think I read Ian Fleming back when I was a teen, Dr. No I’d guess. So it’s not that I don’t like him – I’m just not a spy thriller guy (as my review list HERE will illustrate – few spy books). Still, they can be fun and a nice diversion to the ruts all readers fall into.
Casino Royale is early Bond, before all the super-agent crap and gizmos and stuff. He’s just a guy, see, and while brave, he is quite human (a plus to the story). Bond has been sent to the gambling halls of this picturesque locale to sit opposite Le Chiffre, a soviet organizer in France who took funds allocated from the Reds and used them to buy a string of brothels (right before, sadly, the law was passed that closed the entire business model down). Yes, he lost his shirt (and worse, he lost all that money that wasn’t his (worser still, it was the property of the unsmiling Russians)). He’s got to win it back before they notice the shortfall. And the British Secret Service sees an opening – make him lose, flush the rest of his cash, and Soviet efforts in France will fall apart. Actually, it’s quite a clever setup.
Bond, somewhat good at gambling, is picked. We get a quick lesson in Baccarat and off we go. Bond has his own team in place to support him, including the beautiful (and beautifully named) Vesper. Gentlemen, place your bets!
I’ll give the author this – his game, as described, was one of the most enjoyable reads of carding I’ve come across. Very exciting, very tense, and at one point it seems that Bond is in the hole (when I read it, I couldn’t believe he was losing). Plays out quite well.
Even more interesting is a bit where Le Chiffre has captured Bond and is going to torture him. No, this is not the movie Bond, the guy who doesn’t really look concerned about being tortured to death (I guess from his POV, he can see the cameras and the crew and knows it’s lunch in ten minutes). This Bond is a human Bond, and he’s really quite scared about what is going to happen to him (as he should be, because it turns out to be quite awful). While not as clean as The Martian, I did look to my right hand to see how much book was left.
Anyway, if you are looking for a good Bond book, one that explains who he is and why he is the way he was, this one is it. You’ll know why he’s so closed, and what happened to make him that way.
A quick read on a rainy weekend – you’ll find few better.