Steve Cole, Shoot to Kill

Doubleday, 2014, ISBN 978-0857533739

Steve Cole has taken up the young Bond baton from Charlie Higson, and he wields it with panache, honouring Ian Fleming’s legacy and building on his more recent predecessor’s input into the genre.

It is the 30s. Bond has been expelled from Eton, and his aunt has despatched him to a progressive boarding school for a few weeks. In no time he is caught up in a web of intrigue and violence. He has learnt that he can trust nobody, and it’s been a valuable lesson. The trip of a lifetime on board a Zeppelin to Hollywood with three other pupils and the headteacher turns out to be thrilling in all the wrong ways. Hollywood is a terrifying revelation. A powerful movie mogul is running a reign of terror, and has no scruples about murder. His gang of thugs are more than happy to carry out his orders. There’s danger at every turn.

Shoot to Kill is as action-packed as the brand demands. Cole pays due homage to Fleming, employing familiar Bond tropes exuberantly. ‘I could get to like cocktails’ says the teenage hero. He delights in technology, fascinated by the Zeppelin, and full of admiration for a car with three gears and a top speed of 50 mph. Though under age, he drives with élan. The obligatory car chase is satisfyingly hair-raising. It’s not only transport that interests him. Fellow pupil, and engineer in the making, Boody rouses strange new feelings. This tiny hint, for those in the know, of Bond’s sex-life to come is innocent and innocuous. Violence is in big supply however, lots of it graphic. Not a book for the young or the faint-hearted then, but it will be highly popular with older and strong-stomached readers.