After being sent through the ringer physically during Doctor No, a book which sees Bond abused by everything from hot plates to giant squid, he gets to take things relatively easy this time around, as the bulk of the story involves Bond doing little more than embarrassing eccentric millionaire and suspected SMERSH operative Auric Goldfinger in a series of sporting encounters.

Dr. No

From Russia with Love ends on a cliffhanger. James Bond is down! Poisoned by a crafty Russian agent! What will happen? Proceed to the next book to find out! Unfortunately, the cliffhanger is always better than the resolution, and Dr. No picks up the thread by going, “Boy, that sure was close, but now James is all better,” and away we go to Jamaica without much bother.

From Russia with Love

Diamonds are Forever was a vacation for 007, an enjoyable breather Ian Fleming took in between more substantial books. From Russia with Love finds Bond and the Bond books back in top form for one of the best-loved stories in the entire franchise. From Russia with Love deserves its lofty ranking, though to be honest, at the end of the adventure, we have another sightseeing excursion for Bond.

The Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel

The Moneypenny Diaries is presented as excerpts from the secret diary of Jane “Miss” Moneypenny. It's a complex, bittersweet, even realistic alternate point of view of James Bond, as well as a meditation on the politics of the 1960s and the impact of Bond’s lifestyle and attitude on those around him — especially the women. It’s also a damn sight better than most of the official Bond continuation novels.

Forever and a Death

During the making of GoldenEye, Bond producers started planning for a sequel. Crime fiction writer Donald Westlake was hired to write the screenplay. The process never resulted in a finished movie, but it did give Westlake fodder to rework into Forever and a Death.

Diamonds Are Forever

If Diamonds are Forever is any indication of the man's mindset, then Fleming was either tired of the formula established in his previous books or simply didn't know what to do. Diamonds are Forever is different from its predecessors though still enjoyable even if it's not what people might have expected after Moonraker and Live and Let Die.

From Donald to Dean

Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series followed the exploits of a bitter, disillusioned assassin pressed back into service against his will and saddled with an endless series of depressing, violent assignments. They're tough, noirish, world-weary novels. So how come, when it came time to adapt them into movies, we ended up with a boozy Dean Martin making juvenile sex jokes and sliding ass-first down a mountain while waving around a ray gun?