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Book Review

This spy thriller by Ian Fleming is published by Penguin Books and written for adults. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

James Bond, a high-ranking British secret agent known as 007, arrives in New York. He's pleased to find out that his friend Felix Leiter of the CIA will work with him on his new case. A criminal mastermind named Mr. Big, in cooperation with the Russian mafia, is smuggling gold. Coins and other pieces from a centuries-old treasure are turning up in the States. Bond and Leiter already know Mr. Big uses fear and superstition to control much of the area's black population. Mr. Big claims to be the zombie of Baron Samedi, the infamous Voodoo prince of darkness.

Bond and Leiter begin their investigation of Mr. Big by visiting some of his seedy Harlem nightclubs. After watching a Voodoo-themed striptease, they're interrogated by Mr. Big and his men. Mr. Big brings in his alluring psychic prisoner, a native Haitian named Solitaire, to tell him if Bond is trustworthy. Bond gets vibes from her indicating she's on his side. Mr. Big breaks Bond's little finger. Bond kills several of Mr. Big's men before escaping. Leiter receives minor injuries.

Bond and Leiter travel to Florida separately in an effort to stay off of Mr. Big's radar. Solitaire calls Bond from a payphone and begs for his help. He tells her when and where his train departs, and she meets him in his compartment. They kiss passionately and make their mutual desires clear, but Bond's injuries prevent him from sleeping with Solitaire. Bond receives warnings from a porter that he should keep his door sealed. He also gets a Voodoo death note. Bond and Solitaire depart the train before their scheduled stop, just before their car is blown to bits.

In Florida, Bond and Leiter leave Solitaire at a rental cottage while they poke around a bait and exotic fish warehouse. They believe it is a cover for part of Mr. Big's smuggling operation. When they return, they find Solitaire has been kidnapped. Leiter goes back to the warehouse without Bond. His mangled, shark-ravaged, barely alive body is returned to Bond in blood-soaked cloths. As doctors work on Leiter, Bond returns to the warehouse. He finds gold coins hidden in the bottom of tanks of poisonous sea creatures. He wins a gun battle with one of Mr. Big's men and feeds the man to a shark.

Bond travels to Jamaica to find Solitaire and the center of Mr. Big's operation. He and two Jamaican aids don diving gear and traverse shark-infested waters to infiltrate Mr. Big's yacht. Mr. Big catches Bond, ties him to Solitaire and drags them behind the yacht for the sharks. When a bomb planted by Bond explodes, the yacht blows up. Mr. Big survives, only to die in a gruesome shark attack. After being rescued by divers, Bond and Solitaire relax and recuperate on the beach in Jamaica.

Christian Beliefs

Bond prays silently a few times in moments of impending danger.

Other Belief Systems

Mr. Big was initiated into the knowledge of Voodoo as a child. He started an underground Voodoo temple in Harlem and is rumored to be the living corpse of Baron Samedi, the Haitian Prince of Darkness. He uses Solitaire to tell him if people are honest with him, since she has telepathic, Voodoo-related powers. Mr. Big says he suffers from what early Christians called "accidie," the deadly lethargy that enveloped those who have no more desires.

In trying to decide whether to trust Bond, Solitaire ponders how he couldn't possibly understand the Voodoo life she's experienced. She goes on to list a number of the behaviors and superstitions her people in Haiti follow. She mentions a time she was given a Voodoo drink made of rum, gunpowder, grave dirt and human blood.

For research purposes, Bond reads a detailed passage on Voodoo in Haiti. It elaborates on dark religious rites, ceremonies and human sacrifices. It tells about one man driven to take his own life in such a ritual. On the train with Solitaire, Bond gets a note with a Voodoo message that Leiter believes was meant to be found on Bond's corpse.

When Bond feels nervous on an airplane caught in a storm, he reminds himself not to lose faith in his stars. Bond decides that if he and Solitaire are bleeding and dragged through the shark-infested waters, he will strangle her and kill himself so they don't have to live through an attack. Bond wonders if the changing winds are an omen.

Authority Roles

Mr. Big uses his power and influence to imprison people literally and through fear. The local law enforcement officials in cities that Bond visits are typically hardened cops, eager for him to leave because he brings trouble. M, Bond's boss, provides directions for Bond but trusts him to handle situations as he sees fit.


