Modesty Blaise started life as a cartoon strip, but O’Donnell then put his creation into novel form, and did a superb job in both formats. This is the first novel in the series, and introduces the setting and most of the main characters.
Modesty Blaise is a former refugee and survivor of the terrible disruptions caused by the war, and as a child drifted across Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the company of an old professor. She had to be tough to survive; but her companion instilled in her a strong moral code. She took over a small criminal gang and built it up into a powerful criminal organisation infused with that moral code–they never touched drugs or vice, and occasionally co-operated with the police and intelligence services to help clean up such crimes. She retired a wealthy woman at the age of 24.
As the novel opens, Modesty and her friend and former second-in-command Willie Garvin are finding that retirement is boring and adrenaline an addiction they cannot shake. Sir Gerald Tarrant, the head of British Intelligence, exploits that addiction to recruit them for an intelligence operation for which they are peculiarly suited. What follows is a thrilling caper novel pitting Modesty and Willie against a bizarre criminal mastermind. Tight plotting and wonderful prose make this a very entertaining read, with a unique pair of heroes. It’s wonderful to see Souvenir Press reissuing the novels, making them available again to both a new generation of fans and those with fond memories.