Website last updated: 21-3-2024

Book review: Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz (a 007 novel)

By: Brian Smith
Trigger Mortis Anthony Horowitz
Having read all forty continuation novels, I declare Anthony Horowitz’s Bond debut to be the best of them all. Trigger Mortis positions itself within the original continuity of Ian Fleming's series a mere two weeks after the events of Goldfinger (1959). The inclusion of Pussy Galore at the start of the story echoes Fleming’s From Russia With Love (1957) where we find out the fate of Tiffany Case, and gives closure to that particular relationship. It also shows Bond a little less sharp when on home soil, something that may be his undoing before the adventure is finished. These opening events serve as a precursor to the main storyline involving SMERSH’s attempts to raise the prestige of the Soviet Union, whether it’s in the glamourous world of Grand Prix racing or the space race.

Intelligence received indicates that a famous British motor racing champion, Lancy Smith, will be the target of a SMERSH operative during the Grand Prix at Nürburgring, Germany. This section of the novel is inspired by an unpublished Fleming short-story, Murder On Wheels - also the title of Chapter (Double-0) Seven - in which Fleming places real-life motor-racing legend Stirling Moss as the target of SMERSH. James Bond is dispatched by M to stop this inventive assassination and the chapter in which Bond receives his briefing from M and Bill Tanner has Ian Fleming’s own writing seamlessly intertwined with Horowitz’s own. Bond must undergo a crash course in motor racing before taking to the wheel of a Maserati in the Grand Prix. While in Nürburg, Bond spots his Russian racing opponent, Ivan Dimitrov, in the company of Vladimir Gaspanov, a high-ranking member of SMERSH and probable successor to Colonel General Grubozaboyschikov (last seen in From Russia, With Love) and Korean businessman Sin Jai-Seong, Westernised to Jason Sin.

Having dealt with the Grand Prix, Bond meets the mysterious Jeopardy Lane in Sin’s German castle and follows a lead to the United States where he uncovers Jason Sin’s SMERSH-backed plot to discredit the American space race with a wanton attack on New York City. Sin is a totally rounded character. His motivation stems from the real-life massacre of July 1950 at No Gun Ri, South Korea, where refugees, fleeing North Korean forces, were slaughtered by a combined U.S. ground and air attack. Not exactly their finest hour. However, it is Bond’s humanity, even as a trained killer in the service of Her Majesty’s government, which separates the two men. As one would expect, Bond must endure extreme mental torture and display superior physical stamina if he is to beat the odds.

Anthony Horowitz has genuinely come closest to capturing the style of the original books. To its credit, Trigger Mortis, is shorter than the recent efforts of Messrs Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd which immediately gives it the pace and readability of a Fleming original. Horowitz also successfully gets inside Bond’s head (perhaps the only other author to do so was Charlie Higson). The novel feels like a 1950s-written piece, with the descriptions of the foreign villains just on the right side of acceptability for the modern reader. Moneypenny is returned to the correct characterisation, not the pseudo-film character of recent efforts, helped, no doubt, by the return of Loelia Ponsonby. At its heart Trigger Mortis is the epitome of what the originals were all about – a straight pillow fantasy of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety that keeps you turning the pages. I hope the recent trend of hiring a different writer for the adult Bond novels is broken and we don’t see the ‘Trigger Mortis’ button pressed on Anthony Horowitz any time soon.

Review by Brian Smith. Copyright © 2015 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 Trigger Mortis editions:

>UK hardback
>UK audio book
>US hardback

For more information about Anthony's career, check out his official website at



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