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Literature / Modesty Blaise

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"The most complex, sophisticated, skilled and intelligent of all action heroines."
Jennifer K. Stuller, author of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology

Series of novels and short stories by Peter O'Donnell, spun off from his long-running adventure comic of the same name.

Modesty Blaise is an orphan with a Dark and Troubled Past who was head of a criminal syndicate before she was 20, and retired wealthy before she was 30. Willie Garvin is a multi-talented Cockney former street kid who became Modesty's trusted right-hand man and followed her into wealthy retirement. Retirement was boring, so now They Fight Crime!.

(Only crime that's unusual enough to attract their interest, though — or nasty or personal enough to attract their anger.)

The first novel was published as a tie-in with the 1966 film adaptation, and is based on the screenplay O'Donnell wrote for the film (which was altered substantially by the filmmakers, so the film didn't end up much like the novel). The film was not a success, but the novel was, and more followed.


The books are not in continuity with the comic strip: the first novel begins with a significantly different version of the opening sequence of the comic strip, then goes its own way. Incidents and characters from the strip appear in the books revised, tweaked, and in completely different contexts. It's essentially the Ultimate Universe version of Modesty Blaise, only not in the same medium. Despite this, characters from the novels later began to appear in the comic strip, and the strip also adapted several short stories.

The short story "I Had a Date with Lady Janet" is narrated in the first person by Willie Garvin, and was once released as an audio book read by John Thaw.

The books in the series are:

  • Modesty Blaise (1965)
  • Sabre-Tooth (1966)
  • I, Lucifer (1967)
  • A Taste for Death (1969)
  • The Impossible Virgin (1971)
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  • Pieces of Modesty (1972) (6 short stories note )
  • The Silver Mistress (1973)
  • Last Day in Limbo (1976)
  • Dragon's Claw (1978)
  • The Xanadu Talisman (1981)
  • The Night of Morningstar (1982)
  • Dead Man's Handle (1985)
  • Cobra Trap (1996) (5 short stories note )

The last of the short stories, "Cobra Trap", is a Distant Finale.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abuse Mistake: The punchline of "The Soo Girl Charity" - Modesty and Willy decide to inflict some karmic burglary on an unpleasant, sexist millionaire who sexually assaulted Modesty, and end up preventing his wife from killing herself and witnessing her killing him. After seeing various marks of violence on her body they assume that she was a battered wife doing the only things she could imagine that would free herself... until she finally confesses that the marks were from BDSM and the suicide attempt and murder were because he cheated on her and boasted about it. They still end up deciding to help her get away.
  • Action Dress Rip: Modesty's skirts are designed to tear away, leaving her legs free for action.
  • Action Girl: Modesty Blaise is as capable of handling herself in a fight as anyone else in the series, and frequently features in action setpieces.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Jack Fraser, in a sense. His first appearance in the original comic strip was in the very first scene, but the strip ran for two years before it was established that his meek desk jockey persona was just a front for his real and much more capable personality. In the novels, the real Jack Fraser puts in an appearance at the end of the first chapter of the first novel.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Many of the novels take the best bits out of several different storylines from the comic strip and rearrange them into a new story.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: One of the characters who appears in both continuities is Major the Earl St. Maur, with versions of the character appearing in the comic strip story "Death of a Jester" and the novel The Night of Morningstar. In both versions, he's a former commando and a cunning strategist. In "Death of a Jester", where he's the Big Bad, he's also got a flamboyant personality and a Complexity Addiction that leads to his downfall; in the The Night of Morningstar, he's The Dragon, and has a more pragmatic personality, becoming the underling who advocates a quick and simple death for the heroes and is ignored by the complexity-addicted Big Bad.
  • Adaptational Context Change: Occurs frequently in the novels, which recycle action set-pieces and plot elements from the strips but rearrange them and set them within new plots.
  • Adopt-a-Servant: In The Impossible Virgin, the villain has an adopted daughter who's actually a servant he bought as a slave and legally adopted as a way of having a socially-acceptable explanation for her presence in his household. He doesn't think of her as a daughter in any way; some of the services he forces her to perform are sexual. At the end of the novel, Modesty points out that the girl is probably going to end up with the villain's fortune (or as much of it as the lawful authorities are aware of), since in the eyes of the law, regardless of how he thought of her, she's a legitimate heir.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: Invoked in I, Lucifer. When Modesty and Willie are forced to duel each other to the death, she apparently shoots him in the stomach, and he reacts with horror at the lingering death facing him before throwing himself off the nearby cliff to a quicker death. Actually, he was pretending the injury as an excuse to escape over the cliff, which he knew something the villains didn't about his chances of surviving.
  • Agony of the Feet: In The Impossible Virgin, the villains use toenail-pulling as one of their interrogation techniques.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: In The Impossible Virgin, Lisa Brunel, one of the villain's associates, is an albino. It turns out that he has manipulated her from a young age to make her into a useful tool, and encouraged her to think of herself as an unlovable freak as one of his techniques for keeping her socially isolated.
  • Almost Dead Guy: In The Night of Morningstar, CIA agent Ben Christie is shot by the villains but lingers long enough to tell Modesty everything he knows.
  • Alternate Continuity: The books are in a separate continuity from the comic strip. This is established straight off; both versions of the series begin with Sir Giles Tarrant approaching Modesty to request her assistance for the first time, but in the novel the problem requiring assistance is different, as is the favour he does her to secure her help. From there, characters and settings from the comic strip show up in the novels but in different contexts and storylines; often a particularly good action sequence from the comic strip will be reprised in a novel surrounded by a completely different plot.
  • Always Identical Twins: In The Night of Morningstar there is a notorious pair of professional killers known as the Polish Twins. They are identical twins.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Sheikh Abu-Tahir in the first novel is the leader of a small Arabic tribe who recently hit oil and the big time in that order. Definitely a Funny Foreigner. He mixes elements of the wealthy lifestyle with elements of the traditional life of his tribe; for instance, when he comes to England to negotiate an oil deal with the British government, he and his retinue take a suite at the Ritz and then set up a traditional encampment inside it, complete with tents and goats.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Mr. Sexton in The Silver Mistress is a particularly unpleasant example of this, considering himself to be the greatest fighter in the world (possibly correctly) while being also a Psycho for Hire and Torture Technician. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't as good at swimming.
