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Scorpius, first published in 1988, is the seventh novel by John Gardner featuring Ian Fleming's secret agent, James Bond. Carrying the Glidrose Publications copyright, it was first published in the United Kingdom by Hodder & Stoughton (the first original Bond novel not to be published by Jonathan Cape) and in the United States by Putnam.


Daughter of a well-known London banker, who had become part of a cult called "The Meek Ones", is fished out of the River Thames. Upon inspection, she is found in possession of James Bond's telephone number and a strange credit card.

Bond is charged with investigating in an exhausting race against time. With the prospect of a traitor within SIS, Bond gets further into the mystery of the cult, who are targeting the the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Plot summary[]

Death of Emma and attack on Bond[]

A young woman named Emma Dupré ends up drowning while trying to escape her attackers. The police fish out her lifeless body out of River Thames, and upon inspection, find James Bond's phone number and an Avante Carte credit card on her.

At Hereford military base, where Bond is undergoing SAS training, he is called in by M to aid the investigation. While being escorted back to secret service headquarters by Sergeant Pearlman, they are followed and attacked in a high-speed chase on an English motorway.


Upon safely returning to headquarters, Bond is briefed on the investigation by M and Chief Superintendent Bailey. The woman, whom Bond does not know, was found dead with Bond's telephone number. She is a member of a cult society known as the "The Meek Ones", operated by a Father Valentine. With additional information from the CIA, the British Secret Service learn that Valentine is an alias for Vladimir Scorpius, an arms dealer for several terrorist organizations.

M brings Lord Shrivenham into his office, a member of the board of a bank who was in the building to define the budget allocated to the secret services. It turns out that his daughter is also part of the cult and that he has already met Father Valentine, who wanted to create a credit card. Shrivenham understands that Valentine has succeeded when they show him the Avante Carte.

A phone call comes, Shrivenham's daughter, Trilby, has been found outside her home, in very poor health with large quantity of drugs in her blood. M sends Bond, Bailey and Lord Shrivenham to his house to see her. Lying down, she keeps repeating “The meek will possess the earth” and “the blood of the fathers will fall on the sons!” The girl is entrusted to the department's neurologist, James Molony.


The next day, Bond is sent to Avante Carte headquarters to investigate. Bond discovers that the card card company is linked to the Meek Ones cults, and that only its members can have one.

The Avante Carte offices are empty and only one person, a woman named Harriet Horner, is present. Armed men arrive and want to kidnap them both, but Bond and Harriett manage to neutralize them. This turns out to actually be an undercover agent of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Meanwhile Sergeant Pearlman is assigned to watch over the property, although they have recently left.

The investigation takes them to various places. During which each secret service hideout - where Bond takes Trilby, Hariet or one of the members of the cult - is attacked. Bond then begins to think that there is a mole within the SIS, who is informing Scorpius. His suspicions fall mainly on either Harriett and Pearlman. Both disappear, probably kidnapped by members of the cult, following the assault on one of the hideouts.

As the country's general election approaches, by the use of brainwashed cult members, Scorpius has begun a "holy war" against every man, woman, and child. The cult members, thinking themselves to be pure, moral, and unsullied, sacrifice their lives for "the greater good of humanity" believing that by performing this "death task" that they will achieve paradise. Throughout the novel, The Meek Ones commit several acts of terrorism including multiple terrorist bombings and several assassinations of British politicians.

Taking a nap in one of the secret service safehouses, Bond receives a surprise visit from Pearlman with gun drawn at Bond. Pearlman confesses to Bond that he was secretly giving Scorpius information. Reason being that his daughter, Ruth, is also a brainwashed member of the cult and wants to free her.

Together the two set out for Scorpius' base of operations in South Carolina having Scorpius believe Pearlman was taking Bond captive.

Scorpius' Island[]

Arriving at Scorpius's Island and his house, Bond is introduced to him. One woman he claims to be his wife is none other than Trilby Shrivenham. During dinner, Scorpius makes Bond a proposition: he promises to reveal the identity and known addresses of the Meek Ones, who are to carry out terrorist acts, in exchange for a marriage between Bond and Horner. As a token of good faith, he briefly shows her a map with the locations. Bond is wary but accepts the offer, thinking it would buy him time till he can escape.

That same evening, the ceremony is organized and James Bond marries Harriett Horner, even though they both know that this marriage is invalid.

A few days later, Bond and Harriett attempt to escape through the surrounding swamps, where many Water Moccasins, snakes with deadly venom, thrive. Bond succeeds, but Harriet is bitten and dies as the backup arrives. The FBI lead by CIA Agent David Wolkovsky conduct a raid of Scorpius' island, which further angers Bond since her death was in vain.

Bond returns back to the island finding Scorpius attempting to flee. After giving chase, Bond successfully gets the upper hand and forces Scorpius to die in a similar manner to that of Horner's death. The members are arrested, but one has already been dispatched to carry out their task; Ruth, Pearlman's daughter. She is already on her way to kill the British Prime Minister, who is due to meet the President of the United States at the White House that same day.


Bond and Pearlman arrive to stop her, but Bond is forced to shoot Ruth, mortally wounding her. Bond also notices that one of the Prime Minister's bodyguards is pointing his gun at the latter. Bond manages to kill him, who turns out to have been Chief Superintendent Bailey in disguise.

In the end, Bond considers spending time with Trilby, who was released after it was established that she was being held at the cult against her will.


  • Harriet Horner
    An IRS agent secretly working in England undercover, she is found by Bond and later captured by Scorpius. At Scorpius' base, Bond and Horner marry only for her die a couple days later when attempting to flee Scorpius' island.
  • Sergeant Pearlman
    Pearlman first meets Bond to deliver a message that he is requested by M. Pearlman drives Bond back and in doing so earns Bond's trust. Bond later learns, however, that Pearlman was secretly feeding Scorpius information because his daughter was brainwashed and a member of The Meek Ones. He confesses this much to Bond and requests help in getting his daughter free from the society. Unfortunately for Pearlman, when the opportunity arises, his daughter is sent on a "death task" to kill both the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister. She is unsuccessful and subsequently killed by Bond before she can detonate her explosives.
  • Chief Superintendent Bailey
    Bailey is sent by Special Branch to aid in the investigation of the terrorist activities in England. From the beginning he is aiding Scorpius by giving him information that allow Scorpius to be always one step ahead of everyone. Bailey is shot and killed by Bond at the White House after attempting to witness the assassinations of both the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister.
  • Vladimir Scorpius
    Scorpius, also known as Father Valentine is an arms dealer and the creator of the cult society, "The Meek Ones." By numerous sources he is considered to be Satan incarnate. After the death of Bond's "unofficial" wife, Bond returns to Scorpius' island and kills him in the same manner in which she died, although after forcing him outside and wounding him several times.



  • Considered one of the more violent of Gardner's Bond novels, it is also remarkably prognostic in its depiction of increased security and paranoia under a terrorist threat; in many ways the Meek Ones can be compared to Al-Qaeda and the story to that of the War on Terrorism.
  • On a plane to South Carolina, Bond watches The Untouchables and states that the Chicago cop was a favorite actor of his. In the film, the cop is played by Sean Connery, the first official actor to portray James Bond.