The Spy Who Read Me: Thoughts and Notes on Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale (1953)

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, the first James Bond novel, was published in 1953. During a recent re-read of the book, I recorded some of my thoughts on the book’s themes and character development, and did a little research to add to my understanding of the times in which the book was published. I decided to share these notes, with the qualification that this is a personal work in progress and not a polished document with any professional ambitions. Long-time Fleming fans will probably not find much new here. This is not a review or book summary, but notes on the contents of the book. Basically, my own personal reader’s guide.

I haven’t included page numbers because this will vary by edition. I’m reading the 1964 Signet Books mass market paperback. Mr. Fleming was kind enough to divide his books into brief chapters, so references should be easy to find in the text. If I’ve made any factual errors, feel free to point this out via the Contact Me page.

Last revised 2 March 2023

Chapter 1: The Secret Agent


James Bond suddenly knew that he was tired. He always knew when his body or his mind had had enough, and he always acted on the knowledge. This helped him to avoid staleness and the sensual bluntness that breeds mistakes.” Right away, we’re shown that 007 has an admirable level of self-awareness. Despite the physicality of Bond’s occupation, this introspection is consistent throughout the books.


At the casino, Le Chiffre plays chemin-de-fer. A French term that loosely translates as “railway,” chemin-de-fer is an accelerated version of baccarat. This is said to be the form that was introduced in France in the 1800s. Vaguely similar to blackjack but using a different point system, the goal in baccarat is to score as close to nine as possible. Fleming assumes the reader to be familiar with casinos and gambling, using terms like chem-de-fer, banco, and boule without much in the way of explanation.

Hotel Splendide:

A fictional hotel where Bond stays during the Royale mission. Bond will return to the Splendide in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963).


The fictional French town where the Casino Royale is located. Again, Bond returns here in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Fleming’s directions to Royale-les-Eaux are inconsistent, but it is on France’s northern coast, relatively near Dieppe and Le Havre, both of which are referenced in the text. (See map in Chapter 5.)

Dieppe and Le Havre:

Both of these real cities are near the fictional Royale-les-Eaux and can approximate what happened in Royale during the war. Casino Royale was published only eight years after the end of World War II. Both Dieppe and Le Havre were subject to German occupation but Nazis weren’t the only problem. Le Havre was heavily bombed by the Allies in their attempts to drive out the Germans.


Bond’s cover in Royale is as a client of a Jamaican import/export firm, a prelude to Universal Exports, his cover in later books. Jamaica was still a British colony in 1953; the country achieved full independence in 1962 but remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Daily Gleaner:

Bond’s orders are communicated from London via Kingston and Fawcett, a contact at The Daily Gleaner, a real English-language newspaper still published in Jamaica as The Gleaner.

Attention to details:

“He was a secret agent, and still alive thanks to his exact attention to the details of his profession.” When Bond sends a telegram, he tears off the top form of the notepad so no one can decipher what he wrote. He enters his hotel room with his gun drawn (the only time I can recall him doing this). He places a strand of hair over the drawer on the writing desk and leaves talcum on the clothes cupboard to detect whether anyone has searched his room in his absence.

Then he lit his seventieth cigarette of the day…:

I do a double-take every time I read that sentence. So much for staying alive!

Colt Police Positive:

“His last action was to slip his right hand under the pillow until it rested under the butt of the .38 Colt Police Positive with the sawn barrel.” Bond again exercises “the details of his profession.” The Police Positive was introduced by Colt in 1905 and was intended primarily for use by law enforcement, although Al Capone used one. I tend toward pacifism and know almost nothing about firearms, but Colt claimed better accuracy than the equivalent Smith & Wesson weapon because Colt’s cylinder rotated clockwise, as opposed to S&W’s counterclockwise. The “sawn barrel” makes for easier concealment and a faster draw.

Chapter 2: Dossier for M


“…M, who was then and is today head of this adjunct to the British defence ministries.” We don’t get a lot of specifics yet about the 00-branch or its position in the intelligence hierarchy. The British Secret Service, later the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), was established in 1909 and is commonly referred to as the Secret Service or MI6. In 1953, SIS, along with the CIA, was involved in the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.

Head of S:

S is the Secret Service’s Soviet section. The “Dossier for M” is the plan, from Head of S, to discredit Le Chiffre at Royale, along with background on Le Chiffre and SMERSH.

Syndicat des Ouvriers d’Alsace (SODA):

“Union of Workers of Alsace”; Le Chiffre is paymaster for SODA, a “communist-controlled trade union.” I haven’t found much yet on post-War French labor unions. Is SODA really a Soviet front, as Head of S indicates? Since the 1800s, unions have been labeled a socialist and/or communist plot by the privileged terrified at the thought of an equitable society. Fleming would certainly have been an ardent Cold Warrior and a believer in the establishment; does this reflect his personal attitudes toward unions?

Deuxième Bureau:

Deuxième Bureau de l’État-major général, “Second Bureau of the General Staff”; the French Premier Bureau obtained intelligence on French/allied/friendly forces (along the lines of the NSA), and the Second Bureau monitored enemy forces (similar to the CIA); the Deuxième was dissolved in an intelligence reorganization in 1940, but the term remained in common use.

Leningrad Section III:

Le Chiffre invests money from Section III – intended for SODA, so it is communist controlled! – in a chain of brothels. I presume Section III is some element of the Soviet intelligence service but am unable to find information. Maybe this refers to the Third Main Directorate, the military counterintelligence arm of the Soviet armed forces.

La Loi Marthe Richard:

Le Chiffre’s brothel investment is wiped out by this 1946 law banning prostitution, which had been regulated in France since 1804. Lobbying to end prostitution in France was one of the many interesting experiences in the life of Marthe Richard.

Mahomet Ali Syndicate:

A group of Egyptian emigres, “bankers and businessmen.” I can’t yet confirm how plausible this syndicate would have been. Neither France nor Britain were on good terms with Egypt in the 1950s. Egypt was a member of the League of Arab States (known today as the Arab League), founded in 1945 to promote Arab independence from colonial powers. Egypt later provided material support to Algeria in its struggle for independence from France. Relations with Britain were even more tense: British forced King Farouk to appoint a British-friendly prime minister in 1942; after the British attacked a government building in Ismailia, on the west bank of the Suez Canal, a series of protests in January, 1952 led to the Cairo Fire; later in 1952, the Free Officers Movement overthrew King Farouk and initiated the Egyptian Revolution.

Fifth column:

Head of S reports that Le Chiffre has a “potential fifth column, with a strength of 50,000, capable in time of war of controlling a wide sector of France’s northern frontier…” Is Head of S fear-mongering to drum up support for his plan? Having this much influence seems inconsistent with Le Chiffre’s alleged state of desperation. More importantly, this reminds us again of the recent war and the delicate state of Cold War affairs at this time.

