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"You see, Mr Bond. You were wrong and I was right. Ten more minutes and I shall be the richest man in the world, the richest man in history!"
Goldfinger was the seventh James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming and appears here in an abridged audiobook version read by Rufus Sewell. Goldfinger is probably not considered one of the strongest Bond novels - ironically in part because of the famous film version made in 1964 with Sean Connery. The writers of the film actually made Auric Goldfinger's nefarious scheme more exciting (and probably more logical) than the one in the novel and it's justifiably regarded to be the blueprint picture for the James Bond formula and one of the best two or three entries in the entire series. The book is still good fun though and competently conveyed and brought to life here. I much prefer this to the heralded recent (full cast) Radio 4 version of Goldfinger with Toby Stephens as Bond. Stephens was far too contemporary and had an irritating transatlantic accent. Sewell is much better and is always a pleasant and polished voice through your earphones as he tells you the story.
Goldfinger begins with James Bond returning from Mexico after cracking a heroin ring and stopping off at Miami for a bit of relaxation. He bumps into his friend Junius Du Pont (from Casino Royale) in his beachfront hotel and discovers Du Pont is being cheated at cards by the millionaire Auric Goldfinger. Card shark, secret agent and general know it all Bond easily rumbles Goldfinger's rather odd scam (why would such a wealthy man be petty enough to cheat at cards?) but back in London finds himself charged with investigating a more serious matter involving the enigmatic millionaire he's just crossed swords with in Miami. Vast quantities of gold are going out of the market and the Bank of England suspect Goldfinger to be involved. Does he have connections with SMERSH and what exactly is he up to? 007 must find out.
While the book has been understandably shortened for this format, the flavour of Fleming's novel is captured quite nicely at times here. The languid atmosphere of Miami comes through as Bond, having just completed a mission, is delighted to decompress in a plush hotel for a few days and ends up making Goldfinger look stupid. Bond easily deduces Goldfinger's scheme and even makes off with his employee Jill Masterton. It sets up the battle between the secret agent and the millionaire, who we learn is not a man to be trifled with. Goldfinger is a great villain. He carries a million dollars worth of gold around with him and has a bowler hatted karate chopping Korean henchman called Oddjob. One of the highlights of the book is the golf game between Goldfinger and Bond at Royal St Mark's near Sandwich in Kent. I have no interest in golf whatsoever myself but this is a playful and amusing passage and a great example of the urbane Bond villain matching wits with 007 in a refined setting. Sewell does a nice job in reading all of this and you get gently wrapped up in the story. He generally has a good polished 'actor' voice.
One or two famous set-pices created specifically for the film are of course absent here but it doesn't really detract. Locations for the story are London, Miami, New York, Switzerland, Kentucky and, of course, Fort Knox. I generally like the fact here that you have to conjure the images in your imagination and see things in a slightly different way from the film. I tend to imagine Bond in these to look like he was drawn on the covers of the old Pan paperback editions of Ian Fleming, sort of like a cross between a young Sean Connery and Gregory Peck. Very darkly Bondish and dashing. Some of Fleming's more dated observations and pieces of dialogue are excised here too. There are generally always a few passages about gay people or women that you couldn't get away with today and seem quite strange to the modern reader in Fleming's books. This is the book too where Fleming says Bond had always distrusted short people and felt they had caused most of the problems in the world! This audio version does though have Fleming's famous passage about how Bond dislikes killing and how he deals with the fact that killing is sometimes a part of his job.
The story moves to a rousing climax in Fort Know as the grand caper of Auric Goldfinger swings into action with various gangsters and Pussy Galore joining the fray. The deviations from the film version make this come to life in its own right even if you have read the book and it passes the time pleasantly enough if you are stuck on a train (or even worse waiting for a train). This is a competent and enjoyable audio book that James Bond fans should enjoy.
Auric Goldfinger is the kind of man Bond loves to hate: cruel, clever, frustratingly careful - a cheat and a crook. So Bond relishes his mission to discover what this man - the richest in the country - intends to do with his ill-gotten gains, and what his connection is with SMERSH, the feared Soviet spy-killing corps. Bond soon discovers that Goldfinger's schemes are not only more grandiose, but also more lethal, than even he could have imagined.