It's taken five years for this 13th and final Modesty Blaise cult classic to reach American shores, and fans who have followed the action-packed exploits of the lethal crime-fighting team of femme fatale Blaise and her knife-wielding partner, Willie Garvin, will not be disappointed with this collection of five short stories. O'Donnell's immensely satisfying farewell to the team (which originated in a 1963 comic strip and the 1965 novel Modesty Blaise) spans Modesty's entire career, thus serving as a fitting introduction to newcomers and satisfying retrospective for fans. "The Bellman" finds Modesty and Willie being hunted on a deserted island by three assassins. In "The Dark Angels," the two protect an oilman from a team of acrobatic killers. "Old Alex," a direct sequel to the novel Dead Man's Handle, mixes an amnesia tale with a fight to the death with the industrial spy group Salamander Four. "The Girl with the Black Balloon" is a devilishly clever kidnapping/rescue caper. And the final, title story features a 52-year-old Modesty, long retired but back in action to save friends from a South American uprising. Often called a female James Bond—and certainly the first of the breed—Modesty never lapses into self-parody and her illegal capers are governed by a moral code never crossed. Emphasizing hand-to-hand combat over automatic weapons, the octogenarian author still dazzles with exciting action, surprising twists and refreshing humor. His heroine will be missed (until her adventures are brought back into print). (May)
FYI: O'Donnell will retire the 38-year-old daily comic strip on April 11, his 81st birthday.