The James Bond we meet at the start of Live and Let Die is not quite the same man we left at the end of Casino Royale. The Bond in Casino Royale was a gambler happy to take a 50/50 split, who travelled under his own name and took the minutiae of tradecraft seriously. Crucially, the Bond of Casino Royale was gripped by existential doubts – his discussions of morality with Mathis later exceeded by his decision to abandon his profession altogether in favour of Love ™. Bond has learned from all of that, as has his author. Bond is here an investigator, more properly a Secret Agent ™, tasked with delving into the Caribbean source of ancient bullion being dispersed from New York City. His focus is now undivided and his resolution firm. Perhaps even more crucially, the nature of his enemy has changed. In Casino Royale, Bond survived le Chiffre only because of the tangential interest of SMERSH. I argued that this was a kind of very weak Magic Realism, pitting Bond’s reality-bending powers against the merely mortal le Chiffre – or is that the true demon of SMERSH? Either way, in Live and Let Die, Bond’s adversary explicitly claims these powers for himself – Mr Big submerges his own identity into that of an otherworldly power, being merely the “zombie” of Baron Samedi.
To really cement this concept into place, Fleming embeds Bond in a fairly straightforward sequence of miniature quests and challenges, the first of which is the most interesting. Bond and Lieter