Website last updated: 7-5-2024

Review of Double Or Nothing written by Kim Sherwood

By: Brian Smith
Double Or Nothing, Kim Sherwood, review, recension
James Bond is missing. 007 has been captured, perhaps even killed, by a sinister private military company. His whereabouts are unknown. Meet the new generation of spies...

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale (1953). This year the film series is celebrating 60 years. The longevity is down to one thing – the heirs of both the literary and film franchises have moved with the times. Even Ian Fleming, shortly before his death in 1964, acknowledged that he would have to look elsewhere for his villains, the Russians at that time no longer suitable to be the bad guys. John Gardner successfully updated Bond for the 1980s followed by Raymond Benson in the late 90s.

Ian Fleming Publications has not shied away from extending the Bond universe. The core canon has been amply augmented in recent years courtesy of Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz. Jeffery Deaver contributed a new, contemporary origin story in Carte Blanche (2011) while Young Bond appeared in the novels of Charlie Higson and Steve Cole. Ian Fleming Publications expanded the storytelling possibilities in the Dynamite comics with the likes of James Bond: Origin, James Bond: Agent of Spectre as well as stand-alone Moneypenny, M and Felix Leiter adventures.

Now comes a refreshing take on Fleming’s creation as Kim Sherwood (granddaughter of actor George Baker who worked on three James Bond movies) brings us Double Or Nothing, the first in a trilogy of books featuring a new generation of Double-0 agents, tactfully adjusted to favour a more diverse world. “The two criteria the Flemings gave me,” said Sherwood in the Sunday Post newspaper, “was that they wanted the novels to be set in the modern day and they wanted a new wider cast of heroes.”

Sherwood’s strength lies in characterisation. The three new Double-0s are well defined individuals who take on the dual threat of Sir Bertram Paradise and his connection to the mysterious terrorists-for-profit organisation Rattenfänger which is believed to be behind the disappearance of James Bond seventeen months ago. There is also the matter of a mole inside MI6, not dissimilar to an unused story element from the movie Spectre (2015). The new Double-0s may reflect real-life and the modern MI6, but within the story Sherwood maintains the fantastical elements, conscious that this is still the world of 007.

Paradise claims he can save the world from the climate crisis. He owns a private super yacht, a quantum computer and a pet tiger, so you can bet he’s up to no good. Moneypenny dispatches British-Jamaican Joseph Dryden (004) to infiltrate Paradise’s inner circle, using a previous relationship with ‘Lucky’ Luke, Paradise’s head of security. Dryden is former military, having served with Luke in Afghanistan. An IED left him sensory neural deaf on one side, the shockwave damaging the language centre of the brain. He now has a microphone installed in his ear canal and a brain-computer interface connected to his language processing centre courtesy of Q.

Johanna Harwood, 003 (honouring the first Bond movie screenwriter) is French-Northern Irish. During a tense exchange with a psychiatrist at Shrublands, she defends 007 as “loyal to an idea.” Harwood grew up in Paris while her Algerian-French mother worked for Médicine Sans Frontières. Harwood was also a doctor before becoming a Double-0. She had a relationship with James Bond before falling for Bond’s protégé, Sid Bashir, a.k.a. 009. Bashir was with Bond on the failed mission that saw his mentor disappear. Even as you think you know these characters, biographical information continues to percolate throughout the novel, a marked difference to Fleming who once pointed out that “in the first several books you’ll find absolutely no discussion of [Bond’s] character, few of his mannerisms, no character study in depth.”

There are a few scenes with Bond, ‘seen’ through the flashbacks of other characters. He is something of an anachronism, juxtaposed against this new intake of Double-0s - a “poster boy for a waned empire”. The key to updating the world of Bond, as exemplified in the film GoldenEye (1995), is not to change Bond too much but rather the world around him. “I hope,” says Sherwood, “they recognise that it is the same, essential character.”

Bond’s backstory is taken from the Fleming novels. References to a couple of short stories do not contain specifics due to some details in those stories being outdated (dispatch riders and East/West Berlin). Back at HQ in London there are a few notable changes. Bill Tanner and Ms Moneypenny are less like their Fleming counterparts, although in Live and Let Die (1954) Fleming did described Moneypenny as “M’s all-powerful private secretary.” In Double Or Nothing, the all-powerful Moneypenny runs her agents from the Regents Park headquarters while a new, younger M – Sir Emery Ware – is in overall charge at the MI6 Vauxhall Cross building. Sir Miles Messervy has retired and Major Boothroyd has passed away, but Q Branch co-founder Mrs Keator, who began her career decoding Spektors, runs the section. To circumvent a technical point which prohibits IFP using Q as a character, here Sherwood does indeed have a Q, skirting the issue most ingeniously. Of all the old faces returning, Felix Leiter is possibly the best incarnation of the character from any of the continuation authors.

Coming in at just over 400 pages, the short chapters ensure a pleasing reading experience, and kudos too to HarperCollins for producing such a gorgeous looking product. The book really takes off in the last 100 pages as the story strands converge. The action is beautifully written – relentlessly tense and exciting. In the best Bond tradition, all the elements are present and correct, from tortures and shoot-outs to car chases and ingenious death scenes.

Even in a story in which 007 barely appears, Double Or Nothing delivers enough edge-of-your-seat thrills to appeal to a new audience and satisfy the demands of the seasoned Bond reader. Book 2 is eagerly awaited.

Review by Brian Smith. Copyright © 2022 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note:
Available Double Or Nothing editions:

>UK hardback edition
>UK paperback edition (to be published on 11th May 2023)
>US hardback edition (to be published on 11th April 2023)
>UK audio book edition
>Kindle edition

(For more information about Kim's books, check out her official website at



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