Series: James Bond (Original Series) #7
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Released: March 23, 1959
Auric Goldfinger is the richest man in England—though his wealth can’t be found in banks. He’s been hoarding vast stockpiles of his namesake metal, and it’s attracted the suspicion of 007’s superiors at MI6. Sent to investigate, Bond uncovers an ingenious gold-smuggling scheme, as well as Goldfinger’s most daring caper yet: Operation Grand Slam, a gold heist so audacious it could bring down the world economy and put the fate of the West in the hands of SMERSH. To stop Goldfinger, Bond will have to survive a showdown with the sinister millionaire’s henchman, Oddjob, a tenacious karate master who can kill with one well-aimed toss of his razor-rimmed bowler hat.
After the downward spiral that was From Russia With Love, Octopussy, and Doctor No, my expectations for Goldfinger were rather low. It’s still not a great book, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Starting with the issues, it’s impossible to ignore the sexism (dialed back a little from what I remember from the previous books) and racism. Of course I understand and appreciate that literature reflects the time it is written in, but in this book, as with the previous books, it feels out of place and evil-spirited when it happens. It’s not even an underlying element which adds to the atmosphere of the story. It’s an occasional slap in the face, a reminder that the hero of the story is a racist and a womaniser, even when put up against the (already low) standards of the people around him.
That said, Goldfinger was entertaining. Stupid, shallow, unrealistic, yes, but properly entertaining and at times a little immersive. In other books the lack of detail and lack of respect for realism of any kind might have been annoying, but in this book it’s ignored so thoroughly that it doesn’t matter. Goldfinger is about the story, and whatever needs to happen to let the story happen will happen. There are enough twists for it to feel exciting, it’s sufficiently irreverent to get away with anything at all, and the story moves quickly enough that there isn’t really any time to think about everything that isn’t there. The book succeeds in doing what it sets out to do, and while it will be pretty far down my list of books to read again, it wasn’t at all bad.