Le Chiffre:

Head of S wants to humiliate Le Chiffre – “the number” – because he feels assassination would only make their target a martyr. Finally we get details on our villain. Le Chiffre is age 45, 5’8″, weighs 18 stone (1 stone = 14 pounds); he was found by the allies in the Dachau concentration camp in 1945 with no identifying papers, inspiring him to adopt his identity as a man without a name. Like so many of Fleming’s villains, Le Chiffre comes from Eastern stock, which Fleming clearly considered inferior, emphasized by the presence of some physical deformity. In this case, Le Chiffre has red-brown hair, false teeth, and “some Jewish blood.” As Bond is controlled by London via Kingston, Le Chiffre is controlled by the USSR via Paris.


Benzedrine inhalers circa 1949, probably similar to what Le Chiffre uses in Casino Royale

On top of his other stereotyped “flaws,” Le Chiffre uses a Benzedrine inhaler. Benzedrine was an early variety of amphetamine. Both Allies and Axis military used Benzedrine to counteract fatigue among soldiers during World War II. Benzedrine inhalers were widely available in the 1950s.


Smert’ shpiónam, or “Death to Spies,” was a real Soviet agency. The Soviet intelligence apparatus was complex and ever-changing. In terms of importance, Head of S ranks SMERSH “above” NKVD (the People’s Commisariat for Internal Affairs), which later became MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs). He estimates SMERSH to have a “few hundred” operatives and blames SMERSH for the death of six British double agents as well as the assassination of Leon Trotsky in 1940. In reality, NKVD was responsible for Trotsky’s death, and SMERSH seems to have been primarily active during World War II.

Chapter 3: Number 007

Regent’s Park:

London, with Regent’s Park and Winfield House identified

M’s office is in “the top floor of the gloomy building overlooking Regent’s Park…” Regent’s Park is 410 acres and a convenient location for the Secret Service, home to Winfield House, which was occupied by the Royal Air Force during World War II and in 1955 became residence for the U.S. ambassador to the UK. Bedford College was also located there in the 1950s, and five London Underground stations are located in or very near the park. I can find no evidence that the Secret Service was actually headquartered there, though it appears that the Special Operations Branch once occupied a building nearby.


Bill Tanner is M’s chief of staff. About all we know at this point is that he was wounded in a “sabotage operation” in 1944, except that he is a “young sapper” and formerly a “secretariat to the Chiefs of Staff committee,” which is somewhat equivalent to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Miss Moneypenny is M’s secretary, and because she’s a woman, Fleming feels obligated to throw in a little objectification: “Miss Moneypenny would have been desirable but for her eyes, which were cool and direct and quizzical.”

Monte Carlo:

Bond has apparently earned his reputation as a skilled gambler. The text references a previous casino job in Monte Carlo watching a “Romanian team” for two months, where Bond also won one million francs. Located in Monaco on the Mediterranean, Monte Carlo has long been a famous hub for gambling and sports, including the Formula One Grand Prix.

M is the boss:

“M knew all this already, knew the odds at Baccarat as well as Bond. That was his job – knowing the odds at everything, and knowing men, his own and the opposition’s.” Bond clearly trusts and respects M. M is the grand master while Bond is where he prefers to be, competing on the chessboard.


We don’t meet Q, but M refers Bond to Q (for “quartermaster”) about “rooms and trains, and any equipment you want.”


M specifically asks the Deuxième to send Mathis, a French agent Bond worked with on the aforementioned Monte Carlo mission.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed in 1949, a western defense alliance of which the UK and the USA are founding members. M plans to notify “Washington” because of this collective security arrangement.


The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, established in 1947 and a foreign intelligence service equivalent to the British Secret Service or the French Deuxième. M implies that one or more CIA operatives might be active in the area and available to assist Bond on the Royale mission.

Two heads are better than one:

In Chapter 1, Bond believes another agent is reporting independently from the Royale and here we learn why. M decided to “cover” Bond on the argument that “two heads are better than one.” Is this the only time M does this? I believe so, and seems rather un-M-like given the challenges of one agent operating undercover, let alone two. It seems to be primarily a plot device to introduce a key character.

Chapter 4: L’Ennemi Écoute

L’Ennemi Écoute:

“The Enemy Listens”

Port Maria:

Bond signs into the Splendide under his own name as a resident of Port Maria, a town in northwestern Jamaica.


In addition to the import/export connection, Bond’s cover is as a “Jamaican plantocrat.” The “plantocracy” is the system of plantation owners/slavers and laborers/enslaved, which was significant in the Jamaican economy re: the sugar and tobacco industries. If asked, Bond will claim to be a client of attorney Charles Dasilva of Kingston; is Dasilva a friend of Bond’s or on the Secret Service payroll? We’re told that Bond is familiar with Jamaica, so perhaps they worked together on previous missions.


“Little wheel” in French; the game was developed in France but appears to be derived from the earlier Italian game Biribi. Bond plays roulette while observing Le Chiffre and wins three million Francs in only two days. This implies Bond was the right agent for this mission, though roulette is a very different game from baccarat. From my extremely limited understanding of roulette, a winning streak like Bond’s is almost certainly due to luck rather than skill.

Bond’s breakfast:

007 makes no secret of his love of good food; Fleming makes a point of describing some of Bond’s meals, so these are worth noting. One of his breakfasts at the Splendide consists of a half pint of orange juice, three scrambled eggs, bacon, and double coffee without sugar.


Bond’s cigarettes are made with a Balkan and Turkish tobacco blend from Morland & Co., a real tobacconist of Fleming’s era that has long since gone out of business.

Grosvenor Street:

Morland’s is on Grosvenor Street, which runs roughly east-west through London, passing Grosvenor Square and terminating east-bound at New Bond Street.


We meet Mathis for the first time; a Deuxième agent with whom Bond has worked previously (the Monte Carlo mission). Mathis alerts Bond that he is under surveillance at the Splendide by spies posing as a married couple in the room above.

Radio Stentor:

Mathis’ cover is as a director of Radio Stentor delivering a wireless set Bond had ordered from Paris. I’m guessing this is Stentor Radiofabrikk; it was a Norwegian company but they could have had a sales office in Paris.

No picnic:

Bond learns the Secret Service has sent a woman to assist him and he is not happy: “Do they think this is a bloody picnic?”

Chapter 5: The Girl from Headquarters

There was a strong scent of pine and mimosa in the air…:

Compare the opening paragraphs of this chapter, the sunny, hopeful Casino exterior in daytime, to the opening of Chapter 1, the Casino interior at night. (“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”) Yet Bond appears to feel uncomfortable in both.


Royale-les-Eaux is located “near the mouth of the Somme,” a river running through northern France and parallel in places to the Canal de la Somme, constructed in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Stretches of the Somme have formed a fen, a type of wetland that can be home to considerable biodiversity. Because the Somme empties into a bay on the English Channel, it’s location is fairly strategic and became the sight of military battles throughout history, most notably the Battle of the Somme in World War I, when over one million soldiers were killed or wounded.


Royale’s history is compared to Trouville-sur-Mer, a town near La Havre where the River Touques enters the English Channel. Trouville has been a popular resort since the 1800s and was visited by prominent artists in the late 1800s, including Monet and Renoir. The town’s population in 1954 was 7,040 and as of 2019 was less than 5,000.

Northern France, showing Le Havre and Dieppe; Trouville-sur-Mer is on the opposite side of the bay immediately south of Le Havre, and the Somme enters the English Channel in the bay northwest of Abbeville.


