Friday, September 01, 2017

FFB: The Xanadu Talisman -- Peter O'Donnell

The Modesty Blaise books rely heavily on coincidence, and this one's no different. In the opening chapters, Modesty finds herself trapped in the rubble of an earthquake with a mysterious man named Bernard Martel, who's double-crossed a criminal organization and is going to locate "The Object" and get back his wife, long ago sold into slavery.  

The organization he betrayed is led by Nanny Pendergrast, whose two charges are the deadly Silk brothers.  The feared assassin of the organization is the mysterious El Mico, who can sometimes be in two places at once. When Bernard is murdered by El Mico on Modesty's grounds, she's ready to get revenge, but Giles Pennyfeather (whom we've met before), always full of goodness, talks Modesty into completing Bernard's quest, instead.  This leads to one of the biggest coincidences ever, and also to Modesty and Willie being captured in scene I found really hard to credit, with Modesty being put to the test in the arena in Xanadu, a true pleasure dome, or at least the rough equivalent.  Of course [SPOILER ALERT] they eventually escape, carrying Bernard's wife with them, and this results in a nice bit of irony [END OF SPOILER ALERT].

To tell the truth, I didn't mind the coincidences in the least.  It's the kind of thing I expect in a Modesty Blaise novel.  The novels are pure spy fantasy with no intention of mirroring reality.  That's their attraction, along with the characters and O'Donnell's smooth narration.  I'll be reading another Modesty adventure soon, I'm sure.


George said...

I'm going to have to find my copy of THE XANADU TALISMAN and read it. Love the cover!

Mathew Paust said...

Not read any of the novels. Saw one movie--I think with Jane Fonda. Blew my mind back then.

Cap'n Bob said...

Monica Vitti played Modesty, not Hanoi Jane.

Mike Stamm said...

The novels (11) short story collections (2), and comic stories (90-some of 'em published between 1962 and 2001, the final volume to be published by Titan Books this fall)--are ALL very much worth reading; I've read the novels and stories multiple times each, THE XANADU TALISMAN not the least of them. Action-adventure storytelling doesn't get any better.