Named as Ian Fleming’s finest novel in numerous polls, and described by the author as, ‘In many respects, my best book’, this nail-biting thriller sees 007 ensnared by an elaborate plot devised by the Soviet counter-intelligence agency, SMERSH. Set among the bazaars and minarets of Istanbul, and aboard the Orient Express, the novel features some of the series’ most memorable characters.
The ebullient and dissipated Darko Kerim reigns over ‘Station T’ with the help of his many children, and becomes Bond’s firm comrade. Rosa Klebb is the repugnant SMERSH operations chief whose weaponry includes a boot concealing a poison-tipped knife; Red Grant is the terrifying psychopath whose lust for murder has made him Chief Executioner. Tatiana Romanova is the ravishing, guileless instrument of a deadly honeytrap designed to destroy and defame the Secret Service’s greatest agent. This elegant edition features a pictorial slipcase and alluring illustrations by Fay Dalton, whose work also appears in the Folio edition of Casino Royale.
From Russia with Love was published during the Cold War, and John F. Kennedy listed it amongst his ten favourite books. Unusually for a Bond novel, the hero does not appear for the first portion of the book. This is a daring move, but one which pays off by allowing a detailed portrayal of other key characters, including Grant ‘the slaughterer’ and his gruesome back story. When we first see Grant he is prone beside a swimming pool at a Russian villa, his ‘morgue-like’ face sending shivers through the masseuse kneading his ‘insolent’ muscles. Indifferent to everything but violence, he calmly awaits the call that will signal his next murderous mission. When the narrative turns to Bond, he is listless in London, mourning the end of a love affair and appalled by the boredom that has overtaken him after a year of unbearable peace. Little does he know that his ennui will make him the perfect target for SMERSH’s cruel designs.
As in all of his novels, Fleming grounds explosions, assassinations and death-defying exploits in carefully related, realistic details about cars, meals and hotel rooms – something Kingsley Amis called ‘the Fleming effect’. More unusual is this novel’s cliffhanger ending – a dramatic turn of events that even Bond, after all his adventures, does not foresee.
Fay Dalton is a London-based illustrator. She has a first class degree in Illustration and was the winner of the 2010 Pickled Ink Award for illustration. Fay combines traditional drawing and painting methods with digital painting.
Illustrations by Fay Dalton from The Folio Society edition of From Russia with Love © Fay Dalton 2016. Used with the permission of Fay Dalton and The Folio Society.
The train began to move. Bond tensed. In a few minutes it would come. What a way to die, if he was going to die. Through his own stupidity - blind, lethal stupidity. And lethal for Tatiana. Christ!
First published 1957
Leading Lady Tatiana Romanova
Villain Rosa Klebb