Royale’s post-war recovery is funded partly by a Paris “syndicate” with funds from “expatriate Vichyites.” I’m honestly not sure if Fleming is referring to foreigners who have settled in the town of Vichy, or former members of the World War II French government that collaborated with the Nazis. The town, however, was home to the the Vichy French government, so maybe the difference is subtle. The town enjoyed great prosperity in the 1950s, being especially popular with tourists from Algeria, which was still a French colony at the time. This didn’t last long, as the Algerian Revolution began only one year after Casino Royale was published.

Remember this is a British novel:

Royale’s history includes a foray into mineral water that is obstructed by the (at the time) big three of Perrier, Vichy, and Vittel. Royale’s sulfurous water, Eau Royale (hence the town’s name change from Royale to Royale-les-Eaux) is alleged to improve the liver, and Fleming can’t resist telling us that “all French people suffer from liver complaints…”

Bentley coupe:

A 1929 Bentley Blower

Here we see Bond’s beloved car for the first time, the 4½-liter battleship-grey Bentley convertible which Bond purchased “almost new” in 1933. Bond’s passion for the car is made plain, including having the car serviced every year by a former Bentley mechanic. The 4½-liter Bentley was produced from 1927 – 1931. Bond’s is described as supercharged, making it a Blower Bentley, a model designed specifically for racing, primarily in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the endurance race still held every year in Le Mans, France. The supercharger, as Fleming points out, was designed by London-born automotive engineer Amherst Villiers.


007’s mechanic works at a garage “near Bond’s Chelsea flat.” Chelsea was, and is, an upscale London neighborhood on the north bank of the Thames. Much of the real estate in Chelsea is still controlled by long-time property owner and management company Cadogan Estates, as it has been since the 1700s. Bond might be disappointed to learn that nearly 7% of Chelsea’s residents today are from the U.S., though he might also not have appreciated the neighborhood’s later prominence in Swinging London of the 1960s. We can only hope Bond might have bumped into George Smiley, who also resided in Chelsea.


Bond orders an Americano when he meets Mathis and Vesper at the bar in Royale. A caffè Americano is an espresso diluted with hot water, so it has a similar strength as regular coffee but a different flavor. The beverage is often attributed to American soldiers diluting Italian espressos during World War II, but the term appears at least as early as W. Somerset Maugham’s 1927 novel Ashenden.


Under cover, Vesper Lynd is introduced as a colleague of Mathis. Bond is immediately taken with Vesper; his first significant observation is approval of how she smokes a cigarette. Fleming always took care to provide descriptions of his characters’ appearances and wardrobes, though Vesper and Le Chiffre seem to get more elaborate detail than any other characters in Casino Royale. As this is Ian Fleming describing a woman, we of course need to know about Vesper’s mouth, breasts, hairstyle, etc.

Is there a conspiracy afoot?:

After Bond leaves the bar, Mathis tells Vesper, “I don’t think Bond has ever been melted. It will be a new experience for him.” Is Vesper’s assignment to seduce Bond? Why? And on whose orders? Or is Mathis just insightful enough to predict the chemistry between the two?

Is Bond superstitious?:

While Bond is attracted to Vesper, he also experiences a premonitory moment of unease. “At the same time he felt a vague disquiet. On an impulse he touched wood.” Knocking on wood, or touching wood, seems to derive from pagan beliefs that spirits inhabited trees. One theory says these were evil spirits, and touching or knocking on wood would distract them. Another theory says they were good spirits, and touching wood invited their protection. Either way, superstition seems somewhat un-Bond-like.

Hoagy Carmichael:

Hoagy Carmichael

Vesper describes Bond as resembling Hoagy Carmichael, a description Fleming will repeat in later novels. Carmichael had a long and prosperous music career. He typically composed music set to lyrics by other songwriters. Probably best known for Stardust (lyrics by Mitchell Parish), Carmichael and Johnny Mercer won the 1951 Academy Award for Best Song for In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening. Carmichael was almost as photogenic as he was talented, appearing in fourteen movies and performing many times on television.

Chapter 6: Two Men in Straw Hats

Mad bombers:

The two men of the chapter title, who set off the bomb that concludes Chapter 5, are portrayed in traditional Fleming style for villains: “small” and “dark, squat little figures.” Bond is naturally suspicious the moment he sees them but they act before he has time to reach any conclusions.

Serious mad bombers:

The men in straw hats are using serious explosives; Bond is knocked to the ground and vomits after the detonation. He is only saved by being behind a tree at the time of the explosion.

Bulgarian mad bombers:

Mathis immediately creates a cover story that the bomb was the work of “a vendetta between two Bulgarian communists.” He concludes that the bomb was intended for Bond but was accidentally detonated too soon. Yet he continues to refer to the bombers as Bulgarians. Bulgaria was incorporated into the USSR in 1946 and remained so until 1991, so it seems reasonable that SMERSH could have assigned the job to agents from Bulgaria (although I’m wondering what was wrong with the 50,000 members of the potential fifth column).

Bond’s lunch:

Bond recovers from the explosion with whiskey on the rocks (identified as his “first,” implying there will be more), pâté de foie gras, and cold langouste. A langouste, or langoustine, is a spiny lobster, small than typical lobsters and, I’ve read, even tastier. The table service includes Strasbourg porcelain, which was produced in France during the 1700s, so even in Bond’s day this would have been an elegant meal.

Chapter 7: Rouge et Noir

Rouge et noir:

Red and black, referring to the colors of the roulette wheel.


Bond has a full-body massage to unwind before a night gambling session. This might seem like an indulgence but remember Bond’s reliance on his body’s signals described in Chapter 1.

Bond had always been a gambler. … He liked being an actor and a spectator…:

Appropriately for his profession, 007 observes, then acts.


Maybe a little too much foreshadowing here. “But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women. One day, and he accepted the fact, he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck. When that happened he knew that he too would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognized so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility.”


We already had a sense of summer weather, but here we’re told the story takes place in June.


Fleming describes Bond’s approach to gambling but, as in Chapter 1, assumes the reader is at least somewhat familiar with roulette.


We meet Felix Leiter for the first time, who will become Bond’s friend and colleague on several future missions. He introduces himself to Bond under cover as another gambler.

Haig & Haig:

Leiter drinks Haig & Haig, a variety of Scotch whiskey. The distiller was founded in the 1700s but today is owned by the multinational Diageo.

Bond’s drink:

Bond tells Leiter that when he has to concentrate he has “only” one drink before dinner, and in this case it is a dry martini composed of – 3 measures of Gordon’s gin (a UK brand that also originated in the 1700s), one measure vodka, ½ measure Kina Lillet (a wine-based apéritif from France), shake until ice cold, add a thick slice of lemon peel.


Leiter smokes Chesterfield cigarettes, a blend of Turkish and Virginia tobacco, which at the time was owned by Liggett & Myers. Today they are owned by Altria. That’s two protagonists who smoke a blend of Turkish tobacco. As a non-smoker I can’t fully grasp this, but tobacco grown in Turkey is milder and lower in carcinogens than tobacco grown in other places, a result of being cured in sunlight rather than in barns. By itself, it’s apparently too mild to satisfy most smokers and has to be blended with other varieties. The tobacco plant is native to the Americas and was introduced in the Ottoman Empire by the Spanish.

