Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2) by Ian Fleming (3/5)

First published: 1954
Page count: 230

The back says: "Her hair was black and fell to her shoulders. She had high cheekbones and a sensual mouth, and wore a dress of white silk. Her eyes were blue, alight and disdainful, but, as they gazed into his with a touch of humour, Bond realized that they contained a message. Solitaire watched his eyes on her and nonchalantly drew her forearms together so that the valley between her breasts deepened. The message was unmistakable."

Beautiful, fortune-telling Solitaire is the prisoner (and tool) of Mr Big — master of fear, artist in crime and Voodoo Baron of Death. James Bond has no time for superstition — he knows that this criminal heavy hitter is also a top SMERSH operative and a real threat. More than that, after tracking him through the jazz joints of Harlem, to the everglades and on to the Caribbean, 007 has realized that Big is one of the most dangerous men that he has ever faced. And no-one, not even the mysterious Solitaire, can be sure how their battle of wills is going to end...

I say: The second instalment of Bond was less offensive than the first, and I think the main reason is that Fleming put more thought into the plot. This time he is going after Mr Big whom he suspects of smuggling ancient pirate loot in the form of gold coins that have suddenly shown up around Harlem. Bond (and his people) believe that Big is smuggling in the coins from the Caribbean and goes to investigate.

Of course.

While in Harlem, Fleming does that which I hate with a passion: writes the African Americans’ lines in vernacular. I find this tedious to read and don’t see how it added anything to the story.

There was less chauvinism in this novel and Bond didn’t really annoy as much. I still find his manners grating, but because there was more action this time, I didn’t dwell that much on what he was doing. I was more concerned about the improbability of the majority of happenings. Yes, I know that this is fiction, but come on.

Aside: I’m trying to figure out if Bond is an alcoholic.

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