April 1955 brought the third Bond novel Moonraker.
M invites Bond to his club, Blades, to help determine if Hugo Drax is cheating at cards. Having spotted how Drax is doing it Bond then takes him on and beats him at his own game. Afterwards Bond is assigned to investigate Drax's Moonraker missile project and uncovers a plot to destroy London itself.
This is a much more interesting Bond novel. It sees the beginnings of what would become the formula particularly for the sixties movies. Bond meets the villain early on, beats him in a sporting encounter and then goes on to foil some huge, technological plot. Fortunately it is a much easier book to read than Live and Let Die with less bigotry on display, although Germans come in for a fair amount of abuse. The Bond girl, Gala Brand, may be one of the least memorable in all of the books, She doesn't even make it into the film version.
At the heart of the book is the great Bridge game played between Bond and Drax. I remember when I first read this I was so fascinated that I learnt the rules of Bridge and spent some time recreating the hands that Bond deals to defeat Drax. I also spent ages trying to work out how Bond switched the decks at the crucial moment. After the card game the stuff about the missile and the targeting codes is rather uninteresting. It's the atmosphere in Blades, the food and drink, and that card game that make this novel.
The Bond check list includes one villain with a medical condition, one sporting encounter, some self-inflicted torture in the missile exhaust tubes, and one Bond girl with a distinguishing mole on her breast but nothing else to remember her by.
James Bond will return in ... Diamonds are Forever!