Remember this is a British novel:

Leiter makes it clear he is there to assist Bond, not vice versa. “Washington’s pretty sick we’re not running the show.” The British Empire was fading fast in the post-War years and the U.S. was the world’s primary superpower. It would have been important to Fleming, and many of his British readers, to portray England as a world leader.

Leiter’s background:

We learn more about Leiter’s role and his background. He is from Texas and previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps. “Bond reflected that good Americans were fine people and that most of them seemed to come from Texas.” Written by someone who had limited experience in U.S. travel; we can only imagine what Bond might think today. Leiter is 35-years-old and is compared to both Frank Sinatra and a falcon in terms of appearance and mannerisms. Bond and Leiter are both part of a multinational effort, but Bond senses that Leiter values “his own organization,” the CIA, above NATO, a sentiment Bond shares about his own Secret Service.

All concierges are venal:

That’s Leiter’s message to Bond when he advises that unless Bond confirms otherwise, they should assume the concierge at the Splendide has been bought out by the enemy.

Chapter 8: Pink Lights and Champagne

Bond Prepares:

De-stressing with both a hot bath and an ice-cold shower, Bond visualizes different scenarios for the coming evening, as athletes often do, including possible reactions of “the enemy” and the roles of Mathis/Leiter/Vesper. We learn of the thin, vertical scar on Bond’s right cheek, and that his Morlands cigarettes have a triple gold band.


Bond wears a concealed .25 Beretta automatic when he goes to the casino. Why does he have a second gun, doesn’t this increase the odds that the villains will use one of his own weapons against him? And if concealment is significant, why wasn’t he wearing this gun in Chapter 1? Presumably this gun is a Beretta 950, first produced in 1952, lightweight and low profile, intended for concealed carry but widely considered accurate only at short ranges.

Bond/Vesper Dinner:

Bond and Vesper find they share a love of rich food. Vesper has caviar, plain grilled rognon de veau (veal kidney) with pommes soufflés (puffed potatoes), fraises des vois (wild strawberries) with “a lot of cream”; Bond has caviar, small tournedos (fillet of beef) underdone with sauce Béarnaise (similar to Hollandaise sauce but with different seasonings), cœur d’artichaut (artichoke heart), avocado pear (just an avocado) with French dressing. They drink Brut Blanc de Blanc 1943 – Brut champagne is not a brand, as I naively assumed for years, but champagne with the lowest sugar content. Blanc de Blanc champagne is produced entirely with white grapes.

Cœur d’artichaut:

Bond’s choice of artichoke hearts may be Fleming’s way of telling us 007 is not as heartless as he’d like the world to believe; the phrase “avoir un cœur d’artichaut” (“to have the heart of an artichoke”) refers to a hopeless romantic, someone who falls in love easily.

Old Maid Bond:

Bond lives a dangerous and solitary life and finds his pleasures where he can. “I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details. It’s very pernickety and old-maidish really, but then when I’m working I generally have to eat my meals alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes trouble.”

Chapter 9: The Game is Baccarat

Third bomber:

Vesper reveals to Bond the existence of a third Bulgarian bomber who has been captured by French authorities, part of a “pool” of saboteurs and thugs maintained in France. (Are they part of Le Chiffre’s potential fifth column?) The three Bulgarians were promised two million French francs specifically to kill Bond, except they were double-crossed with the expectation that the bombers would die along with their target. It seems odd that Mathis would share this information with Vesper before Bond – a red flag perhaps?


We learn more about Vesper and the status of the double-0 section. Vesper is the personal assistant of the Head of S, who specifically asked M to assign her to the mission. Perhaps this explains M’s odd decision from Chapter 3 to cover Bond with a second agent; and perhaps the outcome is why M doesn’t saddle Bond with a backup on later missions. Vesper says double-0 agents are “our heroes” in her office. “I was enchanted.”

Double-0 status:

007 doesn’t think so highly of his profession. “It’s not difficult to get a Double 0 number if you’re prepared to kill people.” He lists his first kills as a Japanese cipher expert in New York and a Norwegian double agent in Stockholm. (I wonder if he means New York City or State? Bond will visit NYC in Live and Let Die and the Adirondacks upstate in The Spy Who Loved Me.) “It’s a confusing business; but if it’s one’s profession one does what one’s told.” Again we’re reminded that Bond’s job is to follow M’s orders; he sees himself as a middleman.


Bond explains the workings of baccarat, for Vesper’s benefit and ours. One feature that surprised me (having no gambling experience whatsoever): the banker in baccarat (this will be Le Chiffre in the coming game) makes an opening bet, which can be accepted by a single player; if no single player accepts, the bet can be made up by multiple players, even spectators, pooling their resources. This would seem to create some interesting possibilities, and risks, for both Bond and Le Chiffre.

Chapter 10: The High Table


Bond hands Vesper off to Leiter and is relieved to be alone again.


Bond stops to retrieve his cash from the caisse, the “cash desk” or cashier.

Chef de partie:

Bond already identified a few of his fellow gamblers during his surveillance, but he learns the identities of the rest with the help of the chef de partie – a chef or cook in charge of a specific section of a restaurant’s kitchen, typically the third in command after the head chef and sous chef.

A little imperialism goes a long way:

Learning that one of his fellow baccarat players is from India, we get this: “Bond’s experience told him that few of the Asiatic races were courageous gamblers…” Yikes. India had only become independent from Britain six years earlier, when the modern-day nations of India and Pakistan were established in 1947.


Another of Bond’s opponents is an Italian who, Bond speculates, obtained his funds from rack-rents in Milan. “Rack-rent” in real estate can refer to the maximum rent legally allowed on a property or an extortionary rent; I’m not sure which Fleming intends here.

Les jeux sont faits:

As Le Chiffre prepares to deal at the start of the game, the croupier (the individual overseeing a gaming table) says, “Messieurs, mesdames, les jeux sont fait. Un banco de cinq cent mille. Les banco est fait.” This translates roughly as, “Gentlemen, ladies, stakes are set. A bank of 500,000. The bank value is made.” In other words, the first player (the Greek) has accepted the bank’s (Le Chiffre) opening wager and play will proceed.

Le Chiffre wins:

The croupier announces, “Neuf á la banque” (“Nine for the bank,” a perfect hand) and “Et le sept” (And seven”), meaning Le Chiffre wins the first hand, against the Greek. The stakes are raised from 500,000 to 1 million francs.


The chapter ends with language implying a confrontation between warring soldiers, with words like “shroud,” “battlefield,” “blood,” and “victims.”

Chapter 11: Moment of Truth


Reproduction of Minotaur sculpture from the Acropolis

Le Chiffre uses his inhaler at the start of his hand with Bond, which Bond sees as an “offensive pantomime,” comparing Le Chiffre to a Minotaur, the creature from Greek mythology with the head and tail of a bull on the body of a man. The Minotaur resided in the Labyrinth and was slain by Theseus.