  • Arrowgram: In I, Lucifer, Willie passes a message to a friend in hostile territory by wrapping it around one of his throwing knives and throwing it.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Willie can supply a quotation from the Book of Psalms to fit any situation. He once spent a year in an Indian prison with nothing to read except a psalter and so has all of the psalms memorised.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: The Polish Twins in The Night of Morningstar are a pair of professional killers who use no weapons, having honed their bodies and their martial arts skills to the point where their bodies are weapons. It means that they need to get close to their targets, but they can kill in moments at a moment's notice, and it's very hard to prove when they're up to something because they're never carrying any suspicious equipment.
  • Bash Brothers: Modesty and Willie are close friends who have been working and fighting together for years. In a fight, they always have each other's backs and often pull off co-ordinated moves with the slightest of communication.
  • Batman Gambit: In A Taste for Death, Modesty's plan for rescuing everyone from the villains depends at several points on specific villains reacting appropriately. To some extent this involves general predictions about obvious trends like Delicata preferring slow and amusing deaths for his enemies over just killing them outright, but it also involves specific predictions like getting McWhirter to let his guard down in a particular way at a particular moment.
  • Battle Strip: Modesty often strips down before fighting. In A Taste for Death, she goes topless to duel the fencer Wenczel, and facing the lethal Mr. Sexton in The Silver Mistress she goes completely naked (and greased up) to avoid presenting him with anything he could get a grip on. She also practices a move she calls The Nailer, where she gains extra time when she has to go through a door into a room full of thugs by walking in topless, guaranteeing that she gets the first move while most or all of the thugs are still looking at her chest.
  • Berserk Button: Go ahead and hurt Modesty if you don't mind having Willie Garvin rip you to pieces. The reverse also applies.
    • Lampshaded in one of the books when Willie has a fit after someone disses his favorite singer, Petula Clark.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Near the beginning of The Impossible Virgin, Sir Gerald Tarrant is facing the prospect of being given the boot as a scapegoat for a foul-up by an incompetent colleague. The day on which the axe is expected to fall is his birthday, but with everything that's on his mind he doesn't notice until someone points it out. Fortunately, Modesty decides to save his career as a birthday present.
  • Blade Lock: In A Taste of Death, Modesty gets into a sword fight to the death with one of the villains, which includes a moment where this happens.
    For a moment they were perfectly still, faces inches apart, blades locked at the pommels and pointing vertically up. It was then that Modesty Blaise lifted her knee and hit him very hard in the crotch.
  • Blindfolded Trip: Modesty occasionally gets the blindfold treatment from abductors — which doesn't help, as she seems to have an unerring sense of location.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: All the time. They often have good reason to, though; they know that if they kill Modesty, Willie will hunt them down and kill them (or vice versa). Because of this, villains tend to want to kill them both at the same time. (This trope is also dominant in the comic strip.)
    • Averted somewhat in The Impossible Virgin. The villain does set Modesty up for a slow gruesome death because he thinks a quick death is too good for her, but having done so he fully intends to stick around and watch the whole thing, and only reluctantly leaves because Willie (who's still on the loose) creates an emergency situation elsewhere in the base that he can't avoid going to deal with.
  • Bothering by the Book: At the end of The Night of Morningstar, after Modesty and Willie have saved the lives of the British Prime Minister, not to mention several other major world leaders, Sir Gerald visits Modesty and tells her that his boss has ordered him to have her and Willie sign non-disclosure agreements binding them to serious penalties if they tell anyone about what just happened. Modesty, goaded, tells Sir Gerald exactly where his boss can shove the NDAs, and then asks why Sir Gerald didn't just refuse the order, since he knows her well enough to have predicted her response. He explains that he's engaging in malicious compliance: the first chance his boss is going to have to ask if she's signed the NDA will be when they're both reporting to the PM, and his boss has a habit of insisting that conversations be reported to him verbatim. Which means Sir Gerald will have an iron-clad excuse to tell his boss, in front of the PM, exactly where he can shove the NDAs.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: In A Taste for Death, Dinah briefly mimics Willie's cockney accent because she finds it charming. Her imitation is rendered with a thicker Funetik Aksent than his real accent is.
  • Call-Forward: The Night of Morningstar begins with a prologue set during the period when Modesty and Willie were wrapping up the Network and preparing for a quiet retirement, with them each privately wondering if they'll be able to make a go of it and how they'll manage without the excitement. This of course comes after ten books of Modesty and Willie in the present day continually interrupting their quiet retirement because they can't manage without some excitement.
  • Carpet-Rolled Corpse: In The Night of Morningstar, an abduction takes place in which the unconscious victim is carried out of the building wrapped in a carpet, by two men dressed as tradesmen.
  • Centipede's Dilemma: In I, Lucifer, Lucifer has no martial training, but is able to defeat Modesty in single combat because he can instinctively see what she's about to do and always has the counter ready. In the rematch, Modesty trips him up by getting him to consciously think about how he's predicting her moves, which stops him doing it effectively.
  • Checkpoint Charlie: In "The Giggle Wrecker", Modesty and Willie have to sneak a Soviet detector across the Berlin Wall.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: In I, Lucifer, there is a scene establishing a precaution used to keep sharks from coming near the island where the villains have their base. It pays off later when Modesty and Willie have to swim to safety, Willie with an open wound, and Modesty comments that they'd have had a much more difficult time of it if the sharks hadn't been warded off. Then it comes up again at the climax, in connection with the Karmic Death of one of the villains.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In The Impossible Virgin, there's a part of the story where Dr Pennyfeather is working as a night-shift locum, and it's mentioned several times that most nights he doesn't have much to do other than read the magazines in the waiting room. Much later, he saves his and Modesty's lives with something he remembers reading in one of the magazines.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • In I, Lucifer, Modesty and Sir Gerald have a conversation while watching Willie participate in a skydiving contest. At the climax of the novel, Modesty and Willie skydive into the villains' base.
    • At the beginning of A Taste for Death, Modesty and Willie are respectively having a fencing lesson (and arguing with the fencing instructor over the differences in tactics required from real sword-fighting) and scuba diving to gather pearls. Later in the book, Modesty has a sword fight to the death (and exploits the fact that her opponent is more used to fencing) and scuba diving is used to collect a different kind of prize.
