Modesty Blaise, by Peter O’Donnell ISBN 9780285637283
Five out of five stars
The character of Modesty Blaise was created in 1963, at a time when tough female heroines were essentially non-existent. Although there have been several since then, Modesty was an excellent fighter, highly intelligent and extremely talented in business. Yet, the distinguishing feature of the Blaise stories is her relationship with her partner Willie Garvin. Even though Garvin is just as talented as a fighter and also very intelligent, it is Modesty that gives the orders when it is necessary to give them. Furthermore, even though they are of opposite genders, they are locker room buddies, when the situation requires it, neither hesitates to strip in front of the other and there is no sexual component to their relationship.
In this story, the first adventure where Modesty and Willie work for British Intelligence, they are working to stop a massive heist of diamonds. If the criminals are successful, it will be a candidate for “Crime of the Century,” so the opposition is also very capable and ruthless.
Another interesting feature of this story is that Garvin is also portrayed as a gadgeteer along the lines of “Q” in the James Bond movies. Seemingly devoid of any tool when they are captured, Modesty and Willie came equipped with an effective set of gadgets. Both Willie and Modesty also have powerful libidos that they satisfy with others and they keep no secrets.
This is a great story, it is the first Modesty Blaise novel and was first published in 1965. Very much ahead of the times, O’Donnell is to be commended for developing characters that are heroes in the pure sense, killers only by necessity, yet efficiently ruthless when it is required.