Licence To Kill: The Science of 007

Bloomsbury Sigma. Sept. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781472982261. $28. FILM
Countless books have been written about the James Bond movie franchise, but Harkup (A Is for Arsenic) takes a unique approach by focusing on the science behind these films and the real-world rationale of the endless gadgets and the high-concept plans of Bond villains. Dealing with the films in chronological order (from 1962’s Dr. No to 2021’s No Time To Die), Harkup explores Goldfinger’s laser, the poisoned blade in Rosa Klebb’s shoe, the structural merits of a golden gun, and the anatomical reasons that made Casino Royale’s knotted rope torture so painful. The former chemist’s most intriguing chapter may be on the cyanide capsules so often referenced in Bond films (memorably featured in Skyfall). Throughout her well-structured book, Harkup also explores the backstory of the “James Bond” character, who underwent several dramatic changes with each of the seven actors who portrayed him. Harkup specializes in this kind of study, having already penned successful books on poisons in Agatha Christie and means of death in Shakespeare. She has a true skill for turning complicated ideas into easily digestible and endlessly fascinating reading.
VERDICT An entertaining, page-turning, sure-fire hit with all fans of 007.
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