Published in 1956, this is the fourth outing in print for Ian Fleming's spy James Bond. Here Bond is sent out to follow a diamond smuggling pipeline and to close it down. Inserted into the pipeline undercover, he has to deal with ruthless American Gangsters the Spangled mob, working his way through various scrapes with fixed horse races, hot mud baths and runaway steam locomotives before finally getting to the brains of the operation.
It is written with all of Fleming's verve and eye for detail. The opening paragraphs are adsorbing, and the big set pieces, especially the locomotive chase, are thrilling and breathtaking. These are the real strengths of the book. However, it does have a weakness in that the plot really isn't up to much, and the villains are less than impressive. Fleming tries to talk them up, but there is never really any feeling of threat or danger. And the plot does have a few holes in it. In all, these weaknesses are overcome by the strength of Fleming's writing. Even with unimpressive villains and a weak plot it is still an exciting read. Fleming had a real flair for adding in little descriptive touches that really build a vivid image in the mind's eye and transport the reader to the scene, I always find it adsorbing. On balance, 3 stars.