Bond wins his first hand against Le Chiffre with a perfect nine.

Lennie and the Corsican:

Bond identifies Le Chiffre’s two gunmen, standing behind Le Chiffre near the baccarat table. Typical of Fleming, the villains are of “peasant” stock and have some vice or physical deformity (hence Bond’s reaction to Le Chiffre’s inhaler). The first bodyguard is compared to Lennie in Of Mice and Men, except Bond guesses his “inhumanity” is the result of marijuana use. In John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Lennie, like the gunman, is a “huge man” with great physical strength. The second gunman looks like a “Corsican shopkeeper” and uses a cane. (Corsica is a Mediterranean island and an administrative region of France.)

Mysterious Le Chiffre:

The villain soon sees his funds decline to 10 million francs, while Bond’s winnings put him at 28 million francs. Even though we, via Bond, are sitting directly across from Le Chiffre, Fleming maintains a distance that preserves Le Chiffre’s mystique. “He continued to play like an automaton, never speaking except when he gave instructions in a low aside to the croupier at the opening of each new bank.”

Bond dies:

Soon, Bond loses 12 million francs over two hands, then in the next hand loses his remaining funds, suffering a symbolic death. “…the two cards came slithering towards him over the green baize – a green baize that was no longer smooth, but thick now, and furry and almost choking, its color as livid as the grass on a fresh tomb.” Phrases like “dried blood” and “black widow spider” reinforce Bond’s metaphoric demise.

Chapter 12: The Deadly Tube


Bond uses a Ronson lighter. Ronson began selling lighters in the early 1900s. In 1926 the company patented a single-handed lighter sold as the Ronson De-Light Lighter. Ronson introduced the gun-shaped Pisto-Lighter in 1913, something fans of The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) will appreciate. As much as I prefer modern-day book and movie heroes not smoke, I appreciate the usefulness of smoking as a storytelling device – when Bond loses everything, his action of smoking a cigarette has a dual function, both to calm his own nerves and to put up a stoic front to observers.


While Bond mentally processes the failure of his mission, the hussier brings an unexpected gift. “Hussier” loosely translates as “doorman” and in this case refers to an usher, valet, etc.

Marshall Aid:

Leiter surreptitiously delivers 32 million francs (“trente-deux” as announced later) to Bond, which Leiter refers to as Marshall Aid. The Marshall Plan was still very much on the minds of western Europeans, having been in effect from 1948 to 1951, when it was generally replaced by the Mutual Security Act. Known formally as the European Recovery Plan, the Marshall Plan (named after George C. Marshall, U.S. Secretary of State, 1947-1949) was a $13 billion aid program to bolster western Europe after World War II. The UK received 26% of the Marshall Plan funds, more than any other country.


“The croupier had completed his task of computing the cagnotte…” Cagnotte is a pool of funds or “jackpot,” in this case the large sum that Bond is betting. Given that the currency amounts throughout the novel are in French francs as valued in the early 1950s, we may not fully appreciate the significance of the wagers. Here, Fleming puts it in context for us. In the entire known history of baccarat, he tells us, this amount has only been exceeded once before. He puts us in the minds of the spectators: “For most of them it was more than they had earned all their lives. It was their savings and the savings of their families. It was, literally, a small fortune.” There is probably some hyperbole here, as the observers in question are at an upscale casino, but this is still a very high stakes game.

La mise:

“The bet” or “the ante.” The chef de partie (see Chapter 10 above) is confirming that Bond really has the money he is wagering.

Malacca tube:

The “deadly tube” of the chapter title is the gun, disguised as a cane, of Le Chiffre’s second gunman (introduced in Chapter 11), who threatens Bond once it is clear that Bond may cause real financial harm to Le Chiffre. I can’t find much on the thug’s gun-cane, which Bond refers to as a Malacca tube. A Malacca cane or walking stick is a straight wood cane, sometimes made from rattan, a type of palm.

Bond flips:

When the bodyguard has his gun in Bond’s back, Bond does the last thing anyone would have expected; by flipping backwards in his seat and accepting public embarrassment, he disarms the gunman and no one is harmed. This scene reminds me of the line from The Usual Suspects (1995), the strategy Bond will rely on throughout his career: “They realized that to be in power, you didn’t need guns, or money, or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.”

Fat face:

Fleming perpetually reminds us that we are supposed to see the villains as physically inferior, as when Bond for the first time sees fear in Le Chiffre’s “fat, pale face.”

Chapter 13: ‘A Whisper of Love, A Whisper of Hate’

Mrs. Du Pont:

Mrs. Du Pont, the player sitting next to Bond and introduced in Chapter 10 (along with her husband), refers to Le Chiffre as a “filthy brute” when he against makes use of his Benzedrine inhaler.

Le rouge gagne:

Bond notices a croupier at another table saying, “Neuf. Le rouge gagne, impair et manque,” and wonders if this is an omen for himself or Le Chiffre. The dialogue loosely traslates as, “Nine. Red wins, odds and misses,” and I’m not entirely sure of the significance of this omen.

Octopus’s Garden:

Continuing our trend of de-humanizing the enemy, Bond imagines Le Chiffre as “an octopus under a rock.”

Gypsy magic:

Bond receives a nine of hearts, a winning hand in baccarat and, according to Bond, “a whisper of love, a whisper of hate” in the realm of “gypsy magic.” I can’t find a clear explanation of this superstition, except that in fortune-telling the nine of hearts is considered a “wish card,” and the person drawing it will receive what they have wished for. This is true in Bond’s case, as after this winning hand Le Chiffre only has six million francs remaining.


After his victory, Bond is brought a half bottle of Clicquot. Veuve Clicquot is a champagne maker founded in the 1700s in Reims. The founder, Madame Clicquot Ponsardin, had a lot to do with champagne becoming a high society drink in Europe in the 1800s.

Dumdum bullet:

Leiter shows Bond a .45 bullet, received from Mathis, taken from the cane-gun of Le Chiffre’s henchman in Chapter 12. Leiter says, “The nose had been cut with a dum-dum cross. You’d have been in a terrible mess.” Dumdum bullets, or expanding bullets, are designed to expand on impact, causing greater harm to the victims. They were first produced at the British Dum Dum Arsenal (located in the town of Dum Dum) near Kolkata, India, in the 1800s.


Leiter tells Bond that the captured bodyguard’s fingerprints have been sent to Paris via Belinograph, a device developed in 1913 by Édouard Belin to send images over conventional phone lines.

Tool kit:

Bond is wise enough to carry a screwdriver so he can quickly prepare a secret hiding place (not fully revealed to us yet) for the check from his casino winnings.

Chapter 14: ‘La Vie en Rose?’

Roi Galant:

Bond and Vesper dine in the Roi Galant, or “Royal King.”

Pour épater le bourgeosie:

Bond refrains from reckless celebratory spending because it would be “a brash and cheap gesture pour épater le bourgeosie,” or “to impress the bourgeoisie.”

