The ninth and last Young Bond novel, and the fourth by Steve Cole.
Young James Bond is leaving Fettes for the summer, and his Aunt Charmian has something interesting to show him - his father's backpack, discovered in a crevasse in the Aiguilles Rouges. Inside is a model of St Basil's for James, a note saying "Your uncle Max needs to see this," and a cryptic postcard that was never sent to Max Bond. Before he knows it, James is taken to Moscow with SIS agent Adam Elmhirst and enmeshed in a struggle to prove Andrew and Max Bond innocent of treason against their country, and to stop a Soviet plot against London.
Tropes in this final book include:
- Beneath Suspicion: The mastermind behind the entire operation, Soviet spymistress La Velada, the veiled woman whose face is never seen turns out to have killed and replaced the ballet teacher at the Mechta academy. Bond had talked to her earlier in the book and not even known.
- Big Bad: La Velada makes her return, as the main villain this time.
- Big Bad Friend: Adam Elmhirst, friendly SIS agent just seemed too good to be true, didn't it?
- Call-Forward: The gun Andrew Bond left with his notes in Moscow is a Beretta 418 in a chamois leather holster - the same gun James will use until he replaces it with the Walther in Dr. No.
- Character Development: Bond vows to kill Elmhirst, the man who killed his parents. And he does, for the first time in cold blood.
- Continuity Nod: The explosives are sourced from Blade-Rise Industries. And Colonel Irina Sedova, aka "Babushka" signed off on the operation, although she doesn't put in an appearance. Bond also reminisces about the girls he's known, namechecking each Girl of the Week.
- Dirty Communists: The villains this time around.
- The Dragon: At first the Russian agent Karachan. Then later he and Adam Elmhirst are revealed to be Co-Dragons. Mimic is more like a junior dragon, verging on Team Pet, given how they treat him.
- Evil Plan: La Velada's plan has been running for a few years now: they've dug tunnels under London using gulag labour imported by submarine, then filled the tunnels with high explosive. The eventual aim is to set off a Thames flood worse than the great flood of 1928, and assassinate the King at the same time to replace him with Mimic, who will invite the Soviet Union for assistance.
- Girl of the Week: Anya Kalashnikova, the daughter of a Russian friend of Andrew Bond's.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Adam Elmhirst is impaled on a radio mast after Bond shoots him.
- Kick the Dog: After Bond is captured by the bad guys, they repeatedly have Mimic saying his parents' last words to him, just for laughs.
- Kill and Replace: Part of the Evil Plan. Elmhirst will pull a Bodyguard Betrayal, then Mimic will play the King for a while on the radio and invite USSR aid.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: The deaths of Andrew and Monique Bond weren't an accident. Elmhirst and Mimic murdered them and made it look like a climbing accident.
- Mythology Gag: The Mechta academy is at 71 Millbank... which puts it directly across the river from the modern SIS headquarters at Vauxhall Cross. "Hidden in plain sight" indeed.
- Red Right Hand: Subverted. What's behind La Velada's veil? Absolutely nothing unusual. She's completely normal-looking.
- Voice Changeling: Mimic, a Brazilian street kid with a talent for vocal impersonation, La Velada took him in and treats him more like a beloved pet than a son.