Kiss the Boys & Make them Die is the first book in James Yardley’s two book Kiss Darling series. Kiss is not a spy but a super-sexy insurance investigator, but nonetheless she traipses around the world investigating criminal enterprises – so she is worthy of being a spy. And her brain has been highly trained to remember a staggering amount of information – and is offered referred to as being a ‘computer’. So, not only is she sexy, but she is smart too. But, and this is presented as being her weakness, she is a virgin. And of course, as the novel progresses, she finds herself in situations where she has to defend her maidenhood.
Her boss, Angus Fane, is a randy cad who spends most of his time either seducing women or drinking booze (actually, on some occasions he does both at the same time). At the beginning of the novel, Fane fires his seductive assistant, Kiss Darling, but that is simply a scheme to further an ongoing investigation. It appears that some rare Egyptian necklaces have appeared on the market. Are they real or fakes? With Kiss sacked, she can take up a position at the Cairo Museum and hopefully track down the source of these new artifacts – and find out what the money obtained from the sale is being used for.
The book has a great opening and a thrilling climax, but the middle of the story does lack a certain sense of excitement. The plot moves along okay, but there are not too many passages of out and out action. This may not seem a hindrance to those who like character development and a plot that makes sense, which Yardley presents, however his breathtaking finale to the story was so good, that it was a shame that the story was not peppered with more action packed incidents. A bit more grunt, could have served the story well.
Now, before I go any further, I will state that I enjoyed this book, but it has some glaring problems. The biggest of these, and possibly a by-product of the times it was written in, is that out heroine doesn’t really do anything. She falls into almost every trap, and although she is front and centre as the main character in the book, it is Angus Fane, who also goes to Cairo, who saves the day repeatedly. When Kiss are Fane are trapped in an airlock with water flooding in, it is the explosives that Fane has hidden that save the day. When an army of angry Arab minions swarm the dessert searching for Kiss and Fane, it is a cache of weapons that Fane has hidden that allow them to fight off the aggressors. And there are other examples. The point being, that Fane does all the ‘heavy lifting’. Kiss’ contribution to escaping from nasty predicaments is to disrobe (or to be disrobed). On numerous occasions her naked body is used to distract the various characters throughout the story.
Another weakness, is the way Kiss goes about her mission. Until the end, Yardley never really puts her in harms way, and in fact almost has her fall in love with the villain of the piece – an Egyptian megalomaniac with plans to take over the country. Therefore there is no tension between the two main antagonists. Kiss does express a few niggling seeds of doubt, but this is no substitute for open confrontation, on which much drama is built (especially in the espionage genre).
There is one great opportunity that goes begging in the middle of the story, where Kiss is abducted from the Cairo Museum, drugged and hidden in a sarcophagus for transportation. However the resolution – and I’m trying not to present too many spoilers – is pretty weak, and amounts to little more than a practical joke, rather than an exciting, pulp fiction style, incident, which could have upped the ante a little.
So what he have have in Kiss Darling, on one hand, is a strong, attractive and intelligent woman, who is also morally upright (as highlighted by her virginity). Surely a role model for women everywhere. But on the other hand, despite these qualities, allows emotion to control her decisions – like falling for the bad guy – and her physical contribution to the story is to serve as ‘naked eye candy’. it just doesn’t add up, does it?
However, on the plus side, the strength of the story, is that it is played straight. The story has many over the top incidents (some of them humorous), but thankfully, Yardley doesn’t stoop to turning his story into a parody. For all its outrageous excesses, he refrains from those self-conscious ‘hey, see what I did there’ passages that ruin the flow of so many similar stories.
Despite some of the paperback cover art, the story isn’t particularly smutty – well, I mean that it isn’t porn. There are a few smutty asides from Angus Fane, but that is in keeping with his character – if this had been made into a film, I see Leslie Philips playing Fane – and that should suggest the level of smut and sexuality in the story.
Kiss the Boys & Make them Die is very much of its time, and therefore if you are after high octane thrills, such as you would find in a modern novel, then you will be sadly disappointed. But if you like retro spy thrills, then this story serves up the goods, just as you would expect- no more or less – with the requisite sexual and moral ambiguity of the time.