by Ben Arzate
The Soviet Union has set up a network of spies and terrorists in Canada code named Roulette. Their goals are to co-opt the Quebec separatist movement, commit acts of terrorism, steal Canadian military secrets, and infiltrate the United States.
James Bond has been assigned to find and destroy the network. With the help of CIA operative Felix Leiter, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and FLQ revolutionary Bijoux Montagne, Bond seeks to penetrate Roulette and bring down Koniev, the SMERSH operative running the network.
“It was, Bond reflected as the C-130 banked and adjusted its spoilers for landing, the simplest, most brutally direct assignment he had ever received. Search and destroy. Bond relished the thought of wreaking havoc on SMERSH’s machine in Canada as the engines slowed and the runway rushed up below them.”
Roulette by Canadian author Jamie Mason is one of the books that have come out in the wake of James Bond becoming a public domain character in Canada. Mason stays very faithful to the Bond of the Ian Fleming novels. He places Bond in his time, the Cold War, rather than in modern times, and maintains the gritty, hardboiled tone of the books rather than the slick, sci-fi tinged excesses of the films.
The story goes at a fast-but-steady pace, keeping the twists and turns in the story intriguing enough to keep the reader turning the page. I finished most of the book in one evening, finding myself still hooked when I thought I’d found a place to put it down. The action scenes are intense without being overwrought and balance well with the scenes of suspense and intrigue.
Mason brings in some characters already in the Bond universe, such as M, Ms. Moneypenny, and Felix Leiter, and introduces his own for this story. Of course, a Bond story needs a villain and a Bond girl. Bijoux makes for an excellent foil to bond.
She’s a communist and Quebec separatist who finds herself disgusted with taking orders from Moscow. She has her differences with Bond which makes for interesting conversations between the two and she proves herself able to hold her own against SMERSH.
Koniev is a classic Bond villain. A hardened, borderline psychopathic killer who directs the Roulette network through fear and brute force. The final showdown between him and Bond is an intense battle of mettle and mental prowess.
Unfortunately, because of a new trade agreement, James Bond is set to come out of the public domain sometime next year. When that happens, this book will be forced to go out of print (you can read some of my thoughts on that in a prior article).
Until it does, this is a must-read if you’re a fan of James Bond or Cold War thrillers in general. Jamie Mason has made an admirable and entertaining contribution to the Bond canon that continues where Fleming left off. I highly recommend you head over to Canadian Amazon and pick this up.