A review by Daniel Dykes
Following of from High Time To Kill, Doubleshot is the second novel in Raymond Benson’s trilogy about The Union. I was pleasantly surprised with Doubleshot which like High Time To Kill had a great feeling to it but Doubleshot has a far more complex plot with really draws you in, in truth you’re left guessing for a large part of the novel.
Before we get right into this review I must warn you that I will present certain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the novel before I have warned you. To begin with, so that I don’t go too much into depth about the plot, here is the publishers description of the novel as it appears in the book:
A gripping new James Bond adventure–one of the strangest and most terrifying the agent has ever endured.
Is this bizarre warning inside a fortune cookie the catalyst for a series of unsettling events that could push an impaired James Bond close to the edge of madness?
The intricately organized criminal conspiracy called the Union has vowed its revenge on the man who thwarted its last coup. Now, the Union’s mysterious leader sets out to destroy James Bond’s reputation and sanity by luring the agent into a dangerous alliance of deceit and treason with a Spanish militant intent on reclaiming Gibraltar.
Officially on medical leave, 007 pursues clues that he believes might lead him to the Union’s inner circle. His search takes him from the seedy underbelly of London’s Soho to the souks of Tangier; from a terrorist training camp in Morocco to a bullring in Spain; and from the clutches of a murderous Spanish beauty to a volatile summit conference on the Rock of Gibraltar. Each step brings him closer to the truth about the Union’s elaborate, audacious plot to destroy both SIS and its best agent: James Bond.
It sounds quite interesting, doesn’t it? Well yes the novel is interesting. And it is one of the better Bond novels, however, certain plot elements become confusing at times as this novel starts in what you would consider the present and then skips to the past and explains it all. While this sort of introduction works well to draw in the reader is does confuse you somewhat during the novel. However, by the end of the novel you’ll understand it completely as there are certain twists throughout the story and you’ll be glad that you were confused.
Doubleshot gives one of the more interesting insights into James Bond as a man. Like Ian Fleming’s The Man With The Golden Gun we’re dealing with a Bond who has a deeper psyche and shows signs of a mental illness. In fact for a lot of the novel Benson presents a Bond who is vengeance-obsessed, injury-stricken and possibly suffering from depression. Also Bond forced to confront his existence as a “blunt instrument of death” for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This novel gives a great insight to Bond and with the “blunt instrument” theme we see very few gadgets and just an agent who has only his wits.
Again The Union presents a fantastic array of agents. Some of whom die and some who obviously die. There’s also a fantastic insight in to Le Gerant that really shows how much of a twisted genius the man is. Aside from Le Gerant are some fantastic other Union agents who will both puzzle and intrigue you.
Bond girls tend to lapse in Benson’s novels, they seem to have a lack of character development. However, I did enjoy Hedy and Heidi Taunt in this novel compared to some of Benson’s earlier Bond girls. They have a clever disguise which leads to a good plot, however, at times they do seem a bit like two blonde bimbos. However, don’t underestimate the power of sexual appeal (and Benson’s vivid descriptions will entertain most men) as will Bond’s first written a ménage a trios (one that a lot of men would like to experience I’m sure!). Aside from sexual appeal Benson entwines the girls very well into the plot and uses them frequently for twists and turns. They do become completely intriguing though a little too Mary Goodnight-ish.
The other Bond girl Dr. Kimberley Feare comes across as a very interesting character. Aside from her professional career the good Doctor has a life outside Bond which makes Bond seem a little more ‘destructible’.
The action in Doubleshot is better than that in The Facts of Death as Bond is left with only his wits and skills for the majority of the novel. While at times some of the actions leaves Bond looking like a bumbling person Benson’s ploys do add to the development of a Bond in serious retrograde.
Overall, this is an excellent novel and one could easily forget the fact that Bond is not only pitted up against The Union (who really screw with his head) but he’s also attempting to stop the recapturing of Gibraltar by Spanish Militants. I really think all Bond fans should read this, but not before High Time To Kill as you’ll be left a little confused about some comments in the novel. The plot is fantastic, as are the Benson’s typical vivid descriptions. Like all things it lacks in some areas, but this is definitely one of the better Bond novels.
© Daniel Dykes, 2001