James Bond, Britain's premier secret agent, must investigate and avenge the death of British attache Strangways at the hands of the sinister Dr. No. James Bond, having narrowly recovered from a poisoning attempt by Rosa Klebb at the end of the previous book (fun fact: Ian Fleming ended From Russia with his protagonist in a coma because he was considering walking away from the series), is sent to investigate the disappearance of Kingston's station chief, Strangways, with the intent of allowing him some time to recover; Bond's boss M assumes that Strangways has merely run off with his comely aid Mary Trueblood. However, this "vacation" trip is immediately imperiled by attempts on Bond's life, including a basket of poisoned food and an assault involving a centipede inserted in his bed.
Bond finds that Strangways was looking into the actions of Dr. Julius No, a reclusive scientist who lives on an island/bird preserve. He also discovers that No has a web of half-Chinese agents throughout Kingston, including Miss Taro (secretary to British official Pleydell Smith) and photographer Annabelle Chung. The secret agent enlists the help of his old confidant Quarrel in traveling to No's Crab Key Island hideout, reportedly patrolled by a dragon.
On the beach, Bond discovers Honeychile Ryder, the story's ingenue. Honey is the daughter of British aristocrats, raised by her family's servants in the wreckage of their estate after a fire. She is uneducated (having taught herself out of an incomplete encyclopedia set) and extremely naive, if somewhat untrusting. She is beautiful, except for a nose which has healed badly from a breaking during her rape by a man named Mander. Now she collects shells on the island to sell for a meager living.
Bond's idyll on the beach with Honey is interrupted by No's security forces. Bond, Quarrel, and Honey spend a day trying to evade them, but Quarrel is killed by the island's "dragon," an armored vehicle with a flamethrower, disguised as a mythological beast. Shortly afterwards, Bond and Honey surrender. They are taken to No's compound, ostensibly a guano refining facility, but actually a Russian-funded site intended to disrupt American missile launches. Dr. No, a half-Chinese, half-German man with a history with the Chinese Tongs, has an interest in torture, and decides to put Bond's legendary resilience to a test with an elaborate deathtrap. Bond faces extreme environmental hazards and a dark room full of poisonous spiders, all under the watchful eye of No. The final component of the gauntlet is a giant octopus in a grotto, although the doctor is no longer watching by this point. A gravely-injured Bond prevails and meets up with Honey, who Dr. No has set, naked, on a crab travel path with the intent of killing her. The resourceful woman survives by staying still, and escapes when the coast is clear.
Back at the compound, Bond commandeers one of No's cranes, used for moving the guano. Bond uses the earth mover to bury the evil doctor in a pile of his foul livelihood, and uses No's "dragon" to escape, Honey in tow.
Best part of story, including ending:
Fleming is hit-or-miss for me. Dr. No is better than his wretched first book, Casino Royale, but lacks the artistry of some of his other books (notably, From Russia with Love). The investigation aspect is kinda interesting, but Dr. No shares the same weird obsession with detailed scenes of bizarre torture that mar Royale. Viewers of the films, beware: the tone of the Fleming novels is a sight grimmer than the generally-upbeat tone of the movies.
Best scene in story:
The ridiculous fight with the octopus is fun in a terrible way.
Opinion about the main character:
The literary Bond is less the film's swinging man of mystery than he is a company man, torn between duty to traditional Britishness and his slight libertine streak. He's not nearly as fun as you would expect.
As Ian Fleming's sixth Bond novel begins, Commander Strangways, the local station chief of Her Majesty's Secret Service in the Caribbean, and his secretary are slain by a group of efficient assassins. Their files are burnt and their bodies are made to disappear.
Sent out to investigate the case is Commander James Bond, codename 007. Still recuperating from his recent encounter with a Russian assassin's poisoned blade, Bond is being sent on what everyone else assumes to be just a case of lovers abandoning their post.
Arriving in Kingston, Jamaica, Bond soon concludes that Strangways and his assistant are dead. Avoiding attempts on his own life by toxic insect, speeding automobile, and poisoned fruit, Bond traces the attempts to a mysterious island known as Crab Key.
Traveling there with his old friend and native guide Quarrel, Bond meets and befriends a voluptuous shell-diver named Honeychile Rider, who is soon captured with Bond by the minions of the island's owner, the mysterious Doctor No.
The review of this Book prepared by James Craver