La Vie en Rose:

A very modern trio – featuring an electric guitar – plays La Vie en Rose, the 1945 song by Édith Piaf (lyrics) and Louiguy (music). The title translates as “Life in pink,” and more accurately means “Life through rose-colored glasses” or “Life in happy hues,” a reflection on Bond’s state of mind considering what’s about to happen. The song remains immensely popular, and over the years has been covered by everyone from Bing Crosby to Lady Gaga to Louis Armstrong to Grace Jones.


Bond loves scrambled eggs and bacon, ordering them for the second time in this novel when he dines with Vesper after the big game. The time is roughly 3AM at this point, so breakfast food seems appropriate.


Citroën Traction Avant circa 1952

Vesper is abducted in a Citroën. The French automaker began production in 1919 and in the 1930s became the first mass-produced front-wheel drive automobile with four-wheel independent suspension. Perhaps the villains are driving a Traction Avant, manufactured from 1934 to 1957.


I’m sure this is the first time we see Mathis’ first name, René.

Chapter 15: Black Hare and Grey Hound


Le Chiffre’s car is described as having “front-wheel drive and low chassis.”

Cats eyes:

A reminder of the specific region of France we’re in, as Bond pursues the villains along a coastal road through sand dunes. The road is “cats-eyed on the bends.” In this context, cats-eyes are special reflectors marking the center-line of the road, first patented by Percy Shaw of England in 1934. The devices proved especially useful during blackouts in England during World War II.

Marchal headlights:

1940s Marchal advertising

As Bond’s speed reaches 90mph, he reflects on the illuminating power of his Bentley’s Marchal headlights. S.E.V. Marchal’s company was founded in the 1920s. Like Percy Shaw with his road reflectors, Marchal was inspired by the reflecting power of cats’ eyes and used black cats in early advertising.


“…he cursed Vesper, and M for having sent her on the job. This was just what he had been afraid of.” Bond knows the note from Mathis, delivered to Vesper at the end of Chapter 14, is a forgery. Given Vesper’s subdued attitude before her abduction, perhaps she knew this, also?

She knew the job was dangerous when she took it:

Bond resolves that he will make one attempt to rescue Vesper and, if unsuccessful, will abandon her to her fate. These thoughts are inconsistent with his determined pursuit, however, as his driving speed reaches 120mph.

Colt Army Special:

Bond reveals his third firearm, concealed in a holster under the Bentley’s dashboard, a long-barreled Colt Army Special .45. Introduced by Colt in 1873, the Army Special was used by the U.S. Army in the late 1800s and was popular in the American west of the same time period, when it was ironically referred to as the “Peacemaker.” I’m curious how Bond came to possess such a weapon. Colt suspended production in 1941 due to shifting wartime priorities and did not resume production until 1956.


Michelin road sign

As Le Chiffre drives and reflects on his status as the hare to Bond’s hound (hence the chapter title), he notes a “Michelin post,” one of many road signs installed throughout France by Michelin beginning in the early 1900s. A car tire manufacturer, Michelin went to great lengths to increase its potential market by promoting automobile use among the public. One result was the Michelin Guide, first published as a directory of French roadside services (maps, mechanics, hotels, etc.) in 1900. Michelin’s maps were so good, they were used by Allied Forces in World War II. Michelin also took the liberty of installing directional road markers, like the one Le Chiffre observes, throughout France to identify road numbers, town names, etc.

Allez and Coupez:

Le Chiffre gives terse directions to his henchman, allez = go and coupez = cut or turn off, to release the “jangling” object from his car into Bond’s path.

Chapter 16: The Crawling of the Skin


Bond considers the camber of the road, a tilt or angle built into the curve of a road to allow maneuvering at a greater speed (i.e. reducing the likelihood that a driver will crash as a result of not slowing around a curve).

Bond and Vesper:

When the villains put Bond in the car with Vesper, he quickly feels sympathy for her, again betraying his growing feelings for her.

Chain mail:

Bond concludes that the material used by Le Chiffre to destroy the Bentley’s tires, leaving the car inverted on the roadside, was “spiked chain-mail,” similar to a material used by the French Resistance against German vehicles during World War II.


Bond admirably accepts responsibility for his situation. As so often happens in both the books and movies, the greatest danger to Bond is always a result of him lowering his guard at the wrong time. “He stifled a desire to place the blame on London. It was he who should have known. He who should have been warned by small signs and taken infinitely more precautions. … He cursed himself and cursed the hubris which had made him so sure that the battle was won and the enemy in flight.”


Bond acknowledges fear as he comprehends the hopelessness of his situation. Shortly he will admit to himself to feeling “puny and impotent.”


The sign by the front bell at Le Chiffre’s villa says, “Les noctambules, sonnez SVP,” which translates as, “Night Owls, ring please.” Night Owls is actually the name of the villa, which Bond notes is “typical of the French seaside style.”

Bond and Vesper again:

Bond attacks the thugs upon entering the villa, not with the expectation of escaping, but just for a chance to encourage Vesper not to give up, again indicating Bond is more concerned for Vesper than he has let on.


Bond estimates the Corsican gunman, who has effectively subdued 007 with a few well-placed blows, to be a jiu-jitsu expert. More formally known as jujutsu, the martial art was developed in the 1500s and is based on strikes, throws, holds, and paralyzing blows. Many modern martial arts are derived at least in part from jiu-jitsu.

Chapter 17: ‘My Dear Boy’

Prepare him quickly:

The thin man immediately interprets Le Chiffre’s instruction, “Prepare him quickly,” and removes the bottom of the cane chair. Is this because they’ve spelled out their plan in advance, or because they’ve done this before? Le Chiffre’s later comments to Bond imply that he’s accustomed to administering torture.


Le Chiffre’s order, which means “quickly.”


Vintage Gauloises advertising

Le Chiffre smokes Gauloises cigarettes. Established in 1910 by SEITA, a French-government-owned monopoly on tobacco products, Gauloises initially were unfiltered and made with a Syrian/Turkish tobacco blend. A filtered variety was introduced in 1950, but I’m guessing that would be of no interest to Le Chiffre. He appears to be in good company, however, as Picasso, Sartre, Jim Morrison, and John Lennon smoked Gauloises.


Le Chiffre’s people search Bond’s room and find miscellaneous papers taped to the back of a drawer and, more importantly, a codebook in the lavatory ballcock (the float/valve mechanism that controls the water level in a toilet). I would love to learn the full details of the codebook.

Time and foreshadowing:

Le Chiffre tells Bond, “I have all the time in the world,” even though we (and Bond) know that’s not true; it even contradicts Le Chiffre’s earlier instructions to his gunman to make haste. It would seem to predict Le Chiffre’s outcome. Was Fleming thinking of this when he wrote On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), with nearly identical dialogue foreshadowing another death?

Bond dies again:

Compared to his symbolic death in Chapter 11, Bond faces a much more literal death as a result of Le Chiffre’s torture. “There was a faint flutter of his skin above the heart. Otherwise he might have been dead.”

