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First edition cover
|Publisher||Hodder & Stoughton|
|6 May 1999|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Pages||304 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||0-340-73876-6 (first edition, hardback)|
|Preceded by||Midsummer Night's Doom|
|Followed by||The World Is Not Enough|
High Time to Kill, published in 1999, is the fourth novel by Raymond Benson featuring Ian Fleming's secret agent, James Bond (including Benson's novelization of Tomorrow Never Dies). This is the first James Bond novel copyrighted by Ian Fleming Publications (formerly Glidrose Publications). It was published in the United Kingdom by Hodder & Stoughton and in the United States by Putnam. The novel's working title was A Better Way to Die.
Bond faces off against a ruthless terrorist organization called "The Union", whose trademark assassination technique is throat-slitting. Bond and his girlfriend Helena are attending a dinner party thrown by a former Governor of the Bahamas. The Governor, who owes a gambling debt to a member of The Union, has refused to pay up since he believes he was cheated. Accordingly, there is a heightened security presence at the event. However, an assassin disguises himself as one of the guards and kills the Governor, just as Bond realizes the danger. Bond almost catches the assassin, who commits suicide before he can be interrogated.
A top secret British formula hidden in microfilm, codenamed "Skin 17", is stolen by two traitors, scientist Steven Harding and RAF officer Roland Marquis. The microdot is surgically implanted in the pacemaker of an unhealthy old man, a former Chinese intelligence agent. Bond is sent to recover it before the Union can sell the microfilm to a foreign power.
Bond tracks Harding and the Chinese ex-agent to Belgium, but they slip away while Bond kills Harding's bodyguard Basil. MI6 tracks the Chinese man to Nepal. It turns out, however, that Harding plans to double-cross the Union by having the plane of the pacemaker's host hijacked. Le Gerrant, the blind leader of The Union, immediately deduces Harding's double-cross and has him executed; Harding's body later washes up on the beach at Gibraltar.
The plane containing the pacemaker's host crashed in the Himalayas, so a deadly race commences to recover Skin 17. Bond, sexy mountaineer Hope Kendal, and Roland Marquis, also Bond's rival from schoolboy days, lead one of the expeditions. Early on, they destroy the Chinese base camp, forcing that team to withdraw. Not long after, however, everyone on the British expedition has been killed, save for Bond, Hope, and Marquis. It turns out that Marquis is in on the theft with Harding, though they don't plan to sell it to The Union. The race climaxes with Bond battling Marquis atop the peak of Kangchenjunga. After a physical high-elevation fight, Bond trades oxygen from a mortally wounded Marquis for Skin 17. Bond and Hope return to base camp to find Paul Baack, a team member believed to have died with the rest, who reveals his affiliation with the Union and demands Skin 17. Bond and Hope manage to kill Baack and Skin 17 is returned to the British.
Bond's now-estranged girlfriend Helena reveals herself to be in the employ of The Union due to blackmail and threats of violence to her family. However, she is killed just before Bond can reach her.
Locations where the book takes place include:
- The Bahamas
- Delhi, India
- Mt. Kangchenjunga
- UK first hardback edition: May 1999 Hodder & Stoughton
- U.S. first hardback edition: June 1999 Putnam
- UK first paperback edition: July 1999 Coronet Books
- U.S. first paperback edition: June 2000 Jove Books