James Bond (13) is a new boy at Eton and must learn the ropes quickly, while fending off the bullying tactics of George Hellebore and his cronies. Travelling to Scotland to spend the holidays with his uncle and aunt, he discovers that Lord Hellebore owns a castle nearby. A local lad has gone missing near the castle, "Red" Kelly's cousin, and James is helping Kelly to find his cousin, when they come across the secret Lord Hellebore is hiding.
If all you're after is an undemanding, albeit uninspired, boy's own adventure, then pick this up. You've got an Eton schoolboy, assisted by a streetwise Cockney and a feisty girl on horseback, investigating the obviously dastardly plan of an arrogant American and his German scientist sidekick. Their plan involves experimenting on animals and humans to create the perfect soldier. The American's son is at first a bullying coward, cowering from his father, and sneering at everyone else. Later, he's had enough and wants his estranged Mummy, who lives in America.
If you're after a little bit of a coming-of-age story, as the young James Bond grows up, you'll get some satisfaction, too. James has to find his own feet at Eton, discovering his talent for cross-country running. He is taught to drive (an Aston Martin, of course) by his uncle. And he has to come to terms with his uncle's death from lung cancer. He's not exactly running after the girls: the token girl in the story runs to a couple of brief encounters and a friendly kiss. The author deftly sidesteps most issues of responsibility for the characters' actions. The bad guys get their comeuppance at the hands of the animals which were their experimental subjects, and the boys who might be brought to book for setting fire to an illegal genetics laboratory aren't around when the police arrive.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.
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