Top critical review
A fast-paced intriguing novel.
on 21 September 2015
The 2nd James Bond novel in the renowned spy series, Live and Let Die is set in New York’s Harlem and the shark-infested seas of the West Indies. Bond must investigate a voodoo cult organised by soviet SMERSH operative Mr. Big; a man whose soviet training, freakish size, and manipulation skills make him the first “villain”; and a worthy adversary for what can be seen as Bond’s first real mission. To confront SMERSH has been a long-awaited opportunity for him.
Bond has whisked away clairvoyant card-reader Solitaire, an attractive and talented woman who Mr. Big sees as his personal property. Solitaire is a damsel in distress, and her knowledge of Mr. Big’s crime machine puts them both in danger and forces Bond to accept that there is more to Mr Big’s control. The most exciting and compelling scenes were when Bond and Solitaire were on the train, with fearful anticipation for Mr. Big’s assassins to get at them.
The detail behind Mr. Big’s operations makes for intriguing background reading, with fear, superstition, secret communication, and black magic curses. Though he is resolute and is no stranger to pain, there were a few moments where Bond was fooled and frustrated. I liked this, for it kept consistent with prequel Casino Royale, where he had yet to be properly tested. I liked that there were more action scenes against enemies, which were often imaginative and sometimes ended in dark humour.
Criticism is that even though we’re introduced to an impressive villain, Live and Let Die develops through Bond’s inability to predict Mr. Big’s next moves. From there, I was fast-tracked to the opening of Bond’s final solo mission (which was actually his original mission before he decided to scope Mr. Big’s operations). The final solo mission was lengthy, with some parts over-descriptive, and a lot of back-and-forth preparation between Bond and his contacts in Jamaica. The descriptive writing style did well to cover scenes of underwater peril, yet it made the lead up to the conclusion tiresome. I would have liked to see more of a struggle between Bond and Mr. Big, and to perhaps link Solitaire’s talents into the action. In the end, Bond’s preparation and calculation, rather than sharp instincts or observation or heroics, saved the day.
Live and Let Die is a fast-paced intriguing novel that sees Bond challenging enemies directly. The setting and the scale of the voodoo cult was terrifying and adrenalin-filled. The locations were rich with detail, and the reader sees the first of the ingenious Bond villian. Though terminology and items are out-of-date, it’s difficult not to feel nostalgic for Bond’s personal tastes and global adventures.