High Time To Kill (1999)
Official Blurb (British Hardback)
Raymond Benson's new James Bond story is his most thrilling
adventure yet, as he pursues a ruthless criminal conspiracy
to a breathtaking showdown eight thousand metres above the world
on a peak in the Himalayas.
The Union is a criminal organization with tentacles throughout
the world - specializing in military espionage, theft, intimidation
and murder. After one of its agents assassinates Bond's friend
and host at a glittering dinner in the Bahamas, the Union becomes
007's priority target.
When information vital to Britain's national security is stolen,
both M and Bond suspect that the union is behind it. The trail
leads Bond from one of England's most exclusive golf clubs to
the cosmopolitan city of brussels and finally to an expedition
up the icy heights of the legendary mountain Kangchenjunga,
the third tallest peak in the world. Led by the abrasive mountaineer
Group Captain Roland Marquis, aided by the expedition's sexy
and beautiful doctor Hope Kendall and opposed by an unknown
traitor working out of SIS itself, Bond must pit his strength
and guile against two deadly adversaries - the forces of nature
at high altitude and the most resourceful criminal minds he
has ever encountered.
Official Blurb (American Hardback)
James Bond fights for his life on the icy slopes of the Himalayas
as he faces a terrifying new criminal society in a race to retrieve
missing military secrets.
Bond is back and bigger than ever. Raymond Benson's novels have
reached new heights both in sales and critical acclaim. Kirkus
Reviews called The Facts of Death "a postmodern treat."
Benson "imbues his Bond with enough honor, sexual prowess
and action-hero skills to please the purist and enthrall the
novice," says Publishers Weekly.
It's at a dinner party with his old friend the former Governor
of the Bahamas that James Bond first encounters the deadly new
criminal organization known simply as "The Union."
An international group, they specialize in military espionage,
theft, intimidation, and murder. When information vital to Britain's
national security is stolen, M and 007 suspect that the Union
is behind it. Bond's pursuit of the crucial microdot takes him
from one of England's most exclusive golf clubs to the frozen
heights of one of the world's tallest mountains. His every step
is dogged by Union assassins. Their presence alone confirms
Bond's worst fear--there is a traitor in Her Majesty's Secret
- Holidays Are Hell
- Old Rivals
- Skin 17
- The Golden Pacemaker
- The Road to Brussels
- Bitter Suite
- A Taste of Belgium
- Covering Tracks
- Flight into Oblivion
- The Green Light
- Not Quite Impossible
- Le Gérant
- Welcoming Reception
- Team Work
- The Trek Begins
- Eliminating the Competition
- Tensions Rise
- Kangch at Last
- Higher and Higher
- The Missing Body
- Love and Death at 7900 Metres
- Blood, Sweat and Death
- A Better Way To Die
- Human Machines
- The Cold, Stone Heart
Above: American 1st edition Putnam
The others couldn't tear their eyes away from the body
and the mess on the table. one woman involuntarily heaved.
After a moment, though, they regained their composure
and looked at the man in shadow. If there had been any
doubt, he was now unquestionably their leader.
"I want Skin 17 before anyone else gets it,"
he said. "We have learned that there are at least
three expeditions being organized to retrieve that specification.
One is from England and is, of course, the one that is
our most formidable adversary. Another is from Russia,
manned by our friends in the Russian Mafia. The Chinese
are mounting an expedition as well. There may be more".
Le Gérant pulled another cigarette from
his case and lit it. He inhaled, pausing only for calculated
dramatic effect. "Plans are now under way for the
Union to accompany one of these expeditions to the great
mountain. We will be the first to retrieve Skin 17. There
will be no failure. is that clear?"
Everyone nodded, but Le Gérant couldn't
see them. Several of the turned back to look at the disgusting
pool of red liquid dripping off the end of the table.
A few felt physically ill.
"IS THAT CLEAR?" he shouted.
They quickly turned back to him and cried, "Yes,
Monsieur Le Gérant!"
Le Gérant smiled. "Good. Then let's
have lunch. Is everyone hungry?"
Above: American 1st edition Jove paperback.
"'I've been thinking about our earlier conversation concerning
limitations. Despite what my government thinks, I'm just a man.
You don't realise how mortal you really are until you're fighting
for your life at 8000 metres.'"
A location in the book is Stoke Poges Golf Club - the same place
that the golf match in "Goldfinger" was shot, as well
as the Paris Carver hotel scenes in "Tomorrow Never Dies".
||May 6 - 1st edition Hodder & Stoughton hardback (UK)
June 1 - 1st edition Putnam hardback (USA)
July 1 - 1st edition Coronet paperback (UK)
|| February - 1st edition Thorndike/Chivers Press large print
June 1 - 1st edition Jove paperback (USA)
While Bond is holidaying in Jamaica with his secretary-turned-bedmate
Helena Marksbury, he drops in on his old fried from Quantum of
Solace, the former governor. However, shortly after telling Bond
he is in trouble with a group called The Union, he is assassinated.
