enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Peter O'Donnell, Pieces of Modesty (#2)

I read this book about 23-Aug-2004. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1972. This note was last modified Tuesday, 06-May-2014 13:41:17 PDT.

This is book 6 of the "Modesty Blaise" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


A collection of short "pieces", all of which are good in their various ways. None of which are in the top tier; well, maybe "The Giggle-wrecker".

A Better Day to Die

“Please don't think my loathing and disgust are directed towards you personally.”

While trying to get to Garcia's death-bed in South America, hitching a ride with a bus-load of orphan girls and the Reverend Jimson who runs the orphanage, Modesty encounters the fringes of a failed revolution, and the idiot pacifism of Jimson.

This isn't an argument against all forms of pacifism or all pacifists, as I see it; but the unthinking idiot kind is far too common, and is worth ridiculing.

In the end, getting people to medical treatment takes precedence, and Modesty probably doesn't make it to Garcia in time to say goodbye.

The Giggle-wrecker

“Shooting a big-’eaded, bloody-minded little Jap bug expert over the Wall, that’s one thing, Princess. But Yoshida was just a commie agent, and that takes all the bubbles out of it.”

Tarrant (and more importantly, his minister) have been set up, with a plot to make them activate and hence blow the cover of their sleeper network in East Berlin. Tarrant can't convince the minister, Fraser blows the gaff to Modesty, and Modesty and Willy end up going into East Berlin (using long-established covers as antique dealers) to get this biological warfare specialist out.

The final solution to getting him out is an absolute classic. They launch him over the Wall from a circus air-cannon, into a net rigged on the other side under cover of a movie production.

I Had a Date with Lady Janet

This one, as signalled by the title, is told in the first person by Willy. He's approached by a man and informed he has to go with them to save Modesty (who calls up to verify that she is in fact held captive). By Rodelle, who they thought they'd killed some time ago, but had actually only crippled (he survived a knife plus a 40-foot fall onto cement). (That, incidentally, is the same fight where Modesty first met Little Krell). Rodelle is the kind of guy who fastens Modesty's hands behind her back with wire -- barbed wire.

So Willy turns the tables on his kidnapper, finds out where Modesty is held, gets Lady Janet to fly him there to arrive much earlier than expected, goes in, and breaks her loose and puts down the hired guns.

In the process, the castle collapses on them and Rodelle (they use a grenade), and they end up saving him, and then killing him when he gets to a hidden gun and tries to shoot them.

I guess this must take place after The Xanadu Talisman. In that, they recall the fight and the apparent death of Rodelle, but not the fact that he survived to trouble them again later.

A Perfect Night to Break Your Neck

Caspar, an eccentric play-boy, and McReedy, his more stable side-kick (actually the boss of the operation; Caspar is an actor), host a second big party at which people are subtly encouraged to compete with their best jewelry. The first one was robbed.

Robbers turn up at this one, also, and get lots of stuff, including the pearl necklace that Willy made for Modesty (he dived for the pearls himself; about 40 weeks of full-time effort on the diving). Dinah was wearing the necklace that night, and she and Stephen have financial troubles, so they're really unhappy about it.

“If you’ve got the nerve to offer ’er half, go ahead,” he said doubtfully. “But she’ll be ’opping mad, I can tell you.”

Dinah recognizes that one of the robbers was McReedy by the smell, and Modesty organizes a caper to get the loot back -- involving landing on the deck of a moving yacht from a para-sail towed by a fast boat. She ends up hiding the loot in a better place and getting Dinah to find it, then fakes Dinah finding it again for the press (in a more attributable location) -- so that Stephen and Dinah will collect the reward.

Salamander Four

“He’s saying ‘Don’t let them find me, please. They’re not far behind.’”

Alex, a brilliant Hungarian sculptor, living and working in Finland, is doing a nude of Modesty for John Dall. A wounded man shows up at the door, pursued by agents of Salamander Four, the biggest baddest industrial espionage organization.

He turns out to be Waldo, one of the best independent industrial spies in the business. Modesty had lost some important information to him years ago, and he had sent her flowers in apology.

They manage to hide him and send the agents off. The next day the agents come back, find the clear blood trail, and know he was there. Modesty has called Willy in to protect Alex, so they don't get to smash his hands. They also don't get to take Waldo from Modesty; she kills the one who tries.

The Soo Girl Charity

While selling flags for some charity, Modesty encounters a tycoon who likes to take risks and pinch bottoms far too hard. She decides he's going to make a large involuntary contribution to the charity, and Willy opts in too.

They have a nice caper, in which the tycoon comes home to find his house clearly broken in to, and strange equipment hooked up to his very good safe. He calls the police (played by Modesty and Willy; his phone was cut off from the exchange and connected to their equipment), who convince him to check the safe contents (these thieves are too professional to leave prints anyway). So he opens the safe, and Willy knocks him out.

However, Modesty discovers his wife Soo about to commit suicide, and stops her. Then Soo regains consciousness unexpectedly soon, and murders her unconscious husband. He turns out to be a vicious kinky bastard, and his wife has lots of scars and wounds to prove it.

Modesty arranges to send Soo home (to Java), but is very surprised to discover that she didn't actually mind being tortured (by her husband) all that much; what she minded (what drove her to suicide) is discovering that her husband had found another girl who would let him do even more.

I suppose in 1972 O'Donnell can be forgiven for completely omitting any reference to the legitemate (consent-based) BDSM community. Maybe.

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David Dyer-Bennet