    • Near the beginning of The Impossible Virgin, Modesty and Willie do a workout with quarterstaves and discuss the fact that they're unlikely ever to have occasion to use them in a real fight. That occasion occurs near the end of the book.
    • In The Night of Morningstar, Modesty demonstrates an ability to control individual muscles with remarkable precision, as a party trick to distract Stephen and Dinah when they're worried about Willie. Later, after being injected with a sedative by the villains, she uses the same muscle control to squeeze the injected fluid back out through the injection puncture.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: At the start of A Taste for Death, Modesty is in a relationship with Steve Collier, who she hooked up with in the previous novel, and it's going well enough that she's not immediately averse to the idea of marrying him and settling down. Then Willie starts a relationship with Dinah Pilgrim, which seems to be similarly serious. So what happens but that Steve and Dinah end up falling in love with each other and going off together at the end to get married, leaving Modesty and Willie still as the most important people in each other's lives.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: In I, Lucifer, Lucifer has no martial training, but is able to defeat Modesty in single combat because he can see what she's about to do and always has the counter ready. In the rematch, Modesty trips him up with a Centipede's Dilemma, getting him to consciously think about how he's predicting her moves, which stops him doing it effectively.
  • Constructive Body Disposal: In The Night of Morningstar, Willie has a show-down in a construction site with two killers sent by the villains. To keep the villains wondering about what happened to them, he uses a mechanical digger to bury the bodies in a patch of ground that's due to be paved over with concrete the next day.
  • Contemptible Cover: During the 1970s and '80s, most of the books got stuck with covers featuring an array of headless photos of women in stripperiffic black leather outfits decorated with metal studs. Over multiple editions, each more contemptible than the last, and none bearing any connection to the books' actual contents. You know it's bad when a male reader would rather be seen in public with the first novel's original cover, which is bright pink. Also, Modesty never wears that kind of leather Spy Catsuit in the books because of its impracticality - when she's in stealth mode she wears black denim, cotton, or wool.
  • Covert Distress Code:
    • The name "Jacqueline" inserted into any conversation is Modesty & Willie's private signal for 'I'm in trouble and can't talk openly.'
    • In The Impossible Virgin, the villain's security measures include a hand-signal (pretending to adjust their tie) that his men have to do when they return to base to signal that they're not under duress and it's safe to open up and let them in.
  • Criminal Amnesiac: In Dead Man's Handle, Willie loses his memory and is recruited by the villains as a weapon against Modesty.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Dr Giles Pennyfeather is a male example. He's clumsy and accident-prone, and things tend to get broken in his vicinity, but he makes up for it by being very good-natured. It also helps that when he's in doctor mode, although he's still clumsy, he always somehow instinctively avoids doing any real damage.
  • Deadly Distant Finale: "Cobra Trap", the last of the stories, is set years after the next-last; Modesty and Willie come out of retirement to rescue a group of hostages that includes several of their friends, and the story ends with the death of both of them, in a rear-guard action to ensure the hostages make a clean get-away.
  • Defector from Commie Land:
    • The Impossible Virgin begins with a Soviet satellite imagery interpreter deciding to defect, not through idealism but because he's discovered something in one of his satellite images that will make him very rich if he can exploit it before anyone else discovers it. The actual defection is accomplished by the end of the fourth page, because he's a very minor functionary so he can easily jump ship while on holiday and his superiors won't bother chasing him; the plot of the novel is about what happens after that, as a result of him choosing poorly about who to bring in on his secret.
    • In "The Giggle-Wrecker", Modesty and Willie help smuggle a Soviet defector across the Berlin Wall.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: In A Taste For Death. Modesty engineers a fight with a sword master, and realises that the only way she can win is to trap his sword in the shoulder of her sword arm. At which point she drops her sword into the other hand and kills him before he adapts.
  • Description Cut:
    • In A Taste for Death, Steve and Modesty idly wonder how Willie is doing on his vacation in America. Modesty notes that it's the middle of the night over there and says he's probably in bed. Cut to Willie, wide awake, in the middle of trying to evade a gang of kidnappers.
    • In The Night of Morningstar, Modesty is attacked and injured while out on the town with her friends Dinah and Stephen. A bit later, there's a scene where Stephen and Modesty discuss the possibility that whoever was behind it will try again, and Stephen anticipates having to put some effort into convincing Dinah that Modesty will be all right. This remark is immediately followed by a cut to Dinah telling Willie that she has confidence that Modesty can handle herself and anticipating that Stephen is going to need reassurance.
  • Determinator: The Polish Twins in The Night of Morningstar are a notorious team of hired killers who guarantee that once they've accepted a target they will not give up until the target is dead. It is reported that they once kept after a particularly well-guarded target for months until they found the opportunity they needed.
  • Devil Complex: The young man known as "Lucifer" in I, Lucifer, is under the delusion that he is Satan. Yes, the Satan. Despite this, he's still the Token Good Teammate among the bad guys, for a very weird version of "good".
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Gabriel is a criminal mastermind known for elaborate plots with multiple escape routes, and is the only villain in the novels who escapes to clash with the heroes another day.
  • Disability Superpower: Recurring character Dinah Collier is blind; she has both the mundane form of the trope, where her other senses are extremely acute, and the supernatural form, as she has a psychic ability to dowse for hidden objects.
  • Disposable Vagrant: In The Night of Morningstar, when the Watchmen do their If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten test, the proposed victim is a random junkie they abducted off the street.
  • Distant Finale: "Cobra Trap" is set at least a decade, possibly more, after the events of the novels and comic strip.
  • Distant Prologue: The Night of Morningstar opens with a prologue set in the closing days of the Network, and describing Modesty's first encounters with two characters who will be significant in the main plot, before jumping forward over a decade to the present day.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Personified by a trick Modesty uses on occasion called "The Nailer" in which she'll strip to the waist and enter a room topless. The momentary distraction caused by seeing a sexy female enter suddenly is often enough for Willie or Modesty to get the upper hand (lampooned in a mid-1970s comic strip when the Nailer is noted as being less effective because men in the 1970s have been exposed to increasingly amounts of sexually explicit films and magazines).
