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5.0 out of 5 stars Octopussy and The Living Daylights: Ian Fleming - Tales of the Bond Man, 11 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Octopussy & The Living Daylights: James Bond 007 (Paperback)
*Contains some plot spoilers*

First published in a single collection in 1966, 2 years after Ian Fleming's passing, this is the final print outing for superspy James Bond from the pen of his originator. It is a collection of four short stories, Octopussy, Property Of A Lady, The Living Daylights and 007 In New York. As with his previous short story collection, Fleming uses this as an opportunity to do something a bit different with his writing, and to get away from the traditional Bond milieu.

Being in the short story format, Fleming has to restrain himself from the over long descriptions that sometimes bogged the later Bond novels down slightly, making these short sharp and punchy pieces, but still beautifully observed. Story by story:

Octopussy - This is a great opening story. We see the story through the eyes of Major Dexter Smythe, an ex army officer who served with intelligence during the war and is now living in a comfortable retirement in Jamaica. A visit from an enigmatic man named Bond shatters his world, as the secret of his wealth is revealed and he must decide on his own future. This is a classic piece of writing from Fleming. The character of Smythe is particularly well realised (apart from the dodgy wartime dealing and the murder, I wonder how much of the mid fifties ex intelligence officer living in Jamaica with a coronary condition was based on himself?) and from the vivid descriptions of sea life through to the bleak tale of Smythe's life and how his villainy and wealth have failed to bring him happiness this tale is a real winner for me.

Property of a Lady - 007 attends an auction at Sotheby's to try and uncover the Russian's top man in England, who MI6 think will be bidding on a priceless Faberge piece. The piece was sent to a top mole working for the Russians in MI6 as a clandestine way of paying her for her services. It's a slight tale, and has a glaring plot hole at it's heart (MI6 want to keep using the mole to pass disinformation, so why do they set out to expose the top Russian at the auction, thereby exposing that they know about the mole and eliminating her usefulness?) but Fleming's passion for the detail saves it and a decent read is the result.

Living Daylights - an unusually morose piece from Fleming finds Bond on a mission to eliminate a Russian sniper who will be trying to prevent a defector from making the dash from East to West in Berlin. This, for me, is the best story in the book as Fleming examines Bond's attitude to the job of a cold blooded murder. The final section of the story is as tense as they come as the mission plays itself out. It's a masterful piece, 5 stars in its own right.

007 in New York - This is a bit of an oddity. Seemingly penned by Fleming as an apology for a travelogue he once wrote in which he damned New York, this finds James Bond anticipating the pleasures of the city as he waits for a rendezvous with an ex MI6 agent to deliver a warning. In essence it is a description of all the best things to be found in the city, although it has one deficiency, which leads to an unusually funny ending. As an interesting coda there is an excellent recipe for scrambled eggs at the end.

An interesting and worthwhile set of Bond stories, 5 stars in all.
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Victor
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Location: Hull, England

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