“Death is forever. But so are diamonds.”
You may recall from my last review that Moonraker turned out to be a terrific little book that was adapted into a seriously terrible movie. As fate would have it, I also despised the movie version of Diamonds Are Forever, but while Moonraker became my favorite book in the series so far, Diamonds became my least favorite in the series (so far).
A large part of that is due to the fact that nothing much happens on Bond’s assignment in Diamonds. There isn’t even really a villain of any consequence to be found. Moonraker was all the better for Hugo Drax’s larger than life presence. Ostensibly, the Spang brothers are the head bad guys in Diamonds, but you barely even get to know either one of them. They only really turn up at the very end, just in time for 007 to dispatch them to save the day. There are some henchmen, but they also lurk on the periphery–only turning up roughly three times during the entire book. Without a villainous presence, the only thread for the plot to grasp at is Bond’s mission–and even that is mostly boring.
M sends 007 to take the place of a diamond smuggler in order to figure out who is behind a large diamond-smuggling operation that is undermining the British economy. Bond meets up with Tiffany Case, the mob operative who is going to oversee his transport to the United States, and immediately drops the fake identity. He gets to the U.S. and basically meanders his way through the plot. He doesn’t get any dangerous assignments from the mob, he spends more than half the book just trying to collect payment from them for his smuggling trip. That takes him on a detour to Saratoga, where he inexplicably helps his former CIA buddy, Felix Leiter (now a detective with the Pinkertons), cause trouble with the very mob he’s trying to trick into drawing him close. Yes, Leiter is his friend, but the reckless hit to Bond’s cover doesn’t quite make sense.
Once the horse race payment method goes south, the mob sends Bond to Las Vegas to pay him out in one of their casinos. Bond decides to apply some pressure to the mob bosses to find out who’s heading up the pipeline, but the action is still painfully slow compared to the other books–and once again, 007’s movements seem unnecessarily reckless. His rather sudden infatuation with Tiffany Case doesn’t improve things. It’s one thing for 007 to feel attracted to a Bond Girl like Moonraker‘s Gala Brand, but he inexplicably falls directly into full-on Vesper-Lynd-style love with Tiffany. They barely even know each other, and nothing about their interactions seems worthy of the marked fixation they have for each other.
So you see, Diamonds is the most problematic of Ian Fleming’s Bond books (so far) by a long shot. It’s also the most dull. It’s not a terrible read but given how enjoyable the rest of the books have been it is definitely a disappointment.