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A product of its era which pales in comparison to Casino
on 21 March 2011
Ian Fleming's second James Bond novel is sadly nothing like as impressive as the first. In Live and Let Die, Bond is dispatched to the US to investigate the sudden appearance of a horde of Captain Morgan's treasure, and criminal mastermind Mr Big, whose deeds the gold is financing.
While the book is a believable portrayal of 1950s Harlem, Florida and Jamaica, and the plot stays firmly set in reality, the book is let down by the writing style, which has little of the richness of detail and emotion that was present in Casino Royale. Bond has become grittier, and although brief patches of the character shine through, much of the narrative here is action based and fast moving.
It's worth touching on the obvious racial overtones that are present, but my interpretation is not that the book is racist - indeed it shows a number of viewpoints that struck me as being more progressive than I had expected, particularly M's comments early on and the character of Quarrel later, who although acting as something of a servant to Bond is still depicted as respected and an expert in his field. If anything, I found the book treats matters of race with much more delicacy than the Roger Moore film based upon it.
This book is certainly not up to the level of its predecessor, and, perhaps because of the settings, doesn't survive the test of time so well. While still a fairly enjoyable read, I've felt it detracted slightly from my opinion of the series I last read as a teenager.