Chapter 18: A Craglike Face

Third voice:

Just as Le Chiffre is about to finish Bond off, an unidentified man enters and speaks to Le Chiffre from behind Bond. Like Bond, this person follows orders, telling Le Chiffre, “You are a fool and a thief and a traitor. I have been sent from the Soviet Union to eliminate you. You are fortunate that I only have time to shoot you. … We cannot see the end of the trouble you have caused.” Even this SMERSH agent puts the lie to the “all the time in the world” claim. Le Chiffre is genuinely terrified and gives an honest “Yes” to the visitor’s question, “Do you plead guilty?” But how did SMERSH find Le Chiffre so quickly? Have they been following his antics all along?

Third eye:

Like the mystical third eye of enlightenment, Le Chiffre obtains a “third eye,” the entry point of the assassin’s bullet. Symbolic, perhaps, of Le Chiffre attaining a state of enlightenment in his final moments.


With all the card-playing and champagne-drinking, it was easy to forget the point of the job – to discredit Le Chiffre and deprive SMERSH of Le Chiffre’s funds. The visitor reveals himself to Bond as an agent of SMERSH and marks Bond’s right hand with a knife so that Bond can always be identified as a spy – three slashes crossed by a fourth slash at the base, like an inverted M.

Chapter 19: The White Tent

Bond is still dead:

Is this Bond’s lowest point in the entire book series? “He felt safer in the darkness, and he hugged it to him.” Bond hovers in a near-coma in the Royale nursing home and even after waking his emotional recovery is uncertain. “Tears of forlornness and self-pity welled out of his eyes.”

Deuxiéme Doctor:

The unnamed doctor, on loan from the Deuxiéme, reassures Bond and initiates the recovery, telling his patient, “Few men could have supported what you have been through.”


The briefing from Mathis is the second crucial step in Bond’s recovery, particularly news of the congratulatory call from M. “What most warmed him was that M himself should have rung up Mathis. This was quite unheard of. The very existence of M, let alone his identity, was never admitted.”

Head of S:

Vesper’s boss himself comes to Royale to wrap up the details. He only has one arm – were we told this earlier and I missed it? I’ve revisited the earlier chapters where Head of S is introduced and can’t find a mention of this.

Follow the Money:

We finally learn of Bond’s secret hiding place for the check from his casino winnings (Chapter 13); behind the number plate on the front of his room door at the Splendide.


Tying up as many loose ends as possible, Mathis reports that the Muntzes, the couple spying on Bond from the room above (Chapter 4), have been arrested.

Chapter 20: The Nature of Evil

Crédit Lyonnais:

Mathis promises to deposit the check into Bond’s account with Crédit Lyonnais, a French bank founded in 1863. From 1900 to 1920, based on total assets, Crédit Lyonnais was the largest bank in the world. It has since been acquired by Crédit Agricole.


Cyrillic “sha” – the mark of the spy

The British, French, and Americans still know very little about SMERSH, but Bond believes they know something about him. “I fancy they’ve got quite a file on me in view of one or two of the jobs M’s given me since the war.” He deduces that the mark made on his right hand (Chapter 18) is a Cyrillic letter equivalent to the English “sh,” from the Russian “shpiónam” for “spy.”

Bond dies again:

Bond intends to kill his career by resigning from the Secret Service.

Rockefeller Center:

30 Rockefeller Center (left); St. Patrick’s Cathedral is visible lower right; is the center skyscraper the building Bond fired from?

Bond reveals to Mathis more details about his two kills referenced in Chapter 9; one significant detail is that the New York job took place at Rockefeller Center, about as public a place as you could find for an assassination. Rockefeller Center is actually a collection of buildings in New York City’s Midtown Manhattan, constructed primarily during the 1930s. Bond’s nemesis, the Japanese cipher expert, was specifically working in the RCA Building, known more formally as 30 Rockefeller Plaza. During World War II, the British Security Co-ordination, established by MI6 for intelligence and propaganda services, operated in the RCA Building. Today tourists can enjoy spectacular views from the building’s observation deck, Top of the Rock.

In cold blood:

Bond spells out the bottom-line significance of the Double 0 rank. “A Double 0 number in our service means you’ve had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some job.” In cold blood seems to be the key phrase, rather than killing an adversary in self-defense.

Good and Evil:

Bond and Mathis have a fascinating, and fairly sophisticated, debate over the nature of good and evil and its application to Cold War politics. Bond believes the Soviet Union has been portrayed as the Devil (compared to the West’s God), an image that relies more on propaganda than facts. “The Devil had no prophets to write his Ten Commandments, and no team of authors to write his biography.” Bond acknowledges that, under different circumstances, he would be the villain rather than the hero. Mathis, on the other hand, maintains that people like Le Chiffre are inherently evil, and it’s up to people like Mathis and Bond to stop them.

Odd Englishmen:

In debating Bond, Mathis states his opinion of the English, perhaps speaking Fleming’s mind about the generation that fumbled the British Empire. “Englishmen are so odd. They are like a nest of Chinese boxes. It takes a very long time to get to the centre of them. When one gets there the result is unrewarding, but the process is instructive and entertaining.”

Chapter 21: Vesper

No flowers:

Bond is uncomfortable feeling emotionally indebted to another person, rejecting the flowers Vesper sends him during his recovery. “He disliked being cosseted. It gave him claustrophobia.” He will express a similar sentiment at the end of the final Fleming novel, The Man with the Golden Gun (1965).

Bond’s real fear:

Should we be disappointed that impotence is Bond’s real fear in terms of his recovery? For this reason, he delays a first visit from Vesper until he feels up to the task, so to speak.

Bond lives:

Visits from Vesper signify the next and most important phase of Bond’s recovery. “Like all harsh, cold men, he was easily tipped over into sentiment.”

Chapter 22: The Hastening Saloon

Bond and Vesper:

Bond ignores red flags in Vesper’s behavior, downplaying such things in his report to M. “…he had found some of her actions unaccountable.”


Vesper informs Bond that the Bentley has been sent to Rouen for repairs. Rouen is in northern France about 90km east of Le Havre. (See the map under Chapter 5.) The world’s first known motor race was held in 1894 with a route from Paris to Rouen.


Bond learns that Vesper transferred to Head of S’s office after a stint in WRNS, the Women’s Royal Naval Service. WRNS was formed temporarily during World War I, then reformed in 1939 and remained active until 1993, when it was absorbed by the Royal Navy. WRNS staff had a significant role in enemy code-breaking during World War II. This might imply Vesper’s loyalty and a commitment to national service. It might also imply the kind of secret information she has come across.

Bond and Vesper 2:

Bond finds his interactions with Vesper different than other women he’s been involved with, but this is largely situational, as Bond is still recovering from severe trauma. “In their talk there was nothing but companionship with a distant undertone of passion.”


It’s July now, Bond being released after a whole three weeks in the hospital, giving an idea as to the extent of his injuries.

Vesper’s secret:

As Bond and Vesper drive along the coast in the direction of Le Havre, we get a clearer sense that Vesper is hiding something, as she expresses a sincere fear of being followed.

Forbidden fruit:

Bond, and the mysterious driver who may or may not be in pursuit, both notice the “gaily painted” road sign that reads, “L’Auberge du Fruit Défendu, crustaces, fritures,” which really does translate as “The Forbidden Fruit Inn, shellfish, fried foods [or fried fish].”