  • The Ditz: In The Night of Morningstar, Earl St. Maur's wife Victoria is an airhead from a noble family who is incapable of maintaining a train of thought on any subject that doesn't involve horses or sex.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Modesty Blaise grew up in Barefoot Poverty, and still often goes barefoot on country walks because having tough feet helps with her fighting style. She will however wear shoes without complaint when it's socially appropriate or practically necessary to do so.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Birthday: Modesty, because she was orphaned at a young age. In The Impossible Virgin, she tells Sir Giles that she uses it as an excuse to celebrate her birthday three times a year.
  • Double Standard: Averted; both protagonists routinely take lovers. Willie more than Modesty, admitted. By the last arcs in the strip, Modesty has several old flames who she routinely cycles between, with all parties involved aware of the others. Willie, on the other hand, has a lot of flings and one-night stands, with Maude Tiller (and in the book version, Lady Janet Gillam) as the recurring love interest.
  • Dowsing Device: In A Taste for Death, Dinah demonstrates her dowsing ability using the modern form of dowsing device, a pair of bent metal rods held one in each hand.
  • Driving into a Truck: In The Impossible Virgin, Modesty and Willie pull off a heist and drive off with the loot in a van. A few minutes later, the van makes a rendezvous in an underpass with an ally driving a large removal truck. The van is driven up into the back of the truck, which then continues innocently on its way.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The early part of I, Lucifer is set in Paris, and Modesty's first scene is not over before somebody has pointed out the Eiffel Tower in the distance. (And then, because he's a native Parisian of the "newfangled abomination" school, jokingly solicited her collaboration on a hypothetical scheme to blow it up and save the eyeballs of future generations.)
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While she was running her crime syndicate, Modesty refused to deal in drugs. Or prostitution. Or anything that would require killing innocent people or police. Or even killing other criminals, except in self-defense or defense of another. Although they did a rather large amount of killing re: that last. This continues into the post-Network era. On countless occasions in literature and comic strip, Willie and Modesty make a conscious effort to go for "sleeps, not keeps" whenever possible, but at the same time will make a deliberate decision to kill if they deem it appropriate.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • The female crime boss in The Xanadu Talisman has a lot of parallels to Modesty in her own crime boss days, but without any Modesty's code of honour or scruples about getting involved in dirty business like Human Trafficking.
    • Hugh Oberon in The Night of Morningstar is described as being like Willie if he'd gone down a wrong path; they have similar skills, but where Willie has confidence, judgement, and respect for his leader, Oberon has conceit, arrogance, and envy.
  • Evil Puppeteer: In I, Lucifer, the Big Bad's hobby is constructing hand-made marionettes and putting on creepy puppet shows with his wife. One of his underlings reflects that part of why the puppet shows are so unnerving is that they're a reminder that he has his people dancing to his strings as well.
  • External Combustion: In I, Lucifer, the villains attempt to kill the head of the French secret service with a car bomb. Willie Garvin sees the culprit leaving the scene after setting the bomb, recognises him as a criminal who specialises in this kind of crime, and intervenes to prevent the bomb going off. His knowledge of the culprit's methods also warns him of a booby trap: in addition to being wired to go off when the engine is started, there's another trigger that will set the bomb off if someone opens the hood to look for a bomb.
  • Extreme Libido: In The Night of Morningstar, Earl St. Maur's wife is a woman of "lusty appetites". As her husband is frequently away on business, she's having an affair with a neighbour to keep her appetites fed. Several times a day, apparently.
  • Finger Gun: In a lighter moment in the first novel, Modesty gets in a finger-gun battle with a pair of small boys.
  • Flynning: Discussed in A Taste for Death, as Steve and Sir Gerald watch Modesty fencing. Steve says that it's not like in the movies, and Sir Gerald explains about the differences and why they exist.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Discussed in The Night of Morningstar. Modesty is attacked and injured while out on the town with her friends Dinah and Stephen. While trying to improvise a dressing for the injury, Stephen remarks that in films this is the point where one of the women present would start tearing strips off her petticoat, and jokes that it was careless of Modesty and Dinah to not have brought a petticoat with them. They make do with Stephen's handkerchief tied in place with Modesty's nylons.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: In The Silver Mistress Modesty fights nude, and greased-up, to keep the much-stronger bad guy from being able to grab her. In addition, one of Modesty's favorite tactics when entering a room full of hostiles is "The Nailer"—she strips to the waist and walks in bare-breasted, counting on the moment of startlement she generates to give her the time she needs to do what she must.
  • Funetik Aksent: Willie Garvin's Cockney accent is rendered with occasional phonetic touches like dropped aitches, but not a full attempt to depict the accent. When Dinah mimics his accent in A Taste for Death, it does get a full on funetik aksent ("thousand" spelled as "thahsend", etc.), either to show that she's overdoing it or perhaps to let the reader know that this is what Willie really 'sounds' like.
  • Funny Foreigner:
    • Sheikh Abu-Tahir in the first novel is an Arab Oil Sheikh who speaks broken English with frequent malapropisms and mixes elements of the wealthy oil magnate lifestyle with elements of the traditional life of his tribe; for instance, when he comes to England to negotiate an oil deal with the British government, he and his retinue take a suite at the Ritz and then set up a traditional encampment inside it, complete with tents and goats.
    • Caspar in "A Perfect Night to Break Your Neck" is a Funny Foreigner everywhere he goes, speaking in an unidentifiable accent with Poirot Speak interjections from multiple languages.
      "Modesty, my old!" Caspar snatched up her hand and kissed it. "I am possessed by a brilliant idea. Let us get married tout de suite, old bean. Heiut! Oggi! As captain of the Delphine, I will perform the ceremony. Tovarich Garvin shall be best man."
  • Gayngster: In I, Lucifer, one of the hitmen sent after the head of the French secret service wears make-up, frilly clothes, and dressed hair, is described as having feminine mannerisms, and is suggested to be in a relationship with one of the others. It's made clear that he's not in any way less dangerous.
  • Genius Bruiser: In A Taste for Death, Simon Delicata is a huge man with the strength to kill a person with a single blow or to tear steel security shutters right off the wall. But he's not dumb muscle; he's smart enough to be the leader of any group of villains he's involved with.
  • Genius Ditz: Dr Giles Pennyfeather is effective and reliable when his medical skills are called for but an adorkable bumbler in every other aspect of his life.
  • Gladiator Games:
    • In A Taste for Death, Modesty is forced to take part in a duel to the death in the ruins of a Roman arena for the entertainment of the villains. The narration notes that, as it was a small settlement in a remote part of the empire, the arena probably wasn't used for actual gladiatorial combats back in the day and this might be the first time it's been used for a fight to the death.
