"The name is Bond, James Bond". Let's be honest, few of us will read that without hearing it spoken in Sean Connery's soft Scottish accent. However good the current Bond, and Daniel Craig is magnificent in the part, the character of James Bond has been given an enduring sense of Scottishness through his portrayal by Sean Connery in six of the early films.
It is therefore somehow fitting that "Silverfin" by Charlie Higson, the first in the series of "Young Bond" books published by Puffin, is largely set in the Highlands, and more specifically in a fictional community not far from the very real "Road to the Isles" between Fort William and Mallaig. The book is set in the 1930s as Hitler comes to power, and we first meet the young James Bond as he arrives to begin his schooling at Eton. It would be easy for a reviewer to give away too much of the plot of this book, and so spoil an excellent read: but James's time at Eton is not altogether a pleasant one thanks to school bully George Hellebore. Then, on holiday in Lochaber, Bond encounters Hellebore and his enormously rich father again, as the latter is laird of the Loch Silverfin estate and Hellebore Castle. But what exactly are they doing there, and is there a connection with the disappearance of a local boy?
Perhaps it is the academic setting of the opening part of the book, or perhaps it is the increasing juxtaposition of good and evil that emerges as the story unfolds, but there is something about Silverfin which captures the spirit of the Harry Potter adventures: even the Scottish setting is not far from the route of the Hogwarts Express. There is no magic being done here, but there is a gritty realism within a book primarily aimed at young readers that, like the Potter series, makes this a story that will appeal to readers of all ages: and especially to Bond fans of all ages. And there are some beautifully Bond-esque touches. OK, this was a time when Bond was too young to care if Martinis were shaken or stirred: but there is a strong female character who, in true Bond style, is given the seriously improbable name of Wilder Lawless: who has a horse called Martini.
This book is a special edition re-issue of the first of the Young Bond series, originally published in 2005. If you've not yet become acquainted with the young James Bond, this is an ideal opportunity to do so.