While I can't help thinking that the title is such an awful pun that even Fleming would have hated it, Anthony Horowitz does a pretty great job of imitating Fleming's writing style, and he clearly has fun with the action sequences, which are both vividly described and genuinely thrilling. Indeed, the author takes an almost boyish delight in the mechanics of getting James Bond into and out of trouble.
The idea of catching up with Bond and his Bond girl just a few days after the close of the last novel (Goldfinger) was certainly original, but in the end, unnecessary. Clearly James Bond is not meant to settle down to domestic bliss with a woman, so it is kind of awkward to have to witness the inevitable break up of Bond and Pussy. Usually when a new Bond adventure begins, Bond has no ties and it doesn't take a log of imagination to realize that at some point he and the Bond Girl from the last adventure had called it quits - his lifestyle does not lend itself well to long term relationships.
Unfortunately, there is one truly awful chapter that abruptly threw me right out of the book. Fiction is all about the suspension of disbelief, that is, while we know what we are reading is made up, we must be able to put that aside and make believe that it could be real, in order to enjoy the story. In Chapter Four, it all goes horribly wrong...
Some bad guys try to kill Pussy Galore by painting her naked body with gold paint:
"Bond knew exactly what was happening. He remembered what had been done to Jill Masterton, the girl who had helped him when he had first met Auric Goldfinger at a hotel in Miami. As revenge, Goldfinger had had her painted gold, clogging up the pores of her skin and causing her to die of suffocation... If Bond had not followed her [Pussy] from the hotel she would have been dead before morning. As it was, he had very little time. Her body was almost entirely covered with gold. He wouldn’t be able to clean it off himself and the nearest hospital must be at least an hour away. He had to act now."
Now I know that it was Fleming who came up with this ridiculous method of murder, but surely everyone knows that PEOPLE DO NOT BREATH THROUGH THEIR SKIN. That's what lungs are for. You CANNOT suffocate a person by painting their skin and clogging their pores. This should be obvious to anyone who ever took even the most basic biology classes in Middle school, but just to be certain, I happen to know an American Board Certified Forensic Pathologist, a Medical Doctor whose job it is to determine the cause of death by performing an autopsy, and she assures me that this cannot kill a human being. I didn't even buy it when I read Goldfinger at the age of 12, and now it just made me laugh, surely not the effect Horowitz is going for.
The scene is otherwise well written and would be exciting if Ms. Galore was in any actual danger, but he may as well have written that "the bad guys were giving her cooties and if Bond couldn't get her to the hospital within the hour she would surely die".
Horowitz could have made the scene work if they were painting her gold and then strangling her, or hanging her, then there would be real danger - and a clear need for Bond to step in and help. The symbolism would still have been there. But as it is, the men would have sprayed her with the gold paint, left her for dead, and NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN! Sure, if it was a cold night she may die of exposure, and if not found for a few days she could have died from dehydration, but all Bond had to do was wait for the men to leave and then free the girl and take he home and pop her in the bath.
Compounding the problems in this scene, Horowitz also has Bond use a "judo move, twisting round and lashing out with the flat of his right foot", in other words, a "Judo kick", which only made me think of Austin Powers and his "Judo Chop!" (As anybody who has ever seen Judo knows, Judo does not allow kicks, or chops, or strikes of any kind with hands and feet in competition - it is primarily about throws, joint locks and grappling).
So in one horrible chapter the book came crashing to a halt for me and I had to put the book down and walk away. It was several days before I could bring myself to pick it up again, and I still had to endure a farcical hospital scene in which Bond stays at the hospital all night until they are sure Pussy's going to live (after catching cooties from the bad men).
Fortunately, once that episode is behind us, the rest of the book is really quite good. I liked the portrayal of Jeopardy Lane. She is given more to do than just be the girl Bond has to rescue and then take to his bed. I'm not sure that there were any female secret service agents back in 1957, but for a twenty-first century reader she needed to be more than just the wife or girlfriend of somebody Jayson Sin had killed, which was the direction it looked like we were headed when we first met her.
If I'm honest, it did sometimes seem like the author had made a check list of Fleming's 'Bondisms' and included as many as he could. The bad guy is a psychotic Asian (Yellow Peril!) though not disfigured as most of Fleming's villains are, and yes, he does make the usual mistake of inviting Bond to dinner and then monologuing for an entire chapter, revealing to Bond his whole life story - and the full details of his nefarious scheme - before coming up with an unusual way to kill 007, rather than simply shooting him, and then just walking away, assuming that it will all work out as he planned.
To be fair, this is not necessarily Horowitz's fault. This is how James Bond novels are supposed to be and people might complain if it didn't all go by the numbers. And that's the problem with Bond today, by now we all know that he's going to find a way to escape, kill the bad guy and bed the girl, so it's hard to really be worried for his safety in the same way we might with another character facing the same circumstances in a different book.
I give Trigger Mortis 3 out of 5 Stars.