Despite its modern cover and appearance, this release (The Terrorizers) from Titan Books is actually a reissuing of the 18th entry in the long running Matt Helm spy series, with this one released all the way back in 1977.
The spy genre in general seems to be experiencing a bit of an upswing again, and that may be why this currently somewhat obscure series was picked for reissuing. Although why this particular title was chosen out of the whole franchise may be somewhat of a mystery.
The plot begins with a man waking up in a hospital after a plane crash with amnesia. A beautiful woman comes in and calls him Paul Madden, her fiancée. However, he starts receiving phone calls where he is constantly referred to by the name Matt Helm by the unknown speaker on the other side. This entire amnesia plot is probably the best portion of the novel, although it is spoiled somewhat for newcomers by the fact that the cover of the book says “Matt Helm” on it, making the choice between two identities fairly obvious.
The remainder of the novel seems fairly standard from there, and at times, its 1977-ness becomes apparent. Where this series as a whole takes a bit of a different tack from the James Bond series is that its far closer to being a precursor of the Jason Bourne series. As in, realism, as far as possible, is praised above all else, and attempts are made to show Matt acting like a real spy would.
I admire the attempt, but I can’t help but feel that whatever this novel does has been done before in subsequent years, and although it may have been a pioneer when it first came out, as a reissue it feels somewhat superfluous. The guns, babes and gadgets, getting trapped and finding ingenious ways to escape before a climactic showdown….we’ve seen it all so many times. The amnesia angle was interesting, but again, clichéd, and would work far better if we had more of an involvement in the franchise. I don’t think this release will do much to kindle new brand awareness for Matt Helm, but I wish him the best of luck.