Plot summary Edit
The world of James Bond is introduced to the ruthless terrorist organization called 'The Union', whose brutal trademark is slashing the throat of and who cross them. When a top secret British formula hidden in microfilm, codenamed 'Skin 17' is stolen and surgically implanted in the pacemaker of an unhealthy old man, James Bond is sent in to recover it before The Union and a boyish rival named Roland Marquis can sell the microfilm to a foreign power. When the plane of the pacemaker's host is hijacked and crashed into the Himalayas, a deadly race commences to recover Skin 17. The race climaxes with Bond battling Marquis atop the peak of Kangchenjunga. After a physical high elevation fight, Bond escapes with Skin 17 and leaves Marquis to freeze to death atop the great peak.
While Bond is holidaying in Jamaica with his secretary-turned-bedmate Helena Marksbury, he drops in on his old fried from Quantum of Solace, the former governor. However, shortly after telling Bond he is in trouble with a group called The Union, he is assassinated. Bond chases the killer who shoots himself before his capture. Back in England, Bond and Tanner engage in a golf contest with Bond's old arch-rival from Eton, Squadron-Leader Roland Marquis and RAF Physicist Dr Steven Harding. Bond and Tanner lose £250 to the arrogant Marquis and his quiet partner. But later that evening, Marquis and Harding enter a secret research facility and steal the formula for Skin 17. Harding, a Union member, kills the physicist in charge and flees the country.
At an emergency meeting the next morning, M orders Bond to trace Harding to Belgium and try to recover the microdot he stole. Nobody knows of Marquis's involvement. After using his Jaguar's gadgets to survive a highway attack, (thus Bond realises there is a bug at MI6) Bond learns from a doctor (who is then blown up by The Union) that he was forced to implant the microdot into a pacemaker on a Chinese man. Surviving a fight, Bond loses Harding and the Chinese, but succeeds in bedding Belgian agent Gina Hollander. Harding flies to North Africa and is killed by the silhouetted Union leader, Le Gérant, because Lee Ming had been kidnapped and crashed with the hijackers into the Himalayan mountains. SIS also learn this, and Bond and Marquis are organised to recover the microdot from Lee's body.
They fly out to Nepal and, after nearly being shot by a rooftop assassin to then got killed, Bond and his close friend, the Gurkha Sgt. Chandra Gurung accompany the expedition to recover the plane, which also included an American Senator and British MP. Rival groups, notably Russians and Chinese are also trying to beat the British team to the top of Mt Kangchenjunga where the plane's wreck is. Bond and Chandra destroy the Chinese team's food by night, and the race is on with the Russians. But Bond is sure The Union have infiltrated the team, especially when he is shot at by a sniper who then kills an American team member who spotted him. Bond suspects a German called up at the last minute, Otto Schrenk.
As they continue up the mountain, Bond's antagonism with Marquis increases when 007 humiliates the team leader in an axe-throwing contest. Further up the mountain Bond is nearly killed when his boots are sabotaged and he plunges down the mountain. Again, he suspects Schrenk whose tent was set alight the previous night for a diversion. At last they reach the plane, but discover Lee's body to be missing. Bond eventually finds it down a crevasse and rescues it. He takes it into his tent and digs out the Pacemaker. But Schrenk comes in from behind and knocks him out, only to have his head blown off by Marquis who, along with communications boss Baack kills most of the rest of the team. Coming round and realising his defeat, Bond sleeps at 7900 metres with beautiful team doctor Hope Kendall for whom he and Marquis had been fighting.
Marquis accepts an offer of diamonds from the Russian Mafia's team, but then kill them. Chandra follows Marquis and manages to kill Baack before he himself slips from the mountain. Marquis, with the diamonds and pacemaker returns to the camp but Bond uncovers him, and they fight before Marquis runs off towards the summit, with Bond chasing. Marquis is the more expert climber but can't handle the lack of oxygen, and Bond captures him and takes the decoder. The humiliated Marquis is left to die at the summit, and Hope drags the exhausted Bond to safety.
Bond's and MI6's pride is restored, but the mole turns out to be Helena Marksbury, who was blackmailed by The Union. Bond goes to her hotel room, too late to save the traitor:
'As he took out a cigarette and lit it, Bond wondered what was colder - the cruel realm of espionage that had victimised and ultimately destroyed Helena Marksbury, the icy summit of Kangchenjunga, or his own hardened heart.'
Characters that appear in the book include:
- James Bond
- Roland Marquis
- Helena Marksbury
- Hope Kendall
- Steven Harding
- Gina Hollander
- Chandra Gurung
- Le Gerant
Locations where the book takes place include:
- The Bahamas
- London, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire — England
- Delhi, India
- Mt. Kangchenjunga