    • Modesty is forced to take part in Dead Man's Handle.
  • Grenade Hot Potato:
    • During the climactic battle of I, Lucifer, the villains throw an improvised grenade up onto the roof where Modesty and her allies are holed up. Modesty quickly scoops it up and throws it back just as the fuse runs down.
    • In "A Better Day to Die" Modesty is attempting to protect a missionary with no combat skills from a gang of bandits. The missionary ends up demonstrating the cricketing skills he had mentioned earlier by making a diving catch of a Mills bomb and throwing it back at the bandits in the manner of a slips fieldsman, with lethal results.
  • Groin Attack: In A Taste for Death, Modesty gets into a duel to the death with one of the villains, an egotistical Master Swordsman. At one point, they get into a Blade Lock, which Modesty breaks by kneeing him in a vulnerable area. It doesn't take him out of the fight entirely, but it does put him off his stroke for a bit.
  • Hearing Voices: In The Impossible Virgin, Lisa Brunel hears mysterious unearthly voices that force her to do what they say, and punish her for disobedience by dinning at her incessantly for hours at a time. Willie finds out that the villain is scamming her using a hidden radio.
  • Heel–Face Mole: One of the short stories features a Soviet defector who turns out to be actually a Soviet agent pretending to defect as a way of flushing out and identifying the West's undercover assets as they helped him on his way.
  • Hermit Guru: Several stories refer to a hermit guru named Sivaji, whom Modesty studied under in the backstory, and who taught her to be Master of Your Domain.
  • Heroic Neutral: Modesty and Willie are already retired when the series begins, and have no particular urge to fight evil. They generally get involved only when they've been given a personal stake in the outcome, either because the villain has messed with them personally or because something's happened to one of their friends.
  • Honor Before Reason: Modesty and Willie have their moments of this. In The Night of Morningstar, Willie fights two assassins who are both experts in unarmed combat and although he wins by having the edge in out-of-the-box improvisation, he gets badly injured; afterward, the assassins' target asks if there wasn't a less painful way to have taken them out, and Willie admits that he could have dropped both of them with throwing knives before they even knew he was there, but he isn't the kind of person who kills people without warning when they haven't definitely demonstated hostile intent.
  • Human Traffickers: In the prologue of The Night of Morningstar, Modesty and Willie and a group of friends take out a crime boss whose lines of business include trafficking women and female children into sex slavery.
  • Hustling the Mark: In I, Lucifer, Sir Gerald recruits Willie to teach a lesson to two unpleasant men at his gentlemen's club. They challenge the two to a game of pool, with a friendly wager to keep it interesting, and Willie pretends to be very bad at pool while goading them into increasing the amount of the bet. At the appropriate moment, Willie reveals his true colours and wins the game by potting every remaining ball in a single uninterrupted streak.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: Brunel in The Impossible Virgin controls his minions through fear and hatred: they fear him, and hate each other. Most of them hate him, too, but won't do anything about it because if they try to kill him and fail they know what he'll do to them, and if they succeed they know what the others will do to them. Then one of them discovers a way to turn one of Brunel's own plots against him, taking him out without leaving any pointer to who did it, and he doesn't hesitate to use it.
  • I Don't Know Mortal Kombat: A Taste For Death establishes that although Modesty is extremely dangerous in a real sword-fight, she drives her fencing instructor to distraction because she can't adapt to the sport's Acceptable Breaks from Reality.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: In The Night of Morningstar, the Watchmen have this as a standard part of the testing of new recruits, to make sure that they will be willing to kill when ordered; they call it the "Mohs test" after the Mohs hardness scale. Undercover CIA operative Ben Christie actually goes through with it, because he had just found out that the Watchmen were going to execute a terrorist bombing the next morning killing thousands and he absolutely could not die or blow his cover before he had a chance to warn someone. Then, after he murders an innocent teenaged girl to prove that he's not an infiltrator, the villains laugh at him and inform him that they already knew he was CIA even before the test started, and they just wanted to have fun with him. Ben doesn't really survive the revelation.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Cricketing skills allow a missionary to play Grenade Hot Potato in "A Better Day to Die".
  • Impersonating an Officer:
    • In A Taste for Death, two criminals steal a police car and the uniforms of the officers in it, using them to impersonate police and get the drop on Willie.
    • In The Night of Morningstar, when one of the Watchmen is arrested after failing to subdue Modesty, another impersonates an investigator from Special Branch to gain access to the police lockup and kill him before he can tell what he knows.
  • Insane = Violent: Discussed in I, Lucifer. Stephen says that the villains are insane, and Modesty says that while they might have mental problems that contribute to their eccentric personalities she doesn't believe that has anything to do with their villainy: they're sane enough to know that what they do is wrong and they do it anyway. She points out that in contrast Lucifer, who is definitely insane in the detached-from-reality, paranoid-delusion sense, is a sweetheart who wouldn't have anything to do with the villains' schemes if he were capable of understanding what was really going on.
  • Intro-Only Point of View: The Impossible Virgin begins with a man named Mischa Novikov, and follows him until he dies on the fifth page, one paragraph before Modesty enters the story.
  • Involuntary Battle to the Death: In I, Lucifer, Modesty and Willie get captured by the villains and forced to fight each other in a quick draw duel to the death, Modesty's handgun versus Willie's throwing knife. They come up with a way of staging Willie's death so he can get away and send word for help.
  • Ironic Nickname: Her mentor started calling her "Modesty" as a joke (she doesn't know her real name).
  • Just Between You and Me: In The Night of Morningstar, the Big Bad can't resist visiting the captured Modesty and Willie for a little chat, and they nudge him into deciding to tell them his whole plan, which is a great help to them when they inevitably escape and set out to foil it.
  • Karmic Death: At the end of I, Lucifer, the male villains are killed in straightforward ways, but Mrs Seff self-disposes. She goes to murder the dolphin trainer who has been working for them, since he's a loose end now the role of the dolphins has been discovered. She comes across him as he's harnessing the dolphins to a tow-rope for their next task, and doesn't notice that she's standing in the coiled far end of the tow-rope. When she shoots the trainer, the dolphins panic and take off, the coil tightens around her foot, and she's dragged into the water and killed.
