Monday, July 28, 2014

For Your Eyes Only | "From a View to a Kill"

"From a View to a Kill" was first printed in the Daily Express a few months after Goldfinger came out, making it the earliest of the For Your Eyes Only stories to be published. It starts well with the dramatic murder of a NATO motorcycle courier and Bond's being called in to help investigate.

Bond's involvement is purely political. NATO command already isn't happy with the security risk of Britain's having it's own offices outside of the main headquarters, so M sends them 007 as a way of showing that Britain is involved and taking the matter seriously. Bond was nearby anyway, relaxing in Paris after a failed mission to help a defector come over from Hungary.

I had a hard time connecting to the investigation itself. Bond's a capable detective, but in the end he solves the thing with intuition and being the only person to suspect a previously unnoticed lead, which is a tactic that M specifically instructed Bond to take. I'm not saying that Bond merely stumbles across the right clues, just that his investigative techniques aren't especially compelling. And I'm not sure how I feel about the rather outlandish revelation of who's behind the murder. On the one hand, it's more fantastical than its lead-up prepared me for. On the other hand, it's kind of cool and a taste of things to come in the Bond series.

The meaning of the title isn't explicit in the story, but one theory is that it's a hunting reference. "D'ye Ken John Peel?" was a popular song in the nineteenth century about a fox hunter and one version includes the line, "From a find to a check, from a check to a view, from a view to a kill in the morning." In other words, first you see the prey, then you kill it. It's not one of Fleming's stronger titles, but at least it makes me hear Duran Duran in my head when I read it.

There's one bit of character development for Bond in the story, though it's from a small throwaway line about Bond's drinking preferences. Fleming writes that Bond dislikes Pernod "because its liquorice taste reminded him of his childhood." He gives no more detail than that, but it's the first hint that Bond's childhood wasn't completely happy and full of golf and fancy tea parties. A curious piece of the puzzle as we try to reconstruct Bond's early life as Fleming imagined it.

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