Words such as h--- and the Lord's name taken in vain each occur more than a dozen times. Half a dozen uses of d--n, b--tard, crap and a-- also appear.

Mr. Big pushes a Russian spy under a train. Bond's research tells about a man who dances in anguish, writhing and foaming at the mouth, before he kills himself in a Voodoo ceremony. Mr. Big whips Solitaire on the shoulders to get her to obey him. He has one of his henchmen break Bond's little finger by bending it backward until he hears a sharp crack. Bond shoots and kills several of Mr. Big's men. A man who helps Bond and Solitaire on the train is blown up by a bomb meant for the couple. When Mr. Big's men catch Leiter, they put him in a shark tank. He is returned to Bond wrapped up in blood-soaked cloth, half dead and missing an arm and half a leg. After extracting the information he needs from a villain, Bond kicks the man into a shark tank and listens to the disgusting noises of the creature devouring the carcass. Mr. Big pumps blood into the water near his Jamaican hideout so sharks will be excited and eat any intruding divers. Mr. Big plans to drag Bond and Solitaire over the coral so their legs will become raw and bloody, sending the sharks into a feeding frenzy. A shark slowly rips off Mr. Big's arm, and the man soon dies.


Mr. Big has a history of owning brothels and call girls. Bond says it seems the black culture is interested in the same types of things — including sex — that the whites are. Bond notices women's breasts on several occasions. Bond and Leiter find Mr. Big in a strip club he owns. People at the club call out obscenities and lewd comments as a dancer performs an extremely sexual (and descriptive) striptease to the Haitian rhythms of Voodoo drummers. She jerks, grinds and screams, arousing Bond and the rest of the audience.

Bond and Solitaire kiss passionately a number of times, exploring one another's bodies. Bond is initially distressed that he can't make love to her because of the pain in his arm from Mr. Big's attack. Solitaire teases him by bearing her breasts to him as she prepares to go to sleep. At the rented cottage, Leiter informs Solitaire that she can have her own room and he'll bunk with Bond. Later, he says it just occurred to him Bond and Solitaire might want to share a bed.

Mr. Big cuts off Solitaire's clothes before tying her to Bond and tossing them both in the water. After they're rescued, Bond cleans, medicates and kisses Solitaire's naked body.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Smoking: Bond and many other characters regularly smoke cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Specific brands are usually mentioned.

Alcohol: Bond and his companions drink alcohol frequently, often consuming at least several drinks during a single sitting, and usually mentioning the type of drink and/or the specific brand of alcohol they consume. On the night Bond and Leiter look for Mr. Big in Harlem, they consume a large amount of alcohol at various clubs (even though Bond notes beforehand that he needs to be sharp for the events of the evening and cautious about what he drinks). After a particularly bad day, Leiter suggests they get drunk.

Drugs: Bond recognizes the scent of pot at one of the Harlem clubs.

Racial Issues and Language: Published in 1954, the book freely uses terms like Negro and Negress. The word Negroid is also used to describe people's physical features. Bond describes Mr. Big's men as clumsy black apes. When he first sees Mr. Big's female chauffeur, Bond notes the strangeness of a Negress driving a car. With Americans knowing his identity, Bond says he feels like a Negro whose shadow has been stolen by the witch doctor. Bond remarks that he hasn't heard of a great Negro criminal before Mr. Big, though he's heard of Chinamen, Japs and Negros mixed up with crime in smaller ways. He says Negroes are fairly law-abiding chaps except when they've had too much to drink. His informant says the Negro race is just beginning to throw up geniuses in all professions; he credits them with brains, ability and guts. Leiter tells Bond about bars in Harlem where people are kicked out just for being white. The n-word is used before "heaven" and after "worthless" and "gangsters"; Solitaire uses the n-word to describe Mr. Big's thugs, and Bond uses the British term n-----head to refer to a ship mooring post.

Animal issues: A thug shoots a pelican for sport. Bond stabs a poisonous scorpion fish in a tank as he looks for gold hidden in the soil beneath. The fish flaps around on the floor despite its shattered skull. Sharks are baited with blood so they will attack humans.

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