From Russia with Love, published in 1957, is the fifth James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming. From Russia with Love is frequently considered the best James Bond novel by many fans and critics (although even critical opinion varies greatly). The novel is credited with launching the James Bond craze, and leading to the official EON Productions film series. Its biggest boost came four years after From Russia with Love was published from an article in Life magazine on 17 March 1961 in which U.S. President John F. Kennedy included it in a list of his favorite books; the James Bond novel was the only work of fiction in the list of ten.
The title of the book is occasionally printed with a comma, as From Russia, with Love, depending upon the publisher. It is more commonly printed without the punctuation.
From Russia with Love differs from Fleming's previous Bond novels in that the first one third of the novel revolves around SMERSH's executioner, Red Grant, as well as the organization, SMERSH, itself. This is also the first novel in which Bond receives a gadget from Q-Branch, although Q himself is not in the novel.
The book contains a series of elaborate plots and counterplots, between the British and the Russian intelligence agencies. It begins with SMERSH, the Soviet assassination agency, seeking to redeem itself from a series of failures that have made some within the Soviet government begin to criticize the organization. SMERSH plans to commit a grand act of terrorism in the intelligence field. For this, SMERSH has targeted British secret service agent, Commander James Bond. Due in part to Bond's defeat of Le Chiffre detailed in Casino Royale and Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, Bond has been declared as an enemy of the Soviet state and has been issued a "death warrant" for immediate execution ("To be killed with ignominy").
Mainly through the agency of Lev Kronsteen, the chess-playing master planner, and Colonel Rosa Klebb, SMERSH lays a trap for Bond, by setting pretty young cipher clerk, Corporal Tatiana Romanova, to pretend to defect from her post in Istanbul, claiming to have fallen in love with Bond, from a photograph. As an added incentive, Tatiana will provide the British agent with a Spektor decoder, a prize much coveted by MI6. The ultimate goal is to set up James Bond for assassination, and cause a scandal.
In Istanbul, Bond meets Darko Kerim, the leader of the British substation in Istanbul. Bond likes this man on sight. The two men spend a great deal of time together over the next few days because Kerim believes Bond should not sit in one place and wait for Tatiana to approach him. During this time, Bond not only sees more of Istanbul than he ever wanted, but he becomes involved in a plot against Kerim by a local gang who work for the Russians. This plot has nearly killed Kerim once with a bomb and they attack Bond and Kerim a second time while they are visiting a gypsy friend of Kerim's. Kerim decides he must take out their leader in order to stop these attacks. Bond goes with Kerim and watches as he executes this man in cold blood.
Tatiana approaches Bond that night. Tatiana is in Bond's bed naked when he comes back to the hotel. Bond and Tatiana spend the night together after deciding how to proceed. Bond wants to get the machine and take Tatiana to Britain by plane, but Tatiana insists on the Orient Express. This choice makes Bond uneasy, but he likes Tatiana and decides to indulge her. Bond talks Kerim into taking the train as well. Kerim immediately recognizes the three Russians they saw in a meeting a few days before on the train and decides to get them off. Kerim bribes a few officials and has two of these men off the train, making Bond feel more relaxed about the situation. However, Kerim is still nervous and wants Bond to leave the train and fly to London. Bond refuses.
The next morning, Kerim is found murdered. Bond decides to stay on the train, however. A man boards the train and Bond thinks he is another MI6 agent. The man agrees to share the guard duties and stays with Bond and Tatiana in their stateroom. However, the man is Grant, the assassin, and the next morning he allows his identity to be known.A confrontation between Bond and Grant takes place on board, when Grant is shot by Bond.
Later, after successfully delivering Tatiana to the West, Bond has a final encounter with Rosa Klebb in Paris which leaves her dead and Bond poisoned.