Dr No is the sixth appearance in print for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Originally published in 1958 it is very much of it's time in certain attitudes and the dangers facing the world, but it is a ripping yarn that holds up well still today.
Following the near fatal events of `From Russia With Love', and Bond's extended convalescence, he is sent by M to Jamaica on what should be an easy case to ease Bond back into the groove. A relaxing holiday in the sun as M puts it. Two operatives, the local station chief and his secretary, have mysteriously disappeared. Bond is sent to find out what happened to them, and to look into the sudden reduction in numbers of a rare bird, the roseate spoonbill, on nearby Crab Key. What looks like a simple matter, well below his abilities, quickly turns into something more sinister, and eventually leads Bond into a struggle that pushes him right to the limits of his physical and mental endurance. Every step of the way is a trial for Bond, and from the moment he sets foot in Jamaica he has to be on the top of his game to avoid ending up dead, and to protect those around him.
It's a thrilling book, and once again Fleming writes with bags of atmosphere. You can picture the syrupy glow of the sun in Jamaica, hear the birds in the trees, feel every ounce of terror and pain inflicted on the characters. There are several bravura sequences, which are totally and utterly gripping; Bond's encounter with a deadly centipede, and his fight for survival in Dr No's lair are nailbiting and exhausting examples. Added to which is Fleming's ability to relate mundane matters in an interesting way - the guano industry is central to the book, and Fleming makes his essential description of this most uninteresting sounding subject both informative and enthralling. And the final detail, Dr No is a fascinating villain, somewhat outré, but nothing totally impossible in his physical description. He is certainly one of the more memorable Bond villains.
Some of the views expressed in the book seem a little, er, backwards today. Especially in terms of race. But in Fleming's defence, these were views that were commonly held, and the characters he creates would, if they were real people, have held those views. It cannot be held up as an example of Fleming's or Bond's own views. It is, as I said, a book of it's time, and reflects the era.
In general it is another tense and exciting story from Fleming. And to be honest, any book where the villain earns his money from guano and meets his end buried under 20 tons of the stuff in an imaginative climax, is worth a look!