Teenage Bond will blow you away

PUBLISHED: 10:41 09 February 2007 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 September 2010

DOUBLE OR DIE by Charlie Higson Puffin, £6.99 The third instalment of Charlie Higson s successful James Bond: the teen years begins with a bang – or rather the threat of one. A gun is pointed at the brain of a man kneeling beside a grave in Highgate Cemet

DOUBLE OR DIE

by Charlie Higson

Puffin, £6.99

The third instalment of Charlie Higson's successful James Bond: the teen years begins with a bang - or rather the threat of one.

A gun is pointed at the brain of a man kneeling beside a grave in Highgate Cemetery. It belongs to Ludwig Smith, a hired thug with a nasty habit of skewering his victims.

The brain, brilliant and methodical, resides inside Alexis Fairburn, setter of crossword puzzles, designer of computers and master at Eton - the school which just happens to include 007 Jnr.

Bond's part begins with the arrival of a strange letter.

Written by Fairburn, it is addressed to the crossword club at Eton. His accomplices realise that the missive is in code - one that reveals Fairburn has been kidnapped by a Russian secret agent who is forcing him to build a supercomputer.

The clues send Bond and his gang speeding off in various directions and on many forms of transport - a car chase across the East Anglian fens and a wonderful scene in which Bond and his tomboy accomplice, Kelly Kelly, shoot across London in a subterranean pneumatic mail train.

In many ways, Double Or Die is aimed squarely at the same teenage audience who enjoy the exploits of Alex Rider in the Stormbreaker books. Yet it is to Higson's credit that he has fashioned a thriller that will appeal to readers of all ages.

The plot moves at a fast pace and twists satisfyingly around vividly realised set-pieces. The device of crossword clues works splendidly.

Clever, funny and sharp, this is a page-turner licensed to blow away those winter-time blues.

James Kidd


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