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Zero Minus Ten, published in 1997, was the first James Bond novel by Raymond Benson. The book was first published in Britain by Hodder & Stoughton and in America by Putnam. It is set mostly in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

Benson's approach to the character was more in keeping with the film version of 007 than the literary version of Fleming. Continuity with the Gardner books was also, for the most part, not maintained. For example, Gardner had promoted Bond to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy in previous books, but Benson demoted him back to Commander. Benson later stated in interviews that, as far as character continuity was concerned, he had been given free lease by his publishers to follow or ignore other continuation authors as he saw fit.


As the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British to the People's Republic of China nears, Bond is given ten days to investigate a series of terrorist attacks taking place that could disrupt the fragile handover and cause the breakout of a large-scale war.

Plot Summary[]

Training and Briefing[]

James Bond comes to spend time at his property in Jamaica when he meets agent 05, Stephanie Lane, who tries to kill him with 03 (man called Michaels). In reality, this is merely an exercise, in which Bond wins over the two agents. Bond is then called back by the new M to the SIS Building.

Around the world, three events have recently occurred: In England, TFU (Firearms Support Teams) officers intercepted a shipment of heroin at a port. In Hong Kong, a restaurant boat was blown up by a bomb, while hosting the entire board of directors of the EurAsia Enterprises, an arms and trading company headed by a certain Guy Thackeray. Then in Australia, a homemade nuclear bomb exploded in a the outback.

In M's office, Bond is informed of two other incidents that have happened in Hong Kong; the death of a partner in an English law firm, and that of two Beijing officials.

M believes most of the events are linked: the boat carrying the heroin was in the name of EurAsia and the men unloading the drugs were members of the Dragon's Wing Society Triad, an offshoot of the Sun Yee On [Wikipedia]. The two officials were killed at the EurAsia offices and the lawyer worked for Guy Thackeray.

M asks his agent to investigate Guy Thackeray and his ties to the Triads and, if possible, find the person responsible for these terrorist acts. Since Hong Kong, an English colony, is to be returned to China in July 1, 1997 - within ten days of now - M wishes to avoid an incident that would escalate tensions between England and China.

Arrival to Hong Kong and Macau[]

Bond goes to Hong Kong where he meets his contact from Station H - T.Y. Woo - with whom Bond goes to a Casino in Macau. There, they find Guy Thackeray, who is there playing Mahjong, and whom Bond observes is cheating. Bond plays a game against Thackenray and, after cheating the cheater, wins.

Then, armed men enter the casino and massacre the occupants in the private room where the Mahjong game was taking place. Thackeray, Bond and Woo survive the attack.

James Bond goes to a club hoping to meet Li Xu Nan, the head of the Dragon Wing Triad. 007 goes to meet him, but the latter does not appreciate it when Bond insinuates that he is part of the triad.

However, he lets him go. On the way out, Sunni Pei, the hostess Bond was with before Li Xu Nan arrived, asks for his help: Li wants to kill her because he thinks she was the one who revealed his ties to the Triad to Bond. 007 manages to save Sunni from Li's men and takes her to Woo.

Bond goes to a press conference given by Thackeray. During this, Thackeray announced that he would sell his shares in EurAsia to the People's Republic of China. Immediately following the announcement Thackeray is killed in a car bomb by an unknown assassin. Bond chases the perpetrator through the HSBC Main Building [Wikipedia], but when cornered the assailant kills himself than allowing himself being caught.

Returning to Woo's shop, Bond discovers that it has been ransacked and that its occupants have disappeared. Bill Tanner tells him that Woo and his son are safe.

Li Xu Nan and the contract[]

James Bond decides to go inspect EurAsia's warehouses at the port. There he discovers Li Xu Nan's men, Li himself, money and heroin. Bond follows Li Xu Nan, as the latter goes to a Triad initiation ceremony.

At the end of the ceremony, Bond is discovered and brought to Li. Li explains to Bond that he did not have Thackeray killed.

It is then explained that Guy Thackeray and Li Xu Nan's ancestors traded drugs together, as did their descendants. EurAsia Enterprises was founded with money from Li Xu Nan's family, in exchange for a provision stipulating that if Hong Kong was ever returned to China, Li Xu Nan's family would become owners of the Thackeray family's assets. However the contract was lost when Li's family fled China, which was taken over by the communists.

This document is currently held by General Wong Tsu Kam of the People's Republic of China Army. Li Xu Nan wants James Bond to travel to Guangzhou, China to meet General Wong, posing as a lawyer from EurAsia and to steal the contract. In exchange, Li will spare the lives of Bond and Sunni Pei - the latter who is currently detained by the Triads.

Bond arrives in Guangzhou and meets General Wong. However, Bond is quickly outed not to be a lawyer that was supposed to come meet Wong and detained. He is interrogated and tortured by Wong with a cane. In the cells, Bond comes across the lifeless body of T.Y. Woo before escaping. He manages to kill Wong and recover the document. 007 hands over the contract to Li, who keeps his promise.


Bond then travels to Australia with Sunni to investigate a EurAsia Enterprises gold mine, of which existence Bond discovered at the company's port warehouse.

Inside the mine 007 discovers that uranium is being extracted there to make nuclear bombs. But before he can go out to inform M, he is discovered by Guy Thackeray and his men.

Thackeray explains to Bond that he faked his death, that he is the is responsible for the attacks before Bond's arrival, as well as the detonation of the nuclear device in the Australian outback. Thackenray tells the bomb was a test, as he wants to blow up Hong Kong just after the handover. Among other reasons, Thackeray considers that Hong Kong has no reason to exist, that he likes neither the Chinese nor the English, and that he does not want someone else have the EurAsia company.

Bond is flown elsewhere to be killed by one of the henchmen, while Sunni is taken elsewhere by Thackeray. During the flight, Bond manages to crash the plane and finds himself alone and on foot in the middle of the Australian outback. He manages to reach Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park [Wikipedia] before taking a plane to Hong Kong.


Helped by Li Xu Nan and a Royal Navy Captain, Bond manages to find the EurAsia cargo ship. A battle ensues on board between the Triads and Thackenray's men, as well as the Royal Navy. During the battle, Li is shot down by Thackeray.

Bond manages to kill Thackeray, who was trying to escape, by drowning him and joins a sampan on which Sunni and the bomb are found.

After freeing the girl and defusing the bomb, Bond is taken aboard HMS Peacock with Sunni, where they watch the fireworks display, marking the handover of Hong Kong.



Locations where the book takes place include:



Benson's working title for the novel was No Tears for Hong Kong; this was eventually used as the title for the last chapter in the book.