Goldfinger opens with an unexpected reference to Casino Royale, the first James Bond adventure. It starts with Bond running into a man he met during the events at Royale-les-Eaux: Junius Du Pont was one of the men at the card table on the night when Bond memorably cleaned out Le Chiffre’s funds. Now, seeing Bond at the airport by coincidence, Du Pont leaps at the chance to make conversation. And before long, he makes Bond a job offer.
It turns out that Du Pont has been losing heavily at cards with a man named Auric Goldfinger. This man Goldfinger is incredibly rich; he’s simply rolling in money. He’s one of the richest men in the world. Yet he consistently beats Du Pont in canasta, and Du Pont is a pretty good card player. He’s convinced that Goldfinger must be cheating somehow, but he can’t figure out how. And so he hires Bond to investigate. And thus, with the simple affair of a man cheating at cards, James Bond is launched into his wildest adventure in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger.
Of all the Bond novels, I think Goldfinger is my favourite one. I think the reason is obvious: Goldfinger is one of the best Bond villains. He was memorably played onscreen by Gert Frobe, but the Goldfinger of Ian Fleming’s novel is just as magnetic a personality. The entire book is constructed as a duel between Goldfinger and Bond, divided into three parts based on Goldinger’s dictum (which prefaces the book). And thus Bond discovers how Goldfinger is cheating Du Pont, and he turns the tables on him. In the second part, Bond and Goldfinger face each other in a game of golf. And in the third part… well, spoiling anything about this part would just be criminal.
But Goldfinger just has this aura of pure evil surrounding him. The schemes he constructs are meticulous and quietly brilliant in their own way. Even something as inconsequential as beating Du Pont in a few card games is ingeniously planned and executed. And then there’s Oddjob, Goldfinger’s Korean servant. He is practically unstoppable: a martial arts master with incredible strength and undying loyalty to Goldfinger. He’s also got his signature weapon: the lethal hat which he throws as a projectile. Oddjob is also largely silent: his cleft palate makes his speech unintelligible for all but Goldfinger. This silent killing machine is one of the deadliest opponents Bond ever faces.
(Here’s a fun fact about Goldfinger: the title and name of the main villain is a reference to Erno Goldfinger, an architect who was related to Fleming’s golf partner, John Blackwell. Blackwell was not fond of Goldfinger, and this may have inspired Bond’s use of the name as a villain. When Goldfinger found out he threatened to sue, and in response, Fleming proposed to alter “Goldfinger” to “Goldprick” and explain the reason for it to readers in a preface. The matter was settled out of court, and obviously, Fleming was allowed to go ahead with “Goldfinger” after all.)
I try to avoid book/film comparisons in these reviews—I’ll do those when I get to the film— but the film is so famous that bringing it up seems inevitable.