Bond is on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called simply 'Le Chiffre' - by ruining him at the baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spymasters to 'retire' him. It seems that lady luck is taken with James - Le Chiffre has hit a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and Bond's attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster and an unexpected saviour.
Reviewed on 28th December 2010
Having not read this for about fifteen years I thought it was worth having another go to see how it comes across to the adult reader. In the first of Fleming's Bond adventures, 007 is sent to beat Le Chiffre, treasurer of an influential soviet trade union, at cards, and win from him the remains of the union's funds.
The book surprised me with how well it is written. The descriptions are amongst the most vivid that I have ever read and easily managed to conjure up the scenes in my mind's eye, something which very few novelists succeed at.
The plot, while fairly tame compared to those of the films based on Fleming's books, is well constructed and incredibly believable, and has stood the test of time well. The first half moves at a good pace with action, exposition and what could have been a rather dull explanation of a card game entertaining the reader. Nearer the end though the action seems to fade and the book becomes more of a character piece. It almost seems like it could be a prequel written to explain how Bond becomes the man he is in later episodes.
Overall, Casino Royale beat my expectations, remaining a well told story about a life-like character. Every aspect is explained in such a way that the reader learns everything they need, and yet those knowledgeable |in the subjects referenced will not become bored. This works to cross the span of time and help the modern reader interpret a story which is now getting on for sixty years old.