Book Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

The Bank of England suspects that wealth financer, Auric Goldfinger, is a major-league gold smuggler. “M” as head of MI-6, the British Secret Service, also thinks that some of the gold Goldfinger smuggles goes to fund the Soviet Union’s anti-spy organization: SMERSH. So “M” sets his best agent, James Bond, 007, to following Goldfinger around Europe to ascertain precisely what Goldfinger is doing. Bond discovers a plan that is nearly impossible to believe: Goldfinger, with help from some of America’s biggest criminal gangs, is plotting to rob Fort Knox. The scheme is so outlandish it is nearly impossible to believe, but Goldfinger insists; Fort Knox is just a bank and no bank is completely secure.

Goldfinger is the seventh in the James Bond series by Ian Fleming and the reader may begin to detect some weariness in the writing. Certain parts of Goldfinger are reworked from the previous six books of the series. The gold smuggling description is similar to diamond smuggling description from Diamonds are Forever. The card game between Bond and Goldfinger is very similar to the card playing face-off between Drax and Bond in Moonraker. However, the reader may forgive Fleming for this bit of literary recycling as the book is just so darn much fun to read.

However, the book is now also showing its age, originally published in 1959. Frankly, some of Fleming descriptions and characters are cringe inducing for today’s readers. At one point Fleming likens Koreans to apes! Further, the two main female characters are merely props for the interplay between Bond and Goldfinger. The supposed main female is Tilly Masterson (she introduces herself as Tilly Soames) but she is so bland and does nothing to move the action forward. The other female character is the outrageously named Pussy Galore. In the book, Pussy is an open lesbian who is “converted” not only into being straight, but to working against Goldfinger, when seduced by Bond.

Goldfinger falls rather in the middle of the quality range for “007” books. While certainly a better book than Casino Royale, it is of much lesser quality than Dr. No or even Moonraker. This is primarily because of the scheme to rob Fort Knox; the plan is just so complex and silly it generates no tension at all and the reader will simply not be able to buy into it. The Bond books are so much better when the villain has obtainable goals and a real and logical way to reach them.

To sum up, Goldfinger despite some aged stereotypes and some unconvincing plotting, is still a rollicking good time and well worth a read.

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