Bond’s mission is simple in theory: find out how the diamond pipeline works and then report back. Bond is rather bored with the assignment. He has a low opinion of American gangsters, thinking they’re nothing but a bunch of Italian men stuffing themselves every evening and then knocking off a liquor store on the weekend to finance the next week. But as he finds out, those are the only gangsters who are ever noticed: there are gangsters behind these gangsters and more gangsters behind those. The landscape of criminal life in America is far more complex—and dangerous—than Bond could have ever dreamed…
It’s a surprise to me how much I enjoyed Diamonds are Forever, which in itself is surprising. It’s my second time reading the book and I remember my enjoyment surprised me just as much the first time I read it. I suppose it’s because it’s the book that comes right before From Russia With Love, one of Ian Fleming’s most creative and infamous works. I was looking forward to reading From Russia With Love so much that I ignored Diamond are Forever in the process. It was very unfair of me. Diamonds are Forever is one of Fleming’s better Bond books.
The gangsters Bond faces off against are quite ordinary. They form the “Spangled Mob” and their only objective is to make money. They employ muscle in the form of two homosexual guns-for-hire, Wint and Kidd, thoroughly nasty sorts who get real pleasure from doing their dirty work. Although one of the lead gangsters has an affectation for the Wild West (even buying a ghost town to serve as his personal playground) he can still look menacing, even in a ridiculous getup.
This book marks the return of Felix Leiter, who was understandably absent from Moonraker. He suffered some major injuries the last time we saw him, and as a result had to change his career path somewhat, but he can still help Bond out on occasion and show him around the US in an attempt to decipher the crazy behaviour of Americans. His presence is a welcome one and something of a stabilizing presence in a book that jumps around various settings.
Overall, Diamonds are Forever is a terrific little book. It doesn’t get the same level of fame that Dr. No, Goldfinger, and From Russia With Love get, and perhaps that’s to its advantage because it’s capable of genuinely surprising readers with just how good it is. The American settings are excellent, the gangsters are credible threats while retaining some larger-than-life characteristics, the Bond girl is one of Fleming’s best creations, Felix Leiter returns to the series. It’s a bit lower key than the books that form a sandwich around it – i.e. Moonraker and From Russia With Love – but it’s a highly entertaining read well worth your while.