  • Killer Gorilla: In The Impossible Virgin, the villain has a gorilla in a cage at his base in Africa. He keeps it around mainly to make a point about how he, small and physically unimposing as he is, has more power than the hulking beast, but there are also times when people get locked in the cage to be torn to shreds.
  • Knife Nut: Willie Garvin is a dead aim with throwing knives, and usually doesn't go into action without his two favourite throwing knives in an underarm sheath.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: Willie Garvin occasionally goes and does one of these at a circus somewhere when he feels like a holiday; Modesty sometimes plays the target's role.
  • The Last Dance: In "Cobra Trap", Modesty reveals to Willie near the end that this has been her last hurrah because she's dying of an inoperable brain tumor.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Discussed in A Taste for Death. Near the end, Sir Gerald calls on the big bad, a Villain with Good Publicity who has made sure that no evidence points back to him, and they have a civil discussion about the fact that Sir Gerald knows what he did but can't do anything about it. Sir Gerald recalls the "quaint but rather civilised custom" of the discreet withdrawal and the loaded pistol, and suggests that the big bad might wish to avail himself of it, pointing out that Modesty also knows what he did and she doesn't need evidence. The big bad laughs it off, confident he has nothing to fear. He's dead of Modesty by the end of the page.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "A Taste for Death" is a quote from a short poem by A. E. Housman, which Delicata quotes in a Title Drop moment.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: In Sabre-Tooth, Modesty and Willie are captured by a villain who wants to see if their reputation for inventiveness is deserved before recruiting them. He locks them in a cell but deliberately leaves a means of escape to see if they will discover it. They do, then decide that is too obvious and must be a trap, and proceed to invent their own means of escape. The bad guy is very impressed.
  • MacGuffin: The plot of The Impossible Virgin is driven by a classic MacGuffin, in the form of the secret imparted to Dr Giles Pennyfeather by the dying Novikov. The villains will stop at nothing to learn it, which powers the story, but beyond that the precise nature of the secret (the location of a valuable patch of unexploited mineral wealth in a remote part of Africa) has no effect on the plot; the one villain who learns the secret gets to trade on the fact that he has the MacGuffin now, but dies before he has a chance to actually do anything with it, and in the end the heroes decide it's best just to let it lie undisturbed.
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title: The Xanadu Talisman.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In A Taste for Death, the villains dispose this way of several people who know too much; one drowns in a "boating accident" and another has his neck broken "falling down the stairs". At the end of the novel, Modesty sees to it that the big bad meets with a similar "accident".
  • Master of Your Domain: Modesty has learned a variety of techniques from a Hermit Guru that allow her to control bodily processes. She can put herself into a self-imposed coma-like trance, slow down her metabolism in situations like being trapped in icy cold, and other such effects. In The Night of Morningstar, she demonstrates an ability to control individual muscles with remarkable precision, first as a party trick and then after being injected with a sedative by the villains, to squeeze the injected fluid back out through the injeciton puncture.
  • Master Swordsman: In A Taste for the Death, one of the under-villains, Wenczel, is an egotistical master fencer who spends all his spare time practicing. Modesty goads him into a duel as part of her escape plan, and wins partly because he keeps passing up openings because he wants to show off by killing her with a single thrust through the heart.
  • Mercy Kill: In The Impossible Virgin, one of the first things we're told about the villain, Brunel, is a character recalling having to perform a mercy kill on "the still-living ruins of a man" who had incurred Brunel's displeasure.
  • Mister Big: Brunel, the villain of The Impossible Virgin, is noted for being under five feet tall and not physically imposing. Unlike some versions of the trope, he's not hot-tempered or at all sensitive about his height.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Invoked in A Taste for Death; Modesty and Willie get one of the villain's underlings to help them by convincing him that the villain plans to dispose of him when his usefulness is at an end to prevent him giving anything away, though there's actually no evidence that the villain intends anything of the sort.
  • Moral Dissonance: Lampshaded in the short story "I Had a Date with Lady Janet" when Willie (narrating the story in first person) defends accusations of Modesty being a cold-blooded killer.
  • More Expendable Than You: Whenever a caper requires Modesty to put her life on the line, Willie asks if he can't do it instead.
  • Multitasked Conversation: Near the end of The Night of Morningstar, Modesty is captured by the villains; during the subsequent conversation, several of the things she says double as instructions for Willie, who is lurking just outside.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In A Taste for Death, Steve mentions having read something in the Evening Standard, which is the newspaper that originally ran the Modesty Blaise comic strip.
    • In "Cobra Trap", a character remarks how great Modesty looks for her age, a Lampshade Hanging on her lack of apparent aging in the decades the comic strip had been running.
  • Napoleon Delusion: In I, Lucifer, the title character has a delusion that he's Satan walking the Earth in human form. The psychologist studying him uses the standard Napoleon delusion as an example when explaining his condition to another character.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In The Impossible Virgin, Modesty is being held prisoner by the villain and suffering from self-doubt because she doesn't seem to be able to get her head together and plan an escape. The villain decides to let her have a brief meeting with another prisoner, her friend Dr Pennyfeather, figuring that each will be further demoralised by seeing how badly the other is doing and at worst there will be no change, but "I can't think that it will be to their benefit". What he's not counting on is Dr Pennyfeather's (previously established) ability to diagnose illnesses from very subtle signs, which allows him to recognise that Modesty's mental confusion is a result of being secretly drugged, allowing her to get back in the game and ultimately saving both their lives.
  • Nice to the Waiter: In a scene in I, Lucifer, Sir Gerald Tarrant gets Willie's help to teach a lesson to two particularly unpleasant men at his gentleman's club. He notes that while most of the other members regard these two with distaste, the real sign is that all the club's staff hate them.
  • No One Could Survive That!: In The Impossible Virgin, Willie Garvin is thrown out of an aircraft at three thousand feet, tied to a chair. Nobody actually says the standard phrase, but they villains are clearly thinking it, and don't bother to stop or send someone back to confirm the death. Willie shows up again later, alive and well, in the nick of time.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: At the climax of The Night of Morningstar, Willie's sabotage results in the sudden catastrophic sinking of the villains' ship, leaving them struggling in open water to find flotsam to support them. The Big Bad is knifed by one of his own mooks in a struggle for a lifejacket, and that mook shortly afterward suffers the same fate at the hands of another.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Jack Fraser, star secret agent wolf in the clothing of a meek and pedantic Desk Jockey. The first sentence of the first novel:
    Fraser adjusted his spectacles to the angle which he knew would produce the effect of prim stupidity he favoured most.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Modesty and Willie are friends for decades and have a very close rapport, but never have any romantic or sexual interest in each other, to the bemusement of the people around them.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: In A Taste for Death, the climax is the duel to the death and then the break-out of the hostages from Delicata's gang. There follows a chapter of Modesty recuperating from the injury she got in the duel, which is suddenly interrupted by Delicata showing up again and forcing a final showdown.
