Website last updated: 23-8-2017

Heads You Die by Steve Cole (a Young Bond novel)

By: Brian Smith
Published:
2016-05-08
Heads You Die (2016) – A (mild spoilers) review by Brian James Smith

James Bond literally hits the ground running in Steve Cole’s second Young Bond adventure. Following on from the events of Shoot To Kill, an old family friend of Andrew Bond’s, Dr Gerald Hardiman, offers a rest cure for James and his school friend, the diminutive Hugo Grande, as guests of his in Cuba before they return to Britain. It’s not long before James is caught up in a pick-pocket incident, rescues a young girl from the clutches of a pair of hoodlums and ends up on the tail of the two deadly henchmen when they abduct Hardiman. This leads James to biologist Audacto Solares a.k.a. Scolopendra, and his partner, the mysteriously veiled (hence her name) La Velada, and a plot to launch a Soviet-backed poison attack far from the shores of Cuba.

As one would expect, there are some rewards for the seasoned fan with references to other authors’ stories. These are neatly woven into the narrative, rather than shoe-horned in. There is a subtle nod to Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel Doctor No when James spots something in a jar at Scolopendra’s penthouse (which will now read like Fleming is referencing Cole!) and there is a CIP agent named Valentine Barbey. Perhaps slightly less subtle is when James acquires notes hidden within the manuscript of A Field Guide To Birds of the West Indies (although James does not see the author’s name). The genius here is that Cole is spot on with the timing of the ornithologist’s publication and the real James Bond was, after all, a member of the Academia de Sciencias, Havana.

Cole is much more assured in his second outing. His double-act of James and Hugo works tremendously well. The writing is atmospheric. Cole immerses the reader in the sites, the sounds and the smells of the 16th century Cuban capital (although he steers clear of the politics of the era) and he creates a beautiful turn of phrase that, like all the Young Bond novels, elevates them above mere (and I used that word advisedly) teen fiction. The novel has tremendous pace and energy and is also extremely violent. Like Charlie Higson before him and, more recently Anthony Horowitz, Cole understands the character of James Bond. The way to present action is not to describe it as if one is watching it on the big screen, but to get inside James Bond’s head to convey his emotions, pain, and sheer will to survive. Cole still allows moments of introspection for James, and foreshadowing. At one point he considers the shooting of a man in cold blood. "I could never do that", he decides.

Steve Cole’s latest thriller maintains the high standard one now expects of Young Bond. Heads You Die - this tale is a winner.

Copyright © 2016 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note:
FSWL contributor Brian James Smith is an Ian Fleming and James Bond historian based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He published the magazines of the James Bond Appreciation Society from 1986 to 2002 and also ran a successful 007 memorabilia business for 13 years. In 2003 and 2004 he hosted a series of James Bond films at cinemas in Edinburgh with stars in attendance including Richard Kiel, Shirley Eaton, Michael Billington and Maud Adams. As well as consulting on various James Bond projects, his writing has previously appeared in 'Collecting 007', 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang' and 'Cinema Retro'.

Available Heads You Die editions:

>UK hardback / >UK paperback / >UK audio book / >Kindle

For news about Young Bond books featured on From Sweden with Love, click here.
For information about the Young Bond novels written by Charlie Higson, click here.

For more information about Steve's career, check out his official website at http://www.SteveColeBooks.co.uk/

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