"Slowly the sting slid home into its sheath and the nerves on the poison sac at its base relaxed. The scorpion had decided. Greed had won over fear."
I won't copy all of the opening scene of Diamonds Are Forever, but this is one of the reasons why I keep reading this series - Fleming's ability to write nature scenes is phenomenal. They even make up for his writing about what passes for romance in these Bond novels. But I'll get to that later.
In Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond is tasked to investigate diamond trafficking that funds the American mafia. There are plenty of typical Bond capers which include passing himself off as someone else, getting entangled with a woman while undercover (haha) and converting her to the right side (i.e. Bond's side), blowing things up, gambling, and trying to foil the bad guys while Bond is being rescued himself by his friends.
As you know, I'm not a huge fan of James Bond himself, but in this novel he actually acknowledges how much he owes to his friend Felix Leiter. In fact, we get to know quite a bit about Felix - he has a sense of humor and he is happy to challenge Bond's snobbery. He's straight-talking, homophobic, but can be tactful, and he doesn't burn bridges. Leiter drinks just as much as Bond, which is probably another reason why they are friends.
Anyway, the cast of supporting characters in this book is what I enjoyed most. We have Leiter, and we have Tiffany Case, who is not a push over like her film counterpart but a pretty strong and independent woman with a tough past that leads her to reject other people, especially men.
Throughout the book I actually wondered how scenes might be written differently if they were told from her perspective - I would also have hoped that this might give me a clue about what on earth attracts her to this "Bond person" that she knows is lying to her on their first meeting. But alas, the book follows the adventure of James Bond....and so we get his perspective, which is - surprisingly - less sexist and less patronising than in the previous books.
Yeah. I know. That is not saying much. We still get Bond pondering in the following way:
"But was he prepared for the consequences? Once he had taken her by the hand it would be forever. He would be in the role of the healer, the analyst, to whom the patient had transferred her love and trust on her way out of the illness. There would be no cruelty equal to dropping her hand once he had taken it in his. Was he ready for all that that meant in his life and his career?"
Yeah. I know. Like she needs him to heal her and save her and .....ugh. But, as I said, it looks like he's come a long way since Live and Let Die where he described Solitaire as his "prize".
The characters I enjoyed most were, as in the other books, Bond's evil counterparts, except that in Diamonds Are Forever, the best baddies are not the criminal masterminds but their two henchmen: Wint and Kidd. They are such an unlikely duo, and yet, so evil. There is a scene in a spa that will stick in my memory for quite some time....