Sunday, March 12, 2006

Live And Let Die, by Ian Fleming

(pb; 1954: second book in the original 007/James Bond series)

From the back cover:

“James Bond vows to crush Mr. Big, the master criminal whose network of terror is reaping rich profits for the Kremlin. He enlists the help of a dangerous French beauty, and they seek out their quarry on a mysterious yacht off the island of Jamaica – a yacht guarded by savage sharks and blood-maddened barracuda... where voodoo drums beat out a rhythm of death.”


Bond goes up against Mr. Big, who’s smuggling thought-to-be-lost, seventeenth-century coins from Jamaica to Harlem. While that’s a major concern, there’s something larger to be concerned about: Mr. Big is a member of SMERSH, who employs voodoo (specifically the spectre of Baron Samedi, the loa of sex and death) to control his minions.

Helping Bond is Solitaire (aka Simone Latrelle), Mr. Big’s psychic ex-fiancee; also helping Bond is Felix Leiter, Bond’s friend and CIA agent (who appeared in Casino Royale), as well as Quarrel, a Jamaican boatman, who later appears in the sixth Bond novel, Dr. No.

The follow-up to Casino Royale is swiftly-plotted, with Bond visiting New York, where he’s immediately targeted for death at the hands of Mr. Big’s underlings. It’s not long before Bond, Solitaire and Leiter head to Jamaica, where Mr. Big’s voodoo power-base is more awesome – and more pervasive – to behold.

This is a blast of a read, especially when Bond, seeking to stop Mr. Big (and rescue Solitaire, who’s been kidnapped), must enter Big’s fortress by swimming through Shark Bay, which is patrolled by gunboats, and vicious, specially-trained barracudas and sharks: the tension in that section so well-rendered, it may be one of my favorite sections of any Bond novel, thus far.

There’s some effective twists and turns in this, ones that make this one of my favorite Bond novels. This is a superb first sequel in the Bond series, followed by Moonraker.

Filmed in 1973, Live And Let Die starred Roger Moore as Bond. Yaphet Kotto played Mr. Big; Jane Seymour played Solitaire; David Hedison played Felix Leiter; Roy Stewart played Quarrel Jr.

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