Young Bond: Red Nemesis

Written by Steve Cole
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1935. Young James Bond’s school term in Edinburgh has ended, and he’s on the train to London with his Aunt Charmian. They examine his father’s backpack, which has just been retrieved from the ice after an Alpine accident three years earlier which killed both his parents. The correspondence contains mysterious letters to James’s late uncle Max, who’d worked for the British Secret Intelligence Services. They concern an imminent threat to London from Stalinist Russia. James manages to convince the S.I.S. agent, Adam Elmhirst, who knew his father and Max, that he can help unravel the secret. But first, they must travel to Moscow.

There, James meets a young ballerina from the Ballets Russes, whose brilliant career has been halted by a tragic accident. Anya Kalashnikova has her own reasons for distrusting the Russian State. She, too, knows things she has no business to know. If she and James pool their knowledge, could they stop Stalin’s war machine from destroying London? The stakes cannot be higher, and neither of them knows who to trust.

I thoroughly enjoyed Red Nemesis. It is a fast-paced, roller-coaster of a read, with gut-wrenching fights, thrilling chases and some really horrible baddies. There are enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the very last minute. Furthermore, Cole has done his research, and 1930s Moscow, with its mixture of smart cars and luxurious Western goods for the rich and powerful, and cramped, over-crowded homes and a dismal diet for the poor, comes across in all its brutal, suspicious reality.

Re: the Ballets Russes. This independent ballet company of Russian exiles under Sergei Diaghilev left Russia after the Revolution; they were surely persona non grata in Soviet Russia itself in the 1930s. Still, boys of eleven plus who enjoy action-packed thrillers will love this book.