Casino Royale Book Review
Casino Royale is the first book in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. It not only introduces us to the famous spy, James Bond, but we also get insight into his latest mission.
He has to beat USSR agent, Le Chiffre, out of all of his money by playing high stakes baccarat in order to keep that money from getting into the wrong hands.
This novel is packed full of just the right amount of action, mystery, romance, and suspense to make it a novel that any reader can appreciate.
This book keeps its readers on the edge of their seats, as Bond goes through several near death experiences and unlike most novels theses day, the ending is unpredictable.
If you enjoy reading about gambling and casinos, then you’ll enjoy the unique perspective this novel has to offer. Once you pick this book up, you won’t be able to put it down. In order to learn more about what this book has to offer, please continue reading.
About the Book
- Men and Women with an Interest in Gambling
- Ian Fleming
- 178 pages
- Point of View
- Third Person Narrative
- Thomas & Mercer
- Publishing Date
- 1953, 2012
- Paris, France
Brief Bio on Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming was born on May 28th, 1908 in London, England. Fleming grew up in a privileged family of six, having a father, a mother, and three brothers. When Fleming was only nine years old, his father died while serving England in World War I.
Fleming always put his education first, taking classes at both Eton College and Sandhurst Military Academy. When he was of age, Fleming followed in his father’s footsteps by serving England in World War II.
After the service, he worked in finances while writing his first novel, Casino Royale, which introduced the world to the famous spy character: James Bond.
This book was instantly popular and so were the myriad of other books written by Fleming that focused on the life and experiences of James Bond, many of which were inspiration for Hollywood movies.
In addition to the Bond Series, Fleming also wrote the popular children’s book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1961), which also made its way to the Hollywood Screens. Unfortunately Fleming passed away in the summer of 1964 before any of these films were ever created.
Chapter Summaries & Thoughts
- Chapter 1: The Secret Agent
This first chapter is an introduction to Secret Agent, James Bond who is being placed in Paris, France on a mission. The narrator in this novel does an excellent of describing people and places in such a way that you can actually picture them in your mind.
Not only do you leave this chapter having a clear concept of what Bond looks like, you also can picture of the Royale-les-Eaux casino that he’s currently staying at.
Chapter two is full of Secret Service reports that reveal everything we need to know about Bond’s latest mission. We learn all about Le Chiffre, a USSR agent who is in a brink of financial crisis because he has lost a significant amount of money due to a poor investment.
Its Bond’s goal to make sure Le Chiffre continues to lose all of his money, so to keep it away from the Soviet Union. He plans to play a very high stakes game of baccarat against him and the US Government has given him $20 million to work with.
In this chapter, we learn about the Head of S (the section of the secret service that focuses on any issues with the Soviet Union). We also briefly get to see James Bond’s interview for this particular case where he requests the aid of Agent Mathis.
Although this chapter is quite brief, it does give you insight into how Bond approaches people in higher positions than himself.
- Chapter 4: L’Ennemi Ecoute
The beginning of this chapter is all about Bond and his tendencies. We leave this chapter with a much better understanding of Bond’s personality, including the fact that he’s a heavy smoker who likes everything done in a particular way.
In this chapter, we also get to meet Mathis, the one person who Bond actually respects and enjoys being around plus we learn about Felix Leiter, another CIA agent assigned to overlook the case.
Mathis and Bond spend some time going over their roles on this upcoming mission. Bond is taking on the position of a wealthy Jamaican millionaire who is visiting Paris for leisure reasons.
Mathis, however, is a successful businessman who sells radios and who has just moved his operations to this area. Mathis then updates Bond on the whereabouts of Le Chiffre and tells him about an assistant agent that’s going to be helping him on the case.
He doesn’t reveal her name but describes her as a beautiful French native with black hair; Bond is less than enthused and says, “Women are for recreation.” Bond’s hatred for women is a reoccurring theme that we see throughout the novel and this is our first glance into it.
- Chapter 5: The Girl from Headquarters
The beginning of this chapter is a history of the Royale-les-Eaux and other casinos in the area. Although the history is interesting, we wondered why Fleming would add these details in even though they aren’t relevant to the remainder of the novel.
In this chapter, we get introduced to Bond’s one true love: his car. He drives an early 30s Bentley with a supercharger, a convertible top, and a two-inch exhaust system; it’s certainly his pride and joy.
Towards the end of this chapter, we get to meet his new female partner, Vesper. She’s even more gorgeous than described and you can definitely sense some sexual tension between her and Bond when their eyes first meet.
They plan to meet for dinner later that night just before Bond leaves to meet up with some friends. After he leaves, Vesper and Mathis start talking about Bond until they are rudely interrupted by an explosion nearby. The chapter ends with Mathis jumping out of the window to see what was going on.
- Chapter 6: Two Men in Straw Hats
In this chapter, prior to the explosion, we meet Bond walking the streets back to his hotel. He notices two men in straw hats standing quietly under a tree and thinks the scene is quite peculiar.
Before he has time to analyze the situation, a bomb suddenly goes off, causing both of the men to explode before his eyes. Mathis rushes to the scene to make sure Bond is okay, as the bomb was clearly intended to kill him.
Bond has no injuries and helps Mathis come up with a cover story to explain the bomb to the media without arousing too much concern for commoners.
Chapter seven is the first time we truly get to see Bond in action on the tables. We discover he has what is described as a half mathematical, half intuitive approach to gambling and he isn’t afraid to take risks.
When it comes to roulette, Bond keeps a record of the past spins to ensure that the wheel isn’t biased in any way. Agent Leiter accompanies Bond to the casino and together they win six spins in a row for a profit of 500,000 francs.
- Chapter 8: Pick Lights and Champagne
This chapter focuses on Bond and Vesper’s first dinner together. At the beginning, they have a lovely time and their personalities seem to complement each other quite well.
I love how detailed the beauty of Vesper was described in this chapter through Bond’s perspective; you can sense a possible love affair forming between these two main characters and its very riveting. Vesper has news about the bombing and proceeds to tell Bond in the next chapter.
- Chapter 9: The Game is Baccarat
We discovered that someone was willing to pay these three men 2 million francs if they were successfully able kill Bond. The third culprit was recently captured and is in the process of getting questioned.
Bond feels relieved about the whole situation and continues to open up to Vesper about things in his past. Before the conversation gets too deep, Bond seemed to shut down and reject Vesper, swearing only to talk to her about business from this day forward.
He then tells Vesper about his plan as it relates to Le Chiffre and how she can help him accomplish it.
- Chapter 10: The High Table
Bond arrives at the casino that evening with Vesper on his arm; the whole casino stops to take in her beauty. Leiter and Vesper go to play roulette while Bond heads to the baccarat room where we get to meet his competition which includes the infamous Le Chiffre.
This is another chapter that is described in such great detail that it’s very easy to picture the scene in your mind.
- Chapter 11: The Moment of Truth
At the start, Bond went on a long winning streak and by one o’clock in the morning he was up four million and Le Chiffre was down fourteen million. As the night persisted on, Bond proceeded to lose all twenty-eight million dollars to the dealer and was left broke and hopeless.
- Chapter 12: The Deadly Tube
Luckily for Bond, the government stepped in and sent him an envelope with another 32 million francs inside which he decided to risk on one game of baccarat.
While the casino was counting the money to make sure he had enough to place such a huge bet, a man with a cane stood behind bond, discreetly threatening to kill him if he didn’t retract that bet.
Bond thought on his feet, pushing his chair back and tipping over onto the man. Even though he made quite a scene, the man disappeared and his life was no longer being threatened.
- Chapter 13: A Whisper of Love, A Whisper of Hate
Bond manages to land a nine in the next game of Baccarat and wins over 70 million francs in total. Le Chiffre walks away quickly, making you think the mission is complete.
Bond plans to take Vesper out to celebrate their victory over a glass of champagne but they both go back to their rooms to freshen up before hand.
- Chapter 14: La Vie en Rose
At the beginning of this chapter, Bond and Vesper are at a very romantic dinner venue and everything seems to be going great. Vesper receives a note that’s supposedly from Mathis saying to meet her in the hall for some news.
She steps out to retrieve the note but Bond becomes suspicious and runs after her, thinking it must be a trap. Unfortunately by the time he gets to their meeting spot, Vesper has already been snatched and is being driven away.
- Chapter 15: Black Hare and Greyhound
Bond becomes angry at Vesper for falling for the easiest trick in the book and angry that she was assigned to this job in the first place. Before notifying anyone, Bond decides to get in his car and chase after them; it doesn’t take him long to catch up.
- Chapter 16: The Crawling of the Skin
In a desperate attempt to save Vesper, Bond gets taken by her captives and is also tied up. He notices their resourcefulness and believes that US Government may have underestimated their power. Le Chiffre was in the car, waiting to get his revenge on Bond.
At the start of this Chapter, the car stops at an old, abandoned mansion where Bond is transported inside to a desolate room. He’s forced to take off all of his clothes and they tie him up so tightly that there’s simply no way he can get out.
Le Chiffre wants to strike a deal with Bond, asking him to give up the $40 million check in exchange for his life. Bond refuses and hopes that if he can hold off dying long enough that Mathis and Leiter will be able to capture Le Chiffre. The pain from the torture is too much for Bond to handle and after about an hour, he passes out.
- Chapter 18: A Crag-like Face
Bond wakes up to see a man from the Soviet Union holding Le Chiffre at gunpoint. He gets the pleasure of watching Le Chiffre die but is worried that he might be next. Luckily the man overlooked Bond and left him there to die on his own; Bond again passes out.
- Chapter 19: The White Tent
Bond woke up in a hospital in England where he apparently had been for the past two days, periodically coming in and out of consciousness. The Doctor and Mathis reveal to Bond everything they know about the case, revealing that Vesper was neither raped nor tortured that night.
Bond was amazed to hear that news and was even happier to report to Mathis that the $40 million check was safely stored away and had not been touched.
- Chapter 20: The Nature of Evil
Bond tells Mathis that he’s looking to retire because he feels more like a villain than a hero and that he sometimes kills people for the wrong reasons.
This is one of the first times that we see Bond really having a grasp on his feelings and it’s certainly a sign of growth for him. Mathis listens to Bond but doesn’t take anything he says too seriously.
For the first time since the incident, Bond asks to see Vesper who has faithfully been at the hospital every day, waiting for Bond to regain his health. Vesper wants to take Bond to the beach with her but he refuses because of his scars and bruises.
Vesper breaks down in tears, blaming herself for everything that happened to him. Vesper and Bond discuss all of the events that occurred that night and they both get closure from the whole ordeal.
- Chapter 22: The Hastening Saloon
Bond and Vesper continue to have wonderful conversations over the next couple weeks and it becomes obviously that they are both starting to fall in love with each other.
As soon as Bond was fully recovered, they decided to go to a small hotel along the coast and spend a romantic weekend together. Along the way, Vesper feels like they are being followed and becomes quite nervous. Bond comforts her with his words and tells her there’s nothing to worry about.
- Chapter 23: Tide of Passion
They kiss passionately and you can feel the passion between them through the words written in this chapter. Bond bathes in the seas and considers his feelings for her; by the time he goes in he claims to have made a decision but readers are unsure what that decision is.
- Chapter 24: Fruit Defendu
Bond and Vesper have a lovely dinner together but refuse to talk about their feelings for one another. Later on, they have a passionate night together and it’s revealed to the readers that Bond plans to ask Vesper to marry him which is a turning point for Bond and it shows his immense growth.
- Chapter 25: TIBlack-PatchLE
While Bond is out for an early morning swim, he notices Vesper by a nearby telephone booth. When Bond questions her about the telephone call, she makes up a lame story and it becomes obvious by her mannerisms that she’s lying.
The small amount of doubt that Bond has in her now, foreshadows the end of the book flawlessly.
This whole ordeal puts a major strain on their relationship and the awkwardness between the two of them is quite obvious.
While eating dinner in silence, Vesper swears the man staying at the hotel was the one she thought was following them in the beginning but Bond again believes she’s jumping to conclusions.
- Chapter 26: Sleep Well, My Darling
Bond has Mathis look into the man at the hotel and everything about him seems to check out; they can now rest assured that they are not being followed.
Bond reveals to Vesper of his intentions to marry her and they seem to overcome some of their issues. Vesper says she needs some time to work things out in her head and the two part ways for the night.
- Chapter 27: The Bleeding Heart
Bond wakes up to a suicide note from Vesper, revealing that she was a double agent for the Russians and that the whole kidnapping adventure was staged.
She revealed that she did fall in love with him and that after he was tortured, she refused to do anything the Russian government commanded. You can see Bond’s life unravel before his eyes and you see his hatred of women deepen.
This ending was perfectly orchestrated and as readers, we didn’t see it coming! We appreciate an unpredictable ending and that’s certainly what we got!
Our Favorite Quotes from the Movie
“These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why the hell couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men’s work to the men.” (Bond’s thoughts)
This is what Bond was thinking after Vesper had been captured by Le Chiffre and his men. Throughout the entire story, we can see that Bond had an internal hatred of women and believes that they shouldn’t be out on the work field.
Although these views may have been blown out of proportion due to the situation at hand, there are many examples throughout the story where his harsh perception of women has been made obvious.
“There’s a Good Book about goodness and how to be good and so forth, but there’s no Evil Book about how to be evil and how to be bad. The Devil had no prophets to write his Ten Commandments, and no team of authors to write his biography.” (Bond speaking to Mathis)
This was just part of the strange conversation Bond had with Mathis where he was questioning the differences between Good and Evil, as he wasn’t sure exactly what side he was on. This is a result of the torture that Le Chiffre inflicted on him; it made him doubt not only himself but his profession as well.
“Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles. But don’t let me down and become human yourself. We would lose such a wonderful machine.” (Mathis speaking to Bond)
After Bond comes to Mathis with his doubts and with his desire to retire from his profession, this is the advice that Mathis gives in return. He basically is telling Bond to worry more about individuals than getting lost in matters of religion and morals.
At the end though, he warns Bond about becoming too attached as then he won’t be the great agent he is today. We believe this foreshadows the ending of the novel when Bond lets his guard down and suffers the consequences.
Goodreads gave Casino Royale 3.71 out of 5 stars and had this to say about the novel,
“The very first James Bond novel. Though nothing like the films, this book is full of anticipation, drama, mystery, intrigue, and suspense that you appreciate it all by itself.”
The New York Times wrote this in regards to, Casino Royale,
“The first part of this book is a brilliant novelette in itself, dealing with the unlikely but imaginative plot to ruin a Communist agent by gambling against him for high stakes. Ian Fleming writes with a kind of pushing, bloodcurdling elegance. His thrillers are models of fastidious murder.”
In honor of the sixtieth anniversary of the novel, The Telegraph, posted an article in tribute to Ian Fleming and his work. They wrote this in their article,
“Of all the Bond books, Casino Royale was one of the more problematic to adapt for film. On the one hand, it’s one of Fleming’s strongest novels: intense, almost feverishly so, and richer in characterization and atmosphere than many of the others. But the novel is also short — practically a novella — with little physical action in it other than the infamous torture scene.”
Our Rating and Why We Recommend It
We gave this book 4.2 out of 5 stars and this is why: In general, it was an excellent book with interesting characters, a captivating storyline, and short, easy to read chapters.
The focus of this book is around Agent 007: James Bond and his latest mission from the US government. Bond is a very dynamic character who seems to have a rough exterior but as the book goes on, you see his true feelings start to reveal themselves and it’s an amazing sight to see.
Another aspect to this book that really got us hooked was its attention to detail. Everything in this book from places to people is so well described that even someone with very little imagination wouldn’t have any trouble picturing the scene at hand.
We also appreciate the element of surprise and mystique that the book seems to have, as we never were successfully able to guess what was going to happen next. We applaud Ian Fleming for his work in this regard and we think that he’s an amazing author overall.
However, there are some downsides to this book that just simply cannot be overlooked. The first is the lack of action that this book contains, which can be disappointing for someone who is expecting the first James Bond book to be a thriller.
The second and final downside to this novel is the amount of French language that is used throughout it.
We understand that the setting is Paris, Frances but unless you have some knowledge of the French language, you’ll probably have to look up a few terms in order to fully understand their meaning within the text. Some readers may find that extra work to be tedious and annoying.