The dastardly terrorist organization, BAST ( which stands for Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terror), have hatched an ambitious scheme. They have discovered that a top-secret summit meeting between the United States, England and The Soviet Union will be held on the HMS battleship Invincible,which is on a training exercise in Europe. BAST plan to abduct the three world leaders (which, at the time, were President George Bush, Margaret Thatcher and good old Gorby) and hold them hostage for a ridiculously high sum of money each. Deciding that a forceful take-over of the battleship is ill-advised (they practiced the raid on an oil tanker), BAST plan to conduct a low-profile take-over instead. They have moles in the Navy, operatives on board the Invincible, and many well-trained soldiers.
The only thing they weren`t counting on is James Bond coming in and stuffing things up.
Bond, while investigating the oil tanker incident, is assigned to go
undercover on the Invincible to protect the three world leaders. BAST decide that Bond is a major hindrance to their plot, so they make numerous attempts on his life. Bond only narrowly avoids being shot down in his Harrier jet and evades assassination while on holiday in Italy. Bond eventually makes it to the Invincible, but BAST are still anxious to go ahead as planned. After a lengthy and dangerous, but not boring, investigation on board the ship, Bond heads ashore to report the situation. But BAST put their plan into action and eventually succeed in abducting the three world leaders and taking over the entire battleship, crew and all. It`s up to Bond to save the day, and, living up to all expectations, does so. You seriously think he wouldn`t?
Win, Lose or Die is one of John Gardner`s best Bond novels. It is rarely boring, and the handful of boring scenes don`t last long. Unlike in most of Gardner`s novels, the action sequences are spread at good intervals throughout the book, so you always have something to look forward to. James Bond, while technically no longer a secret service agent in this story (he`s turned into a Navy Captain instead), is at his best for a Gardner story. The Bond girl, Beatrice (pronounched Bee-ah-tree-shay, for anyone who was wondering) is Gardner`s best heroine. The villain, Bassam Baradj, is pretty flimsy, but he isn`t in the story much. The plot is interesting and involving, but isn`t overly-complicated like some of Gardner`s others. The Christmas setting is nice, with an insightful look into Bond`s past as a child and the last Christmas he spent with his parents. The main hench(wo)man in the story is the knife-wielding Sarah Deeley, a total psycho who`s main occupation is corpse-production. She`s great fun. Bond`s only real ally is Admiral John Walmsley, and he`s quite fun to read about. Bond even gets to meet the three world leaders in question, in an amusing scene.
The action sequences are some of the best in any Gardner novel, from the opening hang-glider assault on the oil tanker, Bond`s knife-fight with Sarah Deeley, a healthy dose of aerial action in fighter jets and the climactic assault by the special forces on the battleship Invincible, and a shoot-out inside the Rock of Gibraltar itself. All of these scenes are fun, and, as said before, are spread throughout the story and even intervals.
There`s no doubting it, Win, Lose or Die is a classic Bond novel from Gardner, and also one of his finest.