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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 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.

Plot summary[]


During a vacation in the Bahamas with his assistant, Helena Marksbury, James Bond is invited to a party that's organized by the former governor of the Bahamas. He explains to Bond that he has been receiving letters signed by "The Union", which urge him to repay a debt he owes to the Spanish.

Shortly after Bond explains to him that The Union is a criminal organization, that offers its services to anyone willing, the former governor is assassinated. Bond manages to catch up with the assassin, but the latter commit suicide to than face the consequences of their failure.


A few weeks later, James Bond and Bill Tanner meet at a golf club. By happenstance, they run into Group Captain Roland Marquis and his partner Dr. Steven Harding; the latter working for the British DERA. Bond and Marquis, still considering themselves rivals since Eton, decide to face each other in a game of golf. The game concludes with Bond and Tanner losing to Marquis and Harding.

Later, at a DERA site in Fleet, Hampshire; Marquis and Harding steal the formula for a secret project: "Skin 17", and destroy the research.

Having left for Belgium, Harding visits Dr. Hendrik Lindenbeek; the latter implants a pacemaker containing the formula in the body of a certain Lee Ming.

M summons 007 to the meeting room. DERA explains to them that they were trying to develop a material capable of withstanding Mach 7 speed flight conditions at their Fleet site. M sends his agent on the trail of Steven Harding, suspected of involvement in the theft, and they know Harding has apparently gone to Belgium.

Belgium and Himalayas crash[]

On his way to Brussels, Bond is attacked by the Union thugs. Using the gadgets of his Jaguar XK8 modified by Major Boothroyd, he manages to eliminate his pursuers. After informing his superiors that his arrival in Belgium was known, Bond contacts his local contact, Gina Hollander. Gina tells Bond that she has seen Harding.

007 goes to the hotel Harding is staying in, and breaks into his room. There, Bond is ambushed by an henchman. Bond manages to eliminate the heavy, but Harding and Lee have escaped.

Using the clues in the hotel room, Gina and Bond go to Dr. Lindenbeek. The doctor admits to them having implanted a pacemaker containing a microdot in Lee Ming's body on behalf of the Union.

Using the Interpol database, Bond and Gina learn that Lee Ming's real name is Ming Chow. Subsequently, Chow is found in Kathmandu, Nepal -- waiting his men in to cross the Chinese border. The police approach him, which prompts Chow and his men to hijack a small plane to escape them. However, due to bad weather conditions, they crash near a peak in the Himalayas, the Kangchenjunga.

Setting up for the expedition[]

M summons Bond and asks him to join an expedition to recover the Skin 17, which is expected to last several weeks. The cover story being that the expedition is to find the crash victims and bring their bodies back to their families. Only two other people within the group know the real reason for the mission: a Gurkha named Chandra Bahadur Gurung and the expedition leader -- who is none other than Roland Marquis.

In Casablanca, Steven Harding meets the head of the Union; "Le Gérant". After its deemed that Harding had betrayed the organization, undoubtedly out of greed, Le Gérant has him killed. The boss also learned that now the Russian mafia has become interested in Skin 17, besides the Chinese to whom the Union was supposed to deliver the formula.

The climb up[]

The British expedition has begun and is continuing its course; James Bond approaches the group's doctor, Hope Kendall, Marquis' former mistress.

One night, Bond and Chandra spot the Chinese expedition and destroy its supplies; the Chinese thus have to back out. Shortly after, one of the members of the expedition is assassinated, with Bond's equipment having been sabotaged. In both cases 007 directs his suspicions towards a expedition party member Otto Schrenk.

Bond contacts London by satellite link. Tanner tells him that the British expedition has been infiltrated by the Union and that Helena Marksbury has disappeared. It seems she is also linked to the Union somehow.

On the thirty-first day of the expedition, Bond and part of the expedition reach the crash site. After several days of searching, Chow's body was found. Bond isolates himself and extracts the pacemaker from the corpse, but is knocked out by Otto Schrenk, who is indeed a Union infiltrator.

Roland Marquis arrives near Bond's tent. Marquis kills Schrenk just before he is able to slit Bond's throat from ear to ear (the "mark" of the Union). He then steals the formula for Skin 17 before injuring Chandra in his escape.

Chasing Marquis[]

When Bond regains consciousness, Hope Kendall tells him that she found most of the members of the expedition with their throats slit in their tents; the rest have disappeared.

Despite his injury, Chandra has managed to follow Marquis and discovers that he had another accomplice within the expedition: Carl Glass.

Marquis and Glass go to the Russian expedition's camp to deliver the formula and receive their reward. Marquis had worked for Harding, but not for The Union. Together they had planned to double-cross the organization by selling the formula to the Russian mafia.

However, the leader, Igor Mislov, tries to out-maneuver them when paying. This leads to him and the rest of the Russian expedition to be killed by Glass and Marquis. Soon after, Chandra appears and attempts to arrest the two men. He manages to kill Glass but is then killed by Marquis.

Marquis doesn't have enough oxygen for his apparatus and must return to get some near the plane wreckage. Bond crosses paths with him and chases him to the top of Kangchenjunga where they both stop. Marquis succumbs shortly after giving the pacemaker to 007. Hope Kendall, who had previously joined them, helps James Bond come down.

Near the plane, Bond realizes that a member of the expedition, Paul Baack, faked his death. Baack works for the Union and threatens Hope with a weapon so that 007 gives him the formula. However, Bond and Hope manage to kill him.


007 is back in London and receives congratulations from M for having recovered the formula of Skin 17, but also criticisms for his affair with Helena Marksbury.

While he is at home, Helena calls to him. She explains to him that the Union was blackmailing her by threatening her sister and her nephews. She feels that she in danger, so Bond offers to go look for her. However, he arrives too late, with Helena Marksbury dead, with her throat cut.


Locations where the book takes place include: