Website last updated: 23-8-2017

Strike Lightning by Steve Cole (a Young Bond novel)

By: Brian Smith
Published:
2016-08-28
Strike Lightning (2016) – A (mild spoilers) review by Brian James Smith

James Bond returns in the latest electrifying adventure from the golden keyboard of Steve Cole. The penultimate Young Bond book (eighth in the series and the third from Cole) finally finds him at Fettes College in Edinburgh. Hugo Grande is not in this story but James is reunited with his young Etonian chum Perry Mandeville from the Charlie Higson series.

A prologue set in an area of the Scottish Highlands known as ‘The Dead Zone’ establishes the darkness of storytelling as a young lad stumbles upon an arms deal between a German and a mysterious hooded figure holding a cane. The boy is injured on a land mine as he makes his escape and killed by the very weapon they are trying to keep secret.

Suitably drawn in to the story, we then join James at Fettes and are treated to exceptional detail of life in the 1930s Scottish public school and the surrounding area. James and Perry pay a visit to the forbidden Coliseum cinema on West Fountainbridge (I was half expecting them to come across a four-year-old boy called Tam) to watch Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan and his Mate which, later in the tale, provides an amusing swipe at the movie Octopussy (1983) when Perry remarks to James: “I hope you don’t yodel as you swing through the trees.” En route to the cinema James’s new friend, Marcus, lets slip that he is helping the mysterious science teacher Dr Whittaker with a demonstration.

Back at Fettes, a suspicious James decides to spy on Whittaker during a thunderstorm but instead sees Marcus die during a strike of lightning. The school determines that what happened was an accident but James believes it was murder. He and Perry set out to investigate Marcus’s death in an adventure that takes Bond across Scotland, to the Netherlands and beyond.

The story moves, appropriately enough, like lightning, although slightly less frenetic than Heads You Die. One suspects there are seeds being sown for the final instalment, which is out next year, and maybe a further series covering Bond’s war years (one hopes).

If Cole’s first two books were his Dr No and From Russia with Love, then this is his Goldfinger (1964). Bigger in scope and imagination, with more villains, a girl called Kitty, and plotting just on the right side of over-the-top. It features a secret weapon called the Steel Shadow which could belong in the Marvel Universe.

Cole delivers some great ideas and touchstones to Ian Fleming. The ‘Ghost Train’ and the dénouement in a special weapons facility are good examples of the recurring motifs from the Fleming series, and the films they inspired. There are the customary in-jokes. A quote – cut short – from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and references to John Buchan are there, one suspects, for the benefit of the likes of us, not necessarily the target readership. Cole is having great fun with this but not at the expense of his protagonist or the story he is telling.

The Young Bond series has been uniformly good and in safe hands with Steve Cole at the wheel. As the boy becomes the man, James is ever more aware of his place in the world. As the penny begins to drop, he ponders his destiny. Weapons saves lives. Is this what I’m becoming? I, for one, cannot wait to see where Cole takes young Bond next.

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

Available Strike Lightning editions:

>UK hardback / >UK paperback / >Kindle

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'.

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