There was a small patch of hard, flat earth outside the hole and the scorpion stood in the centre of this on the tips of its four pairs of legs, its nerves and muscles braced for a quick retreat and its senses questing for the minute vibrations which would decide its next move.
The moonlight, glittering down through the great thorn bush, threw sapphire highlights off the hard, black polish of the six-inch body and glinted palely on the moist white sting which protruded from the last segment of the tail, now curved over parallel with the scorpionâ€™s flat back.
The scorpion had decided. Greed had won over fear.
Thus begins Diamonds Are Forever. Quite a vivid image and quite a lot of symbolism as well. With Simon Vance once again narrating in perfect pitch, I was immediately ready for this fourth installment of Bond’s adventures. Diamond mining, mob activity, scorpions, and more Felix Leiter…what could possibly go wrong?
The premise: M sends Bond on a mission to help smuggle diamonds into the States, to try to infiltrate the pipeline and gather information in order to shut the operation down. Taking on another’s identity, Bond meets with Tiffany Case to get his instructions. Case, with a backstory of her own, is wary of Bond but fills him in on how he should proceed to get the diamonds out of the country. Once he’s there, he’s to hook up with one half of the Spang brothers, a mob outfit running diamonds. There he meets up with Felix Leiter.
If you’ve followed any of my other posts on Fleming’s Bond series for the Shaken, Not Stirred Challenge, you know Felix Leiter is a favorite character of mine. We last saw him in Live and Let Die, and after the number done on him, I wasn’t sure we’d see him again. Thankfully, he’s back, but his injuries have relegated him to Pinkerton’s, working in the private sector.
Bond and Leiter have a great relationship, and other than Bond’s relationship with M, it is really the only fleshed-out friendship we see. It is certainly nice to have some continuity. Leiter is trying to take down the Spang brothers because of some rigged gambling. The two decide to tackle their own assignment, helping each other if possible.
The problem with Diamonds Are Forever is that once again, Fleming takes us on what feels like a Disneyland tour of the States. He did it with Live and Let Die, too, so I wonder if it’s because he’s less familiar with the locale. On his home turf, Bond is relentless, intelligent, and meticulous. In the States, he’s a bit lax, taking risks that British Bond would not. From New York to Las Vegas, Bond trips along, and honestly by the end of this book, I knew he would get out of whatever fix he was in, saving Tiffany Case along the way, leaving me with the question: Why is he there? He’s 007, for Pete’s sake. Shouldn’t there be some international intrigue? Shouldn’t the Spang brothers be connected to the Soviets, producing massive warheads? I don’t know. It just felt off, and after such a promising beginning, I was disappointed.
As for the film, do we even need to go there? Just know that after Casino Royale and the edgy Bond we were treated to…well, even Connery can’t stand up to it.
Next up: From Russia with Love , which I hear is quite excellent. Can’t wait…