From Russia With Love
Every major foreign government has a file on James Bond, British secret agent. Now, Russia's deadly SMERSH organization has targeted him for elimination - they have the perfect bait in ravishing agent Tatiana Romanova. Her mission is to lure Bond to Istanbul and seduce him while her superiors handle the rest. But when Bond walks willingly into the trap, a game of cross and double cross ensues - with Bond both the stakes and the prize.
Reviewed on 19th August 2011
'Russia' is generally accepted to be Ian Fleming's best James Bond novel and I find it hard to disagree. SMERSH, the Soviet anti-spying agency decides to give the west a massive blow, in the form of Bond's assassination, and send forth two baits that he can't possibly resist.
Surprisingly, the story is very plot driven and there is actually relatively little in the way of action sequences - especially compared to modern thriller writers. Bond himself is not introduced until over a third of the way through, but the narrative and characters in the opening section - set in Russia - are so compelling that you hardly notice.
Fleming's ability to paint pictures with words shines through again as it did in Casino Royale. The settings come alive with his rich description, and I don't feel with this one that the memory of the film have influenced my visualisations. The characters too all seem very rounded and believable, although Rosa Klebb perhaps pushes the boat a little too far.
It's certainly the best of the first five Bond stories, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is unsurpassed. One of my favourite books - continuing the theme of my preference for odd-numbered James Bond adventures.