Website last updated: 23-5-2022

Review of With A Mind To Kill by Anthony Horowitz (a 007 novel)

By: Brian Smith
Published:
2022-05-23
With A Mind To Kill Anthony Horowitz recension
James Bond returns in Anthony Horowitz’s third and, it would appear, final fling as the official biographer of James Bond’s literary adventures.

Mild spoilers ahead...

Horowitz’s previous two Bonds were favourably compared with Ian Fleming. Trigger Mortis (2015) successfully recreated mid-series Bond followed by a fresher, pre-Casino Royale 007 in Forever and a Day (2018). In With A Mind To Kill, Horowitz presents an authentic version of Fleming’s character at a later stage in his career. It is also a Cold War thriller which can be easily compared to the best of John Le Carré, Len Deighton and, of course, Ian Fleming.

Bond has been through the mill, most recently during the events of You Only Live Twice (1964) and The Man With The Golden Gun (1965) in which an amnesiac Bond has been brainwashed by Colonel Boris of the KGB to kill M. Bond fails in his mission and is ‘unbrainwashed’ by Sir James Molony at The Park. He then redeems himself in Jamaica where he dispatches KGB-backed assassin Scaramanga, but not before he takes a bullet to the abdomen courtesy of Scaramanga’s derringer.

With A Mind To Kill begins two weeks after The Man With The Golden Gun. While convalescing with Mary Goodnight in Jamaica, Bond is ordered back to London and a clandestine meeting with M. The British Secret Service has received intelligence from a defector-in-waiting, Karl Brenner, that Smersh has a successor called Stalnaya Ruka, or Steel Hand, headed by General Nicholai Grubozaboyschikov (previously mentioned in Trigger Mortis but last seen in 1957's From Russia, With Love). They still operate out of the building in Sretenka Street in Moscow. The senior officers include representatives of the GRU, KGB and Erik Mundt of the Stasi (a nod to Le Carré). M tells Bond that Brenner was going to provide details about a ‘single event that would completely smash the balance of power between East and West.’ Before Brenner can defect, and convey details of the plot, he is taken to a Stasi prison and beaten to death. M’s remark about the Soviet apparat is starkly prescient: ‘I talk about the Russian bear but it’s more like the double eagle from the days of the tsar. They look one way and they’re smiling. But at the same time they look the other and there’s murder in their eyes.’

The Russians do not know that Bond’s attempt on M’s life has failed. This gives M an idea to return James Bond to them and place him in the middle of the konspiratsia. M’s death is duly announced, a funeral arranged, and James Bond is arrested for his murder. The Russians swallow the bait and true to form, they see a propaganda opportunity and snatch Bond from a prisoner transport. Bond is taken back to Russia, and once again into the hands of Colonel Boris, a shadowy figure from Fleming who may be the same Colonel Boris who was Donovan Grant’s handler in From Russia, With Love but is certainly the same man who later took advantage of Bond and programmed him to kill the man he ‘loved, honoured and obeyed.’ Boris is assisted by Katya Leonova, who he orders to get close to Bond and to report back anything that raises suspicions. Boris assures the officers of Stalnaya Ruka that Bond can be controlled to carry out their plan because he has placed a trigger deep within Bond’s mind.

I read With A Mind To Kill in one sitting. It may sound like reviewer hyperbole, but I literally couldn’t put this book down until I’d devoured the astonishing last chapter. Horowitz presents Bond at his most introspective and delves inside his mind as clinically as Colonel Boris. In hindsight, Bond’s physical and soul erosion unwittingly began in Casino Royale, but it was only in Fleming’s last two novels that we were given an insight into how much. Here, Bond has finally had enough of the ‘dirty business’ of spying, as Fleming once called it. The beatings and injuries inflicted upon him during his previous missions have finally taken their toll, yet Horowitz still maintains the sense of style, suspense and readability that is the hallmark of the Bond stories.


Bond may no longer be the agent who enjoys those moments of great luxury, or daydreams about meeting a pretty girl while driving a DBIII through the Loire, but this new book is even more riveting for it. With A Mind To Kill is the sum of all Bonds and is an impeccable bookend to the Fleming canon.

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

Editor's Note:
Available With A Mind To A Kill editions:

>UK hardback edition
>US hardback edition
>UK audio book edition
>Kindle edition

For more information about Anthony's books, check out his official website at www.AnthonyHorowitz.com

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