Some 39 years and six authors after Ian Fleming’s death, the question of what constitutes a good Bond novel continues to be a matter for debate.
William Boyd, the latest pretender, has form when it comes to Bond. He included Fleming in his 2002 novel Any Human Heart, and no fewer than three Bonds – Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig – have appeared in films scripted or adapted by the 61-year-old.
Few doubted Boyd’s sincerity when he described the gig as a “once in a lifetime challenge”.
Unfortunately, Boyd uses the wrong strategy for displaying his own 007 credentials.
By attempting to echo Fleming’s original obsession with detail, the author succeeds only in creating a pedantic, meandering narrative that sees Bond embark on an unauthorised revenge mission that takes him from West Africa to an underwhelming finale in Washington DC.
Ultimately, Solo is more Boyd than Bond; his imprint defines its tone, vocabulary, and predictably African location. Boyd is clearly a Bond expert, but he fails to wear his scholarship lightly and Solo is all the less thrilling for that.