thriller


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: 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.

The first Modesty Blaise book based on the comic strip heroine.

Publication year: 1965
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Page count: 311
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava
Finnish translator: Seppo Harjulehto

I’m a fan of the comic strip. I started to read it when I was an impressionable teenager and I collected the strips from the local (Finnish) newspapers. Modesty is a female equivalent of James Bond and Simon Templar, so she’s not a realistic hero. Neither is her sidekick Willie Garvin who calls Modesty ”Princess”. They’re both superhuman and that’s why they’re so much fun to read about. Also, they’re both amazing fighters and have a lot of other skills, too. For example, Modesty has jeweler’s skills and Garvin builds new weapons.

Modesty grew up desperately poor and without a family. She had to fend for herself for as long as she can remember and that left her an independent and hardened woman. She ran a criminal organization called the Network until she and Willie were rich enough that they could retire before they turned 30. She also rescued Willie from a life a violent criminal and put him to work in her service. This gave Willie a purpose in his life for the first time and makes him unshaking loyal to her. However, when they retired, they were both quite addicted to danger and when Sir Gerald Tarrant from British Intelligence wanted them to work for him, they weren’t hard to convince. However, they’re not regular agents but choose their own jobs and often enough adventure finds them. They’re not lovers, in fact they each have their own lovers who often also get mixed up in the adventures.

Both Modesty and Willie are ethical criminals; they didn’t deal with prostitution or drugs and in fact sometimes punish others who abuse humans that way. I love them to bits!

That said, I have to admit that I like the comics better than this book.

In this book, Modesty and Willie meet Sir Gerald for the first time. Both have been in retirement for a year and both have been getting bored. In fact, Willie’s so bored that he got mixed up with a dangerous situation and is not sitting in jail, waiting to be executed. Sir Gerald gives this information to Modesty and in exchange Modesty and Willie agree to do a job for him. After rescuing Willie, the duo are ready for a far harder work.

Sheik Abu-Tahir has sold oil to Britain and was paid in diamonds. The ship carrying the diamonds worth 10 million leaves from Cape Town and sails to Beirut. Until then, Tarrant is responsible for them. According to intel his has received, a criminal mastermind is going to steal them and so he wants Modesty to guard them.

Modesty uses her old contacts and agrees with Tarrant that the man aiming for the diamonds is Gabriel, a cruel and very wealthy criminal whom Modesty avoided during her criminal career. However, now she has to outwit him.

The book moves at a good pace and Modesty has to use both her wits and combat skills. However, their success rests on their forward planning which isn’t shown to the reader but comes as a surprise, much like in the comics. But somehow it almost feels like a cheat in a book. The main POV of the book is Modesty herself with sometimes abrupt changes to other characters, such as Sir Gerald, Paul Hagan, and one of the criminals.

One of the things which I really enjoy about Modesty is her large circle of friends and allies. The sheik is one of them. He and his men practically worship Modesty and call her the Princess. She also uses her old contacts from the Network but some of them resent that and want to make sure that she isn’t returning and thinking control away from them. Another old friend is Paul Hagan, British Intelligence agent in France. Hagan is both a painter and a spy, and he’s crazy about Modesty. Unfortunately, this means that he has a huge problem with working under her. O’Donnell describes this as a male ego problem; he just wants her in bed and not to follow her orders, especially when actual danger is involved. Fortunately, Modesty realized this.

If you’re interested in reading Modesty Blaise, I’d recommend starting with the comics and not this book. And if you value your sanity, stay away from the movie.

The second book in the Prophecies trilogy.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 201

The first book in the series, Dreams Unleashed, was a psychological thriller which focused on Ann Torgueson’s past and present as a former CIA operative and a current member of the underground resistance moment GOG, Get Out Government. The second book is firmly set in the present when Ann’s life changes irrevocably. There are a few scenes set in the past but not as many as in the first book. Guardian of Time continues from the first book, so I strongly recommend reading it before reading this one. Each chapter has a heading with the year and the place where the chapter is set, which is very helpful.

Guardian of Time is set in the year 2015 where the governments have trampled people’s rights in the name of safety. Everyone is tracked with implanted chips and government operatives can even listen in on people inside their own houses. GOG is the secret organization made up of individuals who oppose the governments’ actions.

Ann Torgueson is a widow, a mother of an adult daughter, and a technical writer working for AlterHydro. When she was younger, she was part of CIA’s paranormal espionage section and was trained to use her paranormal abilities. She can remote view accurately things that are happening far away and things which have happened in the past. She quit working for CIA and is now working with AlterHydro, and very few people know about her past.

However, when she’s accused of corporate espionage, her comfortable life starts to change. When one of her friends tells her that he’s in huge trouble, Ann looks for a way to help him and finds that she has new paranormal abilities. Ann’s new abilities are so strong that the US government wants her no matter what the cost. However, Ann wants to help GOG and not the government.

The plot is fast-paced and has a lot of twists which I don’t want to spoil. This time, Ann travels a lot outside US and the places are described well. The pacing is good and Ann has to face both personal and larger challenges.

There are a lot of new characters in the book and few minor characters turn into major ones. Most of the characters are other GOG members and Ann has an easy camaraderie with them. Sometimes, I felt that she trusted them a little too easily, but I guess GOG researches the candidates thoroughly so Ann had no reason to distrust them. Most of them are met only briefly and they have the same goals as Ann.

Also, Ann develops very strong new abilities. However, she and the people around her seem to accept them quite easily. I was a bit surprised by this. Even if you have some supernatural abilities, or have seen others use them, I think these abilities are so strong, and dangerous, that people would naturally be inclined to not believe such things are possible or fear them. Here they are accepted as part of Ann’s destiny and the biggest fear is that the government would get their hands on Ann. I’m very curious to see where the third book will take Ann and her new abilities.

We get some answers to questions which were left open in the previous book and some startling new information. Guardian of Time is a great continuation to Dreams Unleashed and doesn’t suffer from the usual middle book syndrome where the story can stall so that it’s not ended too soon.

The book ends in a cliffhanger.

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