Before leaving Eton after getting expelled, a new school friend discovers some shocking film footage which propels James Bond and company on an adventure in the troubled outskirts of Los Angeles.
The Book opens with a man filming a murder from a nearby rooftop for blackmailing purposes being brutalized for unknown purposes. The Next day, James Bond arrived at Dartington Hall, a new school to board at for a few days while Charmain Bond was away on business. He was quickly attacked by Beatrice Judge with a sharpened table knife. They chased Bond across the grounds, and Bond was able to escape them by fallling through the stable roof, where he met the dwarf Hugo Grande and the school administrator, Gillian de Vries, who tells him of an upcoming trip to the United States by Airship which Bond has been allowed to go on.
Days later he met a young engineering student named Boudicca Pryce. That night, Hugo rushed James to the common room where He, Boudicca, and a student named Daniel had just watched a silent film of men being tortured in various forms, and desired James' input on weather or not the scenes were real. Upon deciding that they were real clips, James and Daniel steal a car to return the film can back to his father's movie theater, but when they arrived they find that someone else had broken in. Inside, they heard footsteps and found Crispin, the projectionist, from whom Daniel had taken the film can, gorily murdered. James sent Dan to the car to find a police box to make an anonymous call, while James tried to escape the murderer. He was able to lose him by smashing a mercury lamp and releasing toxic gas into the air, and the two were able to get back to Dartington safely.
Back in his room, James discovered a note left by Hugo, telling James to find him in a nearby marsh, but when James arrived, he was attacked at gunpoint by thugs for Beatrice Judge. He was able to use their weapons against them and take their air-gun. After the fight, James fell asleep in the grass, but was discovered shortly after and sent to a hospital in an ambulance. Realizing that he would miss the trip, and that Judge would take his place, he hijacked the ambulance and drove it to the Zeppelin hangar, where he was able to successfully board with the other students. However, on board he saw that the man from the theater was there as well. Near the end of the journey James discovered that there were listening devices in each of the rooms. When they reached Los Angeles, they were given a tour of Anton Kostler's movie studios.
When the tour finished they were driven back to their hotel, but their limousine broke down in the middle of a worker's protest that quickly became a street riot, and the kids were separated. Boody and Dan went back to the hotel, but James stayed to look for Hugo. After the two were reunited, they discovered a car with an Illinois number plate full of gangsters. Bond went to a drugstore to get first aid supplies for Hugo, and met a reporter named Tori Wo, with whom he shared information on the gangsters whom she believed were heavily involved with Anton Kostler. When the kids were together again, they were given their promised tour of the Kostler Academy by none other that Martyn Kostler. After calling Hugo "dwarf", Hugo used Martyn's weight against him and knocked him to the ground. James then tried to stop the ensuing fight, but Martyn, being a Judo expert made quick work of him. Martyn then set on Bond and nearly broke his arm, until Boody asked him to stop. Martyn then invited Boody to accompany him to his father's party that evening.
James and Hugo being the only two of the group that were not invited stayed in the hotel, where they saw a package delivered to Stuart Sloman's room, which turned out to be the film reel from Dartington, which Dan had not sent home, but had sent to the hotel. Bond then snuck, with Hugo's approval into the party where he found Tori Wo, whom he had met in the lobby earlier and identified a suspect she was looking for as the man in the film reel, and gave it to her shortly before they were chased out of the party in her car. She left him at his hotel while she went to work at the press, but when Bond returned to the hotel, he found that Hugo and his luggage had disappeared along with Gillian, their chaperone. Bond found Dr. Leaver, Gillian's old mentor and headmaster of Kostler Academy in her room, where Bond was attacked by a man he'd made the acquaintance of on the Allworld.
Bond and Boody were then left in the prop warehouse for the old Allword Studios, where they were reunited with Tori, Dan, and his uncle Stuart. Kostler then addressed them from the catwalks above, and released gunmen into the warehouse to kill them while he filmed it. Bond and Pryce escaped, Stuart was killed, and Tori and Dan were able to disguise themselves and escape the building with the gangsters to meet up with Bond and Boody, who were being held in the warehouse office. Kostler, upon learning that the British Secret Service was after him, retreated to his private airship, with Boody as a hostage.
Bond infiltrated the zeppelin, and was able to disable the pilot, but in an attempt to stop Bond, Kostler set fire to the Hydrogen and was burned and impaled on a tree branch that broke through the ship's canvas coating as it went down. Boody dragged Bond, who had fallen unconscious out of the airship. The two were then found by Gillian, and Kostler's plan fell apart.
- The decision to take Bond to Hollywood was partly a subtle nod to Shoot to Kill being the sixth Young Bond novel, and the sixth Fleming novel, Dr. No, was the first to be adapted for the big screen.
- Author Steve Cole places James Bond's arrival at Dartington Hall School in the third week of June, 1934. This conflicts with Charlie Higson's previous novel, By Royal Command, which concludes in Austria during early July, 1934.
- In a bid to make the book more accessible to younger readers an entire subplot about trade unions in Hollywood was dropped from the finished product.
- Referencing You Only Live Twice, Stuart Sloman wrote "Bitter Pearl", a stage play about the Ama divers of Kuro Island, off Japan.
- The "distinctive and jazzy" music played during the Dartington students' visit to the Kostler Academy is a subtle reference to the James Bond Theme.
- Dr Tobias Leaver and Gillian de Vries watch pianist Hoagy Carmichael perform in Los Angeles. Referencing Ian Fleming's description of Bond, de Vries also states that the resemblance is uncanny. Pursued by Kostler's man, James later pretends to be Carmichael's son.
- Kostler is shown a film reel of gangster Jack Strap beating a man in an underground car park. The character first appeared in Ian Fleming's 1959 novel Goldfinger as the second leader of the Spangled Mob in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- Journalist Tori Wo was originally slated to die in the novel.
- Bond's climactic final battle with the villain aboard his airship was inspired by similar scenes in the 1985 film, A View to a Kill.
- On 21st August 2019, Steve Cole's band Faces Fall produced a theme song inspired by Shoot to Kill. The song was written by Steve Cole and Jason Loborik, with vocals by Karen Casey, strings by Joni Fuller and Paul Grice on guitar. To date it is the only James Bond novel to have its own EON-style theme song.
- --, Don (15th December 2018). 003 Interview Steve Cole (En-UK) (Podcast). The 00 Files. Soundcloud. Retrieved on 2020-12-08.
- Cole, Steve (6 November 2014). "Chapter 1: Do as You're Told", Shoot to Kill, Young Bond (in En-UK). London: Doubleday Childrens. ISBN 0857533738. “It was the third week of June, and James was due to start the next school year at Fettes College in Edinburgh in September.”
- Higson, Charlie (3 September 2008). "Chapter 26: The Stink of Death", By Royal Command, Young Bond (in En-UK). London: Puffin Books. ISBN 230989341. “There was a cold, cheerless feel about the place even though it was early July.”
- Cole, Steve (6 November 2014). "Chapter 18: Hell of a Tour", Shoot to Kill, Young Bond (in En-UK). London: Doubleday Childrens. ISBN 0857533738. “They passed the concert hall. Music was swelling out from inside, distinctive and jazzy with a mid-tempo beat, brasses and strings and needling steel guitars. James didn’t recognize the tune, but felt a sense of anticipation and danger in its ominous swagger; right now it felt as if the musicians were scoring his mood.”
- Steve Cole; Jason Loborik (21st August 2019). New Bond Theme – Young Bond: Shoot to Kill (En-UK). YouTube. Retrieved on 2020-11-08.