modesty blaise


The fourth Modesty Blaise adventure.

Publication year: 1969
Format: print
Page count: 288
Publisher: Souvenir Press

This time we start with Willie Garvin. He’s on a holiday at a remote island on Panama when he accidentally witnesses two men murdering one girl and kidnapping another. He’s too far away to stop the murder but he manages to rescue the other girl. He kills the two men and hides the girl. She turns out to be blind and she doesn’t know why they wanted to kidnap her. She’s Dinah Pilgrim and she’s smart, brave, and resourceful in her own way.

It turns out that the man behind the murder-kidnap is Gabriel who was the main villain in the very first Modesty Blaise book. And Gabriel knows our heroes and really wants them dead. However, Gabriel himself is working for someone even worse.

Meanwhile, Modesty is back in England, entertaining Stephen Collier. Sir Gerard Tarrant asks them to see an old friend of his who is worried that something strange in happening at an archeological dig at Alger. But that old friend turns out to be dead, supposedly broken neck from falling down stairs and when Willie calls for help, Modesty leaves to Panama. Of course, things escalate.

This is one of the best books in the series, full of action, humor, and the best secondary characters. Steve’s wry, self-deprecating humor is used to relieve tension and he’s a good POV character. Modesty and Willie are at the top of their game, having to rescue others and keep them alive.

There’s no character development for Modesty and Willie, but there isn’t any in the whole series.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.

Publication year: 1982
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2012
Translator: Veli-Pekka Ketola
Format: print
Page count: 275
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Jalava

Modesty Blaise was a very successful criminal when she was younger. She rose quickly to lead her own criminal organization, the Network. But there were certain criminal activates she didn’t do, and she even brought down other criminals engaged in them. Her Network dealt mainly with espionage, smuggling, and jewels. The beginning of this story reveals how Modesty told her closest men that she’s going to retire and how they did their last job together. For a while now, Modesty has wanted to bring down Bora who deals with drugs and human trafficking. So, as her last gig she does exactly that, with the help of Willie Garvin and some of her men.

Years later, Modesty, Sir Gerard Tarrant, Professor Steven Collier, and his blind wife Dinah are enjoying a night out when they are shot with a crossbow bolt. Modesty manages to deal with the man responsible but he’s later killed in police custody. The hit could have been against either Modesty herself or Tarrant who is head of Britain’s intelligence. Modesty decides to disappear. Later, there’s another attempt against Tarrant’s life which Willie manages to stop, barely.

When Modesty is vacationing in San Francisco, she runs into an old friend but unwittingly puts him into great danger. Because of that Modesty and Willie become entangled with the dangerous plans of a cruelly efficient organization known only as the Watchmen. They have taken credit for variou terrorist attacks in the names of different causes, so nobody knows what they really want or who they are.

This is another great adventure. This time some of the elements which I don’t like are missing, so I enjoyed it even more than usual. However, I don’t remember Willie having a photographic memory before.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.

Publication year: 1976
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1998
Translator: Jussi Nousiainen
Format: print
Page count: 300
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

This time Modesty is kayaking in wilderness in US with her lover billionaire John Dall. Suddenly two men appear, heavily armed. They kill Dall’s and Modesty’s guide and try to kidnap them. However, Modesty manages to surprise them and kills them instead. But she doesn’t know who sent them or why.

Meanwhile, Willie’s friend Maude Tiller has gone through a traumatic mission. Maude is a female secret agent, working for Tarrant, and both Modesty and Willie care for her. Tarrant asks Willie to help her but she won’t let him.

But soon Modesty finds out that her old friend Danny Chavasse isn’t dead, like she thought, but was kidnapped three years ago. In fact, Danny and some other people are in a slave plantation in South America, forced to work for the pleasure of a madwoman. Of course, Modesty and Willie have to rescue him and the others. That, of course, is very hard.

