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Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I just finished the latest Modesty Blaise novel in my ever-growing mountain of books to read and possibly revoew, and I've gotta say that this entry is my favorite in the series, right up there with SABRE-TOOTH (1966) which I still have to get around to reviewing, come to think of it...

This time around, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin find themselves embroiled in the task of fulfilling a dead man's last wish, a quest that takes several unexpected and dangerously violent turns. I'm not going to divulge any more of the plot since that would ruin one of author Peter O'Donnell's most clever and memorable yarns — and considering how good his books usually are, that's really saying something — to say nothing of the totally unexpected howler of a twist ending that had me laughing my ass off on the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central Station. If you're a Modesty Blaise junkie like me or just a curious reader who'd like to check out some of her adventures, THE XANADU TALISMAN fills in the newcomer on all the pertinent back story (and then some) so you will hardly find a more accessible and entertaining book in the series to get started with.

And while I'm at it I may as well give you the skinny on SABRE-TOOTH.

The second novel in the series is a great step up from the rather routine MODESTY BLAISE (1965), which is not a bad book in and of itself but it can't help but pale in comparison to the subsequent stories that reveal O'Donnell to be a master of both characterization and page-turning suspense. SABRE-TOOTH has to do with a Mongolian military megalomaniac who is assembling and training an army of mercenaries with the goal of seizing oil-rich Kuwait (can you say "eerily prescient?"), but he needs two utterly badassed commanders to lead his men. Aware of Modesty and Willie as ideal choices for the role, and equally aware of their retirement from professional ass-whuppin' and criminal activity, the blackguard kidnaps a child dear to our heroes and uses her as leverage to ensure their cooperation. Thus pressed into service, Modesty and Willie must figure out how to survive leading an army of cutthroats, rescue their young charge, defeat the hand-to-hand skills of "the Twins," stop the invasion of Kuwait, and somehow escape from an absolutely escape-proof training ground. This one's as serious as a heart attack, and there's even a sequence in which Modesty endures...Well, let's just say that I had to put the book down for a while before I could continue reading what she was going through, an experience that made me respect her mental and physical skills all the more.

Oh, just go to and buy the motherfuckers already! TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!

Willie and Modesty, as illustrated by John Burns, the only artist to get the characters right other than original comics artist Jim Holdaway. That reminds me, I have a true story about meeting Burns and causing a bit of a stir during that meeting, but that's for another post, after I get a key element of the tale scanned and ready to roll so you can see it...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

did not read this post--borrowing all the books from you as soon as I return all your other books. love the John Burns illustration especially.

Love, Jes