Diamonds are being smuggled on a formidable scale from Africa to America via Britain. 007's assignment is to break the smuggling ring. It's a dangerous mission that takes him to the racecourse and mud-baths of Saratoga Springs, the gaming tables of Las Vegas, the ghost town of Spectreville, and beyond. The Spangled Mob threatens to be too much even for Bond, but help is at hand in the shape of co-conspirator Tiffany Case. This audiobook includes a bonus interview with Damian Lewis. Blackstone Audio, Inc. James Bond and 007 are registered trademarks of Danjaq LLC, used under license by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd
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This is not Bond in the white dinner jacket, flicking his gunmetal Ronson lighter onto his Turkish cigarette as he beats the bad guys and beautiful femmes at chemin de fer and anything else they care to play. Instead of Monte Carlo and the rugged capitals of Europe, or the sun-drenched Caribbean islands that are Bond's usual haunts, this book has Our Spy tracking down diamond smugglers in the U.S. -- which is fine while he's in New York City, but James Bond in Saratoga Springs (shudder), Las Vegas (double shudder), and a Nevada ghost town (giggle) as he brings down Jack and Seraffimo Spang and their "Spangled Mob"--well, sorry, Ian Fleming this one just didn't work for me.
There are no fun toys or gadgets in this one. And Bond, with supercilious disdain for (ethnic slur) criminals, does some really stupid things. The only things that save him are (1) the Spang brothers do even stupider things and (2) Bond girl Tiffany Case, having gone over to the Good Guys almost instantaneously after meeting James once, frees him when he's held prisoner by the mob bosses she's served for years. What a surprise!
The early Bond books are well written, atmospheric period pieces. This one, the fourth in the series, was published in 1956; one of the most interesting descriptions was of Bond's London to New York flight, a 12-hour journey complete with meals, booze, and sleeper seats in the days before jet engines hit the commercial airways. Once in New York, Bond's idea of an elegant dinner date starts with pate and three martinis, followed by steak with Bernaise sauce accompanied by a bottle or two of wine, and topped off with dessert and champagne. Women--even a strong women like Tiffany, who's by far the best character in this episode--are arm candy in black velvet cocktail dresses.
It's a different world, and of course a world highly romanticized by Fleming, but I enjoyed the novels in my younger days, am a huge fan of both the early (Sean Connery) and recent (Daniel Craig) cinematic incarnations, and have enjoyed several of the audio renditions by Simon Vance. This new release of all the novels in audio form, each read by a different well-known British actor, is an intriguing concept. Damian Lewis, with his uncanny gift for flawless American accents (as anyone who's seen him as "Homeland's" Sergeant Brodie knows), was a perfect choice for narrator. He moves between British, American, and American ethnic accents so fluidly you're unaware of it, you just know immediately which character is speaking. I just wish the material had been more worthy of Lewis's art.
Damian Lewis does the best job that I have heard so far in the updated Bond series, which means he out does Dan Stevens and Bill Nighly (who were both quite good). In spite of Lewis' performance, the story lags a bit. I think I am just less impressed by the stories that take place in America.