Bond chases the killer who shoots himself before his capture.
Back in England, Bond and Tanner engage in a golf contest with
Bond's old arch-rival from Eton, Squadron-Leader Roland Marquis
and RAF Physicist Dr Steven Harding. Bond and Tanner lose £250
to the arrogant Marquis and his quiet partner. But later that
evening, Marquis and Harding enter a secret research facility
and steal the formula for Skin 17. Harding, a Union member, kills
the physicist in charge and flees the country.
At an emergency meeting the next morning, M orders Bond to trace
Harding to Belgium and try to recover the microdot he stole. Nobody
knows of Marquis's involvement. After using his Jaguar's gadgets
to survive a highway attack, (thus Bond realises there is a bug
at MI6) Bond learns from a doctor (who is then blown up by The
Union) that he was forced to implant the microdot into a pacemaker
on a Chinese man. Surviving a fight, Bond loses Harding and the
Chinese, but succeeds in bedding Belgian agent Helena Marksbury.
Harding flies to North Africa and is killed by the silhouetted
Union leader, Le Gérant, because Lee Ming had been kidnapped
and crashed with the hijackers into the Himalayan mountains. SIS
also learn this, and Bond and Marquis are organised to recover
the microdot from Lee's body.
They fly out to Nepal and, after nearly being shot by a rooftop
assassin to then got killed, Bond and his close friend, the Gurkha
Sgt. Chandra Gurung accompany the expedition to recover the plane,
which also included an American Senator and British MP. Rival
groups, notably Russians and Chinese are also trying to beat the
British team to the top of Mt Kangchenjunga where the plane's
wreck is. Bond and Chandra destroy the Chinese team's food by
night, and the race is on with the Russians. But Bond is sure
The Union have infiltrated the team, especially when he is shot
at by a sniper who then kills an American team member who spotted
him. Bond suspects a German called up at the last minute, Otto
As they continue up the mountain, Bond's antagonism with Marquis
increases when 007 humiliates the team leader in an axe-throwing
contest. Further up the mountain Bond is nearly killed when his
boots are sabotaged and he plunges down the mountain. Again, he
suspects Schrenk whose tent was set alight the previous night
for a diversion. At last they reach the plane, but discover Lee's
body to be missing. Bond eventually finds it down a crevasse and
rescues it. He takes it into his tent and digs out the Pacemaker.
But Schrenk comes in from behind and knocks him out, only to have
his head blown off by Marquis who, along with communications boss
Baack kills most of the rest of the team. Coming round and realising
his defeat, Bond sleeps at 7900 metres with beautiful team doctor
Hope Kendall for whom he and Marquis had been fighting.
Marquis accepts an offer of diamonds from the Russian Mafia's
team, but then kill them. Chandra follows Marquis and manages
to kill Baack before he himself slips from the mountain. Marquis,
with the diamonds and pacemaker returns to the camp but Bond uncovers
him, and they fight before Marquis runs off towards the summit,
with Bond chasing. Marquis is the more expert climber but can't
handle the lack of oxygen, and Bond captures him and takes the
decoder. The humiliated Marquis is left to die at the summit,
and Helena drags the exhausted Bond to safety.
Bond's and MI6's pride is restored, but the mole turns out to
be Helena Marksbury, who was blackmailed by The Union. Bond goes
to her hotel room, too late to save the traitor:
As he took out a cigarette and lit it, Bond wondered what
was colder - the cruel realm of espionage that had victimised
and ultimately destroyed Helena Marksbury, the icy summit of Kangchenjunga,
or his own hardened heart.
Publisher's Weekly - James Bond has always been
a figure of fantasy and Benson, in his routine fourth Bond novel
(after The Facts of Death) wisely keeps him fantastic. An international
mercenary terrorist gang called the Union pilfers the British
secret formula for Skin 17, the only aircraft material that can
withstand a speed of Mach 7. Besides its technological importance,
Skin 17 is a triumph for the lagging British military, so spymaster
M needs Bond to get it back, and to find the turncoat who helped
the Union steal it. The terrorists hide the formula for Skin 17
on a microdot implanted inside the pacemaker of a Chinese national,
who dies a few days later when the airplane he's flying in is
hijacked and crashes on Kangchenjunga, third-highest mountain
of the Himalayas: hence this novel's title. Bond, of course, is
dispatched to retrieve the microdot. En route to a blood-filled,
ice-encased climax, Agent 007 indulges his old tastes for dangerous
women and beautiful cars. Thanks to Q, the violence features some
deliciously nasty weapons, including a gadget-laden Jaguar XK8.
Benson's prose, including the dialogue, is wooden, but the action
he provides is fast and furious and Bond fans will note the narrative
scores "a first for Bond... sex at 7,900 meters" - a
high point in a novel that otherwise is middling all the way.