"The Hildebrand Rarity"
Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date: 1960
Published in: Playboy
Alternate title:
Collected in: For Your Eyes Only
Publication order
Previous: Next:
"Quantum of Solace" "From a View to a Kill"

"The Hildebrand Rarity" is a short story written by Ian Fleming featuring his fictional secret agent James Bond, first published in 1960. It was included in the 1960 short story collection For Your Eyes Only.

"The Hildebrand Rarity" was first published in Playboy in March 1960 with illustrations by Allan Phillips.[1] It likewise appeared in Today magazine, also in March 1960.


James Bond has neen sent to evaluate the Seychelles in case the Royal Navy base in the Maldives might have to move due to Communist saboteurs based out of Ceylon. With nothing much to do before he's scheduled to ship out, Bond swims in the warm ocean waters and tracks a deadly looking stingray. He hunts the creature, calculatedly, from a distance. Bond rarely hunts fish, but this fish is an enemy, with its evil stinging tail. The local men used to use stingray tails as weapons to control their wives, but the cruel practice has been outlawed. Bond finally finds his moment and shoots the stingray. The beast fights him, and Bond drags it to the beach.

Bond is approached by his local guide and friend Fidele Barbey, whose family basically runs the Seychelles, to go along on an expedition. Milton Krest, an American millionaire with an incredibly luxurious yacht, the Wavekrest, is going to a distant island that's little more than a bump in the sea to collect a rare fish, Fidele is his guide, and Fidele wants Bond for his diving expertise, plus it's something to do. Bond goes along, but is immediately put off by the rude, crude, domineering Krest, who constantly insults his guests, shows off, and intimidates his wife Elizabeth, a beautiful, kind, young Englishwoman. In fact, Bond finds out that he beats her with a stingray tail, a particularly painful punishment, and he's not ashamed to admit it. Krest avoids taxes