As I am coming to the end of this series of books it makes sense to split them up in an attempt to savour the moment – hopefully there will be something to savour. I won’t beat about the bush – I didn’t really enjoy reading Never Send Flowers much and I was happy that it was a short 244 pages long.
The plot and characters were disappointing after John Gardner showed us what he is capable of in The Man from Barbarossa and Death is Forever. I also made the mistake of reading the blurb on the back of the book and for the second time with this series the publisher let slip one of the major plot points. I should have learned my lesson the first time – Never Read the Blurb.
Never Send Flowers reads like a detective book rather than a spy thriller – Bond is on the trail of a serial killer who has committed a string of high-profile assassinations as well as the murder of an MI5 asset on vacation in Switzerland. It is the murder of this ‘sister’ that brings MI6 onto the scene.
As he travels from European location to European location our plucky hero as usual meets a couple of disappointingly sexually clichéd women, at least one insane villain (who has his own castle and an unexplained supply of explosives) and ends the story going mano a mano with the villain in EuroDisney of all places. The lowest point of the experience for me was reading about Bond’s uncharacteristic enjoyment of the theme park which is obviously a reflection of the author’s views and follows a clumsy low-ebbing section of exposition disguised as an interrogation scene – something I have come to strongly dislike about Gardner’s writing. Amongst other traits (alcoholism, misogyny, racism) James Bond is an unabashed snob (a reflection of Ian Flemings mores no doubt) and I find it incredulous to think that such a man would enjoy Mickey Mouse or riding on a Star Wars themed ride. Ridiculous.