It’s a Modesty adventure: lots of fantastic violence, some sex, some humor, and superheroic Modesty and Willie in action. If you like them and the previous adventures, you’re likely to like this one, too. However, this story doesn’t have any new elements so it might feel repetitive. But it does have several recurring characters whom I enjoyed a lot. In addition to John Dall and Maude, there’s Steve Collier and his wife.

Maude is another action heroine but she a more normal person than Modesty. Still, Maude’s loyal, skilled, and determined. What’s not to like?

The treatment of rape is still problematic, tough. Once again, Modesty is put into a situation where she has to allow the enemies to use her body but she’s able to just shrug it off because of her mental powers. This is a trend and change from the comics which I hate. Otherwise, this an enjoyable action book.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.
Publication year: 1973
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Translator: Jussi Nousiainen
Format: print
Page count: 251
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

Sir Gerald Tarrant is in France for a conference and is looking forward to spending a couple of days with Modesty afterwards. But on his way to Modesty, his car is stopped and his driver forces him out. A strange blond man, Mr. Sexton, and a couple of fake nuns kidnap him. They also fake Tarrant’s death. They could have gotten away with it, too, except that a former pilot, Henry Quinn, has been nearby hiking and fell the previous day. He hurt himself and couldn’t leave, so he witnesses most of it. But he has a concussion and passes out.

When Modesty is later searching the area, she finds Quinn and gets him to safety. This includes overcoming three thugs who had been sent to silence Quinn. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know what he knows and just leaves him to a hospital. Meanwhile, Willie’s girlfriend Lady Janet Gilliam has a problem: someone is blackmailing her sister. Willie and Modesty agree to look into her problem.

This is mostly a highly entertaining thriller. However, the main plot doesn’t kick in until around half-way when Modesty finds out that Sir Gerald is still alive. Personally, I liked the events leading up to it. But I didn’t like Quinn. Quite frankly, he was an asshole. When Modesty saves him (several times) that’s apparently too much for his male ego and he gets mad at her. This is apparently excused by some traumatic events he’s lived through before. Still, Modesty remains patient with him, almost saintly. Otherwise, I enjoyed the book a lot. I even enjoyed the plot twist which saddled Modesty and Willie with several people to protect. One of the best in the series so far. I’ve also read the story as a comic.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.

Publication year: 1971
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Page count: 319
Translator: Jukka Kemppinen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

Modesty Blaise is flying on a rented airplane over Kalimba, in Central Africa, and crash lands. She gets help from a nearby village where a missionary couple and a doctor are staying. Doctor Giles Pennyfeather has a lot of patients because of a bus accident nearby. He has medical training but very little in resources so Modesty ends up staying and helping him. Giles is a kind, honest, and decent man but also clumsy in both relationships and when moving around, and Modesty ends up liking him quite a lot. He also has an uncanny ability to heal his patients.

Then the local police orders all westerners to leave. But before Giles and Modesty can go (on Modesty’s plane), two thugs attack Giles. Modesty manages to fight them off. It turns out that a short while ago, the missionaries found a white man who had been terribly tortured. The thugs are convinced that the man told something to Giles but Giles insists that he didn’t.

The thugs work for a ruthless crime boss called Brunel. He’s a very short man but emotionless and specializes in brainwashing people to work to him. And now he wants Modesty to work for him and Willie dead.

The story almost has a two parts: the first part is set in London after Giles and Modesty return there. Brunel has documents which are dangerous to Sir Gerald Tarrant and Modesty wants to retrieve them. I really enjoyed the first part which has some hilarious moments but the rest is a very good Modesty Blaise -yarn, too. It has some quirky secondary characters, appalling villains, and lots of excitement. One of the best in the series so far.