  • Professional Killer: The Polish Twins in The Night of Morningstar are a pair of hired killers who work as a team. They take full payment upfront and guarantee that once they've been paid for a target they will not give up until the target is dead.
  • Pseudo Crisis: In A Taste for Death, Modesty arrives in Panama for a time-critical mission and as she is leaving the airport a police officer arrests her on outstanding matters from her last visit and bundles her off without giving her a chance to send a message to anyone. When the narrative returns to Modesty, it turns out the police officer is an old friend and they'd staged it between them so that the bad guys watching for Modesty's arrival would think she was out of action.
  • Psychometry: In I, Lucifer, Lucifer can psychically determine things about people from objects associated with them, such as a handwritten note or a hair clipping.
  • Pull the Thread: In I, Lucifer, Willie suspects that Modesty's new boyfriend, Stephen Collier, is hiding something when he claims to be a metallurgist, so he makes a casual comment about beryllium that any real metallurgist would spot as nonsense; Stephen cuts the conversation short by saying he prefers not to talk shop on holiday, but fails to remark on the deliberate mistake. After Modesty points out the trap he fell into, he admits that he's actually an ESP researcher but doesn't like how the conversation usually goes if he says so in social situations, so when people ask what he does he says he's a metallurgist and that's usually the end of the subject.
  • Qurac: The Sheikdom of Malaurak in the first novel, a small Arabian country inhabited by nomadic tribes which has recently become part of the modern world due to the discovery of oil.
  • Rambunctious Italian: In A Taste for Death, Modesty's fencing instructor, Professor Barbi, has a hot and easily-provoked temper.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: When Modesty met Willie, he was living a directionless and violent life, but she recognised his potential and recruited him to her organisation, where he quickly became her right-hand man and best friend.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: In I, Lucifer, Lucifer dresses entirely in red and black as part of his Devil Complex.
  • Red Baron: In The Night of Morningstar, there is a notorious pair of professional killers known as the Polish Twins. Admittedly, they're called that partly because most people find "the Zdrzalkywicz twins" too much of a mouthful, but it does function as a badass nickname: Willie notes that if you mention "the Polish twins", anybody who's ever encountered them will know exactly who you mean.
  • Red Scare: In The Night of Morningstar, the villains' plan turns out to be masterminded by a high-ranking Russian intelligence officer, with the long-term goal of easing the way for the USSR to annex Romania and Yugoslavia. He predicts that with him masterminding things the USSR will have Western Europe, including Britain, sewn up within a decade.
  • Roadside Surgery: In The Impossible Virgin, Modesty and Dr Giles Pennyfeather have to perform an emergency appendectomy in a cave where they and the patient are hiding from the villains. Giles has to talk Modesty through the surgery because his hands haven't recovered from being tortured by the villains. Modesty does note that there is one up-side to the situation: Giles got most of his surgical experience as a mission doctor in a remote African village, so he's used to working in primitive conditions.
  • Running Gag: The series-long running gag of Willie saying that the current circumstances remind him of an improbable thing that happened one time involving one of his many girlfriends.
  • Secretly Dying: In the Distant Finale "Cobra Trap", Modesty is killed in action shortly after revealing to Willie that she's already dying, from an inoperable brain tumor.
  • Secret Test of Thieving Skill: In Sabre-Tooth, Modesty and Willie are captured by a villain who wants to see if their reputation for inventiveness is deserved before recruiting them. He locks them in a cell but deliberately leaves a means of escape to see if they will discover it. They do, then decide that is too obvious and must be a trap, and proceed to invent their own means of escape. The bad guy is very impressed, and makes them an offer they can't refuse.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: Done on a grand scale in The Night of Morningstar. The Watchmen are a terrorist group with no discernable ideology who have committed a number of attacks for no clear purpose; it turns out that they're being run at arm's length by the Soviet Union and most of their attacks are to confuse things so that it won't be obvious when they commit an attack that advances the Soviet Union's aims.
  • Shout-Out: In "The Soo Girl Charity", Modesty cautions Willie against engaging in vigilantism for the sake of it by saying that they aren't "the Four Just Men", a reference to the thriller of the same name by Edgar Wallace.
  • Show Some Leg: Modesty Blaise would occasionally get the drop on the bad guys by stripping prior to a fight, a manoeuvre known as The Nailer. Depending on how easily-distracted the bad guys were, she would sometimes keep her underwear on, and sometimes not.
  • Sibling Team: The Polish Twins in The Night of Morningstar, twin brothers who work as a team of killers for hire.
  • Simple Staff: Quarterstaff combat features in The Impossible Virgin.
  • Sissy Villain: Distaff Counterpart: Mrs. Fothergill in Modesty Blaise has a lot of Butch Lesbian signifiers, but she doesn't seem to show any sexual interest in anyone, and doesn't enjoy many things other than killing people.
  • Slipping a Mickey: In The Impossible Virgin, the heroes are captured by the villain after drinking coffee that was drugged by a character they'd trusted up to that point.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Played with in The Night of Morningstar; the Big Bad, Golitsyn, is shown in one scene playing chess while waiting for news on the outcome of a mission — and playing dirty, distracting his opponent with insults because he's not confident of winning fairly and has too much ego to accept losing.
  • Spider-Sense: Willie's ears sometimes prickle when something bad is about to go down. It doesn't always happen, but when it does it's never a false alarm.
  • Spit Take: In The Impossible Virgin, when Modesty and Willie are discussing what to do about the villain over a glass of wine, and their resolutely non-action-hero friend Giles casually offers to help dispose of the body just as Willie is taking a sip.
  • The Spymaster: Sir Gerald Tarrant, something high up in the British secret service, who occasionally passes jobs to Modesty and Willie that his agents are unable to handle. He's the hidden-heart-of-gold type: soft-hearted enough to feel bad about manipulating people for the greater good, but not so soft-hearted to stop doing it.
