knows the answer.
And as for Bond? We’re pretty sure he’s never gonna settle down.