A Modesty Blaise adventure.
Publication year: 1967
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1967
Format: print
Page count: 311
Translator: Jukka Kemppinen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

This time Modesty and Willie encounter a young man who has talents in ESP. The man is called Lucifer and an exceptionally ruthless man Seff, and his wife Regina, have acquired, perhaps kidnapped, Lucifer and are using him to their own ends. Apparently, Lucifer’s mind has fractured (he’s called paranoid in the book) and he really thinks that he’s the devil and the people around him are his diabolical servants. He has the ability to foretell who is going to die and he can also use this ability to stay ahead of his opponent in a fight. However, he’s not an evil and has no malicious intent. Seff and his crew are able to use Lucifer’s delusions to their advantage and they’ve come up with a blackmail scheme. If the blackmail subjects don’t pay, Seff’s underlings kill them. The blackmail subjects are also told about the people whom Lucifer has predicted will die and told that the subjects will die themselves if they don’t pay. Seff and his wife use very strange puppet shows to enhance Lucifer’s delusions.

Rene Vaubois, the head of the French Deuxieme Bureau and Modesty’s friend, is being blackmailed. He’s not rich but he’s a civil servant and the blackmailers want his government to pay. But they don’t. Fortunately, when Seff’s goons attack, Modesty and Willie are there to save Rene. They start to investigate the matter.

At the same time, Modesty has a new friend Steven Collier. He claims to be a metallurgist but he actually is researches all sorts of supernatural skills in humans. He’s interested in Willie’s danger sense especially when it also reacts when Modesty is in danger. However, Modesty travels to Britain in order to investigate the strange blackmailers and leaves Steve behind. But the blackmailers contact Steve because they want Lucifer to be even more accurate than he already is.

This is a fast-paced thriller where the reader knows the people responsible and enjoys the ride towards the final confrontation. Modesty and Willie are their usual almost supernaturally capable people and Steven balances that out.

However, I was troubled by some aspects of the book. Just like in the previous book, Modesty was put into a situation where she had to use sex or “allow” herself to be raped in order to save her life. She doesn’t dwell on it and treats it as just another way to survive which almost makes it more peculiar. In fact, the men around her have harder time accepting it than she which makes it even more peculiar. I don’t remember any of the comic strips using that kind of plot device but I guess it wouldn’t be possible in visual form. Also, we get some strange ideas about gay people. One of the men attacking Modesty near the beginning of the book is a crossdresser and that apparently makes him gay…

Otherwise, this is again a great ride with memorable villains.

A Modesty Blaise spy adventure.
Publication year: 1966
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1967
Format: print
Page count: 315
Translator: Seppo Harjulehto
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

The second Modesty Blaise book starts with a glimpse of the enemies: a ruthless mercenary commander called Karz is gathering a large group of mercenaries, people who would kill anyone for money. Among them are the Twins, two huge men who fight like one man even though they hate each other (they’re Siamese twins who were separate later in life). Karz is looking for more lieutenants. He wants the best and has his eye on Blaise and Garvin but the two are difficult to control so he’s looking for leverage.

Meanwhile, Sir Gerard Tarrant (the head of British Intelligence) has a problem and he brings it reluctantly to Modesty and Willie. Turn out that some crackpot is claiming to be Prime Minister of Free Kuwait and saying that the current government oppresses the local people. However, that’s not true and Tarrant has a hard time figuring out what’s going on. He also knows that mercenaries are disappearing alarmingly.

Also meanwhile, Modesty and Willie have taken under their wing a young girl, Lucille, who has lost her parents and has lived on the streets. She has a hard time getting used to her new life, stealing even from Sir Gerard.

This is a very good Modesty Blaise adventure: plenty of action and violence and memorable villains. Modesty and Willie have to endure a lot and their friendship is put through a hard test. Highly entertaining! While both Modesty and Willie have to be in the biggest badass mode to get through everything alive, they’re more compassioned sides are shown.

On the down side, this was written in the 60s and it shows: Modesty is called “a girl” and other sexism, and there are some seriously strange ideas about rape. I could have done with certain scenes near the end.

I’m kicking myself for leaving it unread for a couple of years.