The saloon of the chapter title is another word for sedan, a “three-box” car (with separate compartments for engine, passengers, and trunk), probably with a four-door passenger compartment.

The one-armed man:

Bond immediately takes to Madame and Monsieur Versoix, who operate the seaside inn Vesper has selected. Monsieur Versoix lost an arm fighting with the Free French during World War II. Free France was the French government, led by Charles de Gaulle in exile, that maintained its legitimacy as the true French government throughout the war. Doesn’t Head of S also have one arm? Is that significant?

Chapter 23: The Tide of Passion


Vesper is awkward, crying, raising even greater red flags than she did in Chapter 22.


Bond’s preferred sleeping attire is a pyjama-coat, basically a robe, with a tie, not buttons, something he discovered while in Hong Kong at the end of the war.


Bond is hesitant in his feelings for Vesper and his decision to resign from the Secret Service, beginning the process of returning Bond to being the solitary character we met in Chapter 1.


Bond finds that part of Vesper will always be unreachable and closed off to him, which must be how Bond himself has appeared to many people over the years.

Chapter 24: ‘Fruit Défendu’

Fruit: Défendu:

“Forbidden fruit,” as per Chapter 22.


Bond is surprised to find that Vesper carries a supply of Nembutal. Pentobarbital is a barbiturate used in multiple medical applications. Sold under the brand name Nembutal, it was once used as a sleep aid but has largely been replaced by other drugs because users could quickly become dependent and it was heavily abused. It is such a risky substance that one of the first U.S. web search results for Nembutal is a suicide hotline.

Bond/Vesper dinner:

For dinner at the inn, Bond and Vesper have champagne, liver paté (traditionally made from finely ground pork liver with lard and other seasonings), crisp French bread with butter, lobster, and fraises des bois (wild strawberries) with cream. After dinner they will share coffee and, for Bond, brandy.

Vin triste:

Vesper’s mental state continues to decline as she is clearly troubled by some dark secret. When commenting on how Bond is spoiling her with rich food, she sarcastically says, “I suppose people get what they deserve…” Bond suspects her of suffering “vin triste,” literally “wine sadness,” as a result of too much champagne.

Bond lives:

Going for a strenuous swim, Bond establishes that his body is fully recovered and even plans to propose to Vesper. I still maintain that Bond’s infatuation with Vesper is situational; had he not suffered such trauma he would not be contemplating a life of wedded bliss.

Chapter 25: ‘Black-Patch’

Phone booths:

Yes, phone booths were widely used before the existence of mobile phones. No mention of whether or not the inn has phones in the rooms, but Bond is immediately suspicious of Vesper’s phone call.


Vesper mentions having a friend who is a “vendeuse,” or “saleswoman.”

Love hurts:

Vesper’s clumsy lie to explain her phone booth call is the beginning of the end of their relationship. Bond is fully restored now and, as much as he wants to overlook Vesper’s behavior, he knows something is wrong and can’t let it go. “But the mystery of the telephone conversation which Vesper angrily, almost fearfully it seemed to Bond, refused to explain was a shadow which grew darker with other small mysteries and reticencies.”


“Vesper was distrait…” An English word but not one I was familiar with, meaning distracted or absentminded.

Black patch:

Fleming readers will realize that the restaurant diner, who may or may not be the driver observed in Chapter 22, is clearly a villain because of his physical imperfections, specifically his black eye-patch and his “particularly large” teeth.


Peugeot 203

The eye-patch wearing diner drives a black Peugeot. The French company was founded in the 1800s, initially manufacturing kitchen implements and hand tools, and began production of internal-combustion automobiles in 1890. The second-place finisher in the Paris-Rouen road race (see Chapter 22) drove a Peugeot. I’m guessing our strange visitor is driving a Peugeot 203, introduced in 1947.


Bond learns from Monsieur Versoix that Vesper’s phone booth call was to an Invalides number in Paris. Les Invalides (“the invalids”) was built in the 1600s as a hospital and retirement home for elderly or disabled French military veterans. I’m not entirely sure of the significance of Vesper’s contact having an Invalides phone number, as by the early 20th century the Invalides was largely occupied by museums, most of the veterans facilities having been disbursed to other locations.

Chapter 26: ‘Sleep Well, My Darling’

Swiss triptique:

The eye-patch diner is identified as Adolph Gettler, involved in the watch industry (presumably a cover?), with a Swiss bank address and a Swiss triptique. In this context, the triptique (often spelled triptyque) was a special form offered by the Automobile Club of Switzerland that allowed motorists to cross borders without paying customs duties on their vehicles. (I’m guessing the Automobile Club of Switzerland is the organization known today as the Touring Club Suisse.)

Love dies:

Vesper’s final statement to Bond before going to bed, “Good night my dearest love,” has an air of permanence about it.

Chapter 27: The Bleeding Heart

Vesper dies:

Bond awakens to find that Vesper has taken her own life with the Nembutal pills from Chapter 24.

Pour lui:

Vesper arranges for her suicide note to be found by the inn staff and given to Bond, in a letter addressed “Pour lui,” or “for him.”


Vesper letter reveals that she was a double-agent for the MWD, known more commonly as the MVD, the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs. MVD was established in 1946 to replace the NKVD and remained in place until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The same year Casino Royale was published, the MGB (later KGB) was integrated into the MVD. It’s ironic that Vesper’s first love, the Polish pilot later held by the MVD to blackmail Vesper, was “trained by M.”

Charing Cross:

Vesper gives 450 Charing Cross Place as the address of a news-agent which was really the site of her go-between with the MVD. I can find no evidence of a Charing Cross Place in London, so I’m not sure if she refers to Charing Cross Road, or a building complex named Charing Cross Place. Charing Cross Road for many years was a hub for booksellers, as described in Helene Hanff‘s 1970 book 84, Charing Cross Road (later adapted as the 1987 film 84 Charing Cross Road).

The Secret Agent:

Recalling his debate with Mathis in Chapter 20, the novel ends with Bond committing to a new mission, doing everything in his power to break up SMERSH. “Here was a target for him, right to hand. He would take on SMERSH and hunt it down. Without SMERSH, without this cold weapon of death and revenge, the M.W.D. would be just another bunch of civil servant spies, no better and no worse than any of the western services.” Bond is damaged but reborn, the Secret Agent once again, and a franchise is created.

Final thoughts:

I’m relieved that Mathis ends up on the right side, but his conversation with Vesper in Chapter 5 seems odd. Vesper was clearly assigned to seduce Bond, but why would Mathis have predicted this if he didn’t know she was a double-agent? Also, the significance of both Head of S and Monsieur Versoix having one arm is lost on me. Does this represent the physical devastation left behind by World War II? Does Fleming consider a lost arm an acceptable “imperfection” for heroes but eye patches and Benzedrine addictions are strictly for villains? I also think it’s significant, though not directly mentioned in the novel, that Elizabeth II became queen only one year before Casino Royale was published.

Either way, Casino Royale is a smashing good tale, if somewhat dated, and invests the reader in learning about 007’s future exploits. Thankfully, Fleming wrote his second Bond novel before Casino Royale was even published.