  • The Starscream: Adrian Chance in The Impossible Virgin starts out as a loyal (if secretly resentful) right-hand man to the villain Brunel, but starts plotting against his boss after Brunel decides to try and brainwash Modesty Blaise into his new right-hand person. He does successfully overthrow Brunel after a lucky chance gives him an unexpected advantage, but it's noted that he's not in Brunel's league and if he hadn't been killed by Modesty shortly afterward he probably would have messed things up for himself before too long.
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • In A Taste For Death, the second banana villain—who has been defeated by them before—practically jumps up and down shouting, "Kill them now!" or (later) "They're up to something, kill them now!" But he's overruled. It goes poorly for him.
    • Major the Earl St. Maur, in Night of Morningstar, argues for dropping Modesty & Willie over the side the instant the Watchmen finish determining whether or not our heroes managed to send a message before being captured. (They hadn't.) He is overruled by his superior Colonel Golitsyn, who wishes to keep Modesty & Willie alive for use in an elaborate disinformation plot. Karmically, Golitsyn was one of the first of the Watchmen's senior leaders to die in Modesty & Willie's inevitable escape; St. Maur was the last.
    • Modesty and Willie are occasionally asked this in both the novels and comic strip. In the first novel, Modesty also basically asks Willie this during a fight with a pair of thugs.
  • Steal the Surroundings: In The Impossible Virgin, Modesty and Willie have to steal some sensitive documents from a safe in the villain's house. With the villain on the alert, it's considered impossible to get into the house, let alone get enough uninterrupted time to crack the safe (it was originally installed when the house belonged to a jewel merchant, and is a heavy-duty model built directly into a wall) — so they use a crane and demolition ball to smash through the wall, and steal the entire safe.
  • Swiss Bank Account: In The Night of Morningstar, it's mentioned in passing that the terrorist group's members are all being paid into Swiss bank accounts.
  • Sword Fight: In A Taste for Death, Modesty's half of the climactic action set pieces is a sword fight to the death with one of the villains.
  • Taking the Bullet: In a fight scene in The Night of Morningstar, Modesty has to leave her guard down for a moment in order to concentrate on destroying the radio transmitter vital to the villains' plans, and the one mook still standing tries to shoot her in the back. Ben Christie, who was sitting out the fight and ignored by everyone due to his injuries from an earlier conflict, throws himself between Modesty and the bullet.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: Discussed in The Night of Morningstar in regard to the Watchmen, a terrorist group who claim a different motivation for each attack and have espoused causes from all over the political spectrum including several that are mutually exclusive. Tarrant tells Modesty that investigations have established that it really is a single group behind all the attacks, and that they're not just a Murder, Inc. whose goals change depending on who's paying them, but nobody knows what they're really out to achieve. It turns out that they're being run at arm's length by the USSR, with the aim that once they've established their legend they'll start carrying out attacks that serve the USSR's purposes disguised among the random ones.
  • Trick-and-Follow Ploy: In "The Giggle-Wrecker", the villains turn out to have been attempting this, setting up a situation where they figured Sir Gerald would have no choice but to activate one of his sleeper agents and in the process reveal their identity to Soviet intelligence. Sir Gerald, without knowing of the plan but instinctively reluctant to expose his sleeper agents if another way exists, puts a spoke in the plan by giving the job to Modesty and Willie instead.
  • Tricked-Out Shoes: In several of the stories, Modesty and/or Willie have trick shoes with secret compartments in the heels (or even heels that detach and then can be combined into a useful gadget). In A Taste for Death, Willie has a pair of shoes with lockpicks hidden in the sole, and a pair of combat boots where the soles contain the blade and handle of a knife.
  • The Unpronounceable: In The Night of Morningstar, the Polish Twins are a notorious team of professional killers who are identical twin brothers. Everyone calls them "the Polish Twins" because most people find "the Zdrzalkywicz twins" too much of a mouthful.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Demonstrated both ways in The Night of Morningstar. The villains' Operation Morningstar is described in great detail, and is comprehensively derailed by Modesty and Willie just as it's getting started with the result that none of the planned events occur. Conversely, Modesty's plan for the derailing is conveyed to Willie in two cryptic sentences about a conversation they had with a friend before the book started, and the reader doesn't get a description of what it actually involves until after it's kicked off.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: In A Taste for Death, the big bad behind the whole plot turns out to be a famous businessman and philanthropist with no criminal record, who is careful to make sure there's no evidence pointing back to him.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Brunel, the villain of The Impossible Virgin, is a cold-blooded criminal mastermind who regards the compassionate virtues as weaknesses that he's glad not to share. He understands how they work well enough to manipulate his opponents with them (including at one point luring Modesty and Willie into a trap), which just makes him more sure that they're a weakness to be avoided. Even loyalty doesn't mean anything to him; he feels no loyalty to anyone, and prefers to rely on fear and greed in controlling his subordinates, which is what gets him killed in the end.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Averted. Modesty and Willie frequently decide whether to kill or spare enemies based on moral judgements of them as individuals rather than their importance to the plot, often killing depraved Big Bads while sparing minions who might not have been aware of how bad their employer was. Shown off in the French Riviera section of the very first book, where Willie slightly injures and humiliates a mook assigned to spy on him via a comedy Groin Attack, but shortly afterwards Modesty deliberately kills one who had cold-bloodedly murdered a vulnerable young woman for informing.
  • Working the Same Case: At the beginning of A Taste for Death, Willie foils a kidnapping he stumbles across while on holiday, and Modesty gets asked by Sir Gerald to look into a problem a friend of his is having. The kidnapping turns out to be part of the same problem.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: "I Had a Date with Lady Janet" describes a situation dating back to when Modesty was the leader of a criminal gang in which a lucrative robbery job was cancelled due to Modesty being unable to work out a plan that didn't involve police officers being hurt.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Near the end of I, Lucifer, when the villains are abandoning their base before the authorities arrive, Big Bad Seff casually shoots his underling Bowker and remarks that his usefulness is ended, since his skills were vital for the scam they were running but they won't be able to do it again, and now he is just a loose end that needs tidying up.
  • You No Take Candle: In I, Lucifer, the leader of the native islanders speaks like this. "Is right about small boat. We find along shore."


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