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Case Name: Win, Lose, or Die
Year: 1989
Author: John Gardner
Villain(s): Bassam Baradj
Organization: Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terror
Bond Girl(s): Beatrice Maria da Ricci; Nikola Ratnikov
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Although it gets off to a slow start, I would have to say that (so far) "Win, Lose or Die" is arguably a highlight of the Gardner books. It is also the only one that I feel could actually work as a Bond film. The characters are a bit more respectable than most of Gardner's creations, especially his usual cookie-cutter villains. The book also carries some of the wonderful, sinister, almost supernatural imagery that Fleming was so fond of, portraying Bond and the other characters as players in a strange spiritual plane that seems to stretch beyond Earthly bonds.

Now, if only Gardner could have learned to do away with all those...one-liners he has Bond spout after he does something. This is supposed to be Fleming's Bond, not Roger Moore's. Furthermore, the book continues to slip with the horrid scenes in which Bond interacts with M and Bill Tanner. In Fleming's books, M was a man of few words, and when he said something, it was to the point and deadly serious. Unfortunately, Gardner again sinks to the level of having Bond and M trade barbs, if you will. Fleming's Bond would NEVER smart off to his boss the way Gardner's does.

However, once you get past the tepid first third of the novel, the narrative really picks up. This book actually has enough high points to outweigh the low points. The section where Bond is used as bait at the Italian villa is almost up to Fleming's speed. And the climax aboard the hijacked carrier is absolutely spellbinding.

"Win, Lose or Die" is one of the few Gardner Bonds that those of us "Fleming purists" can get through without rolling our eyes darn near every page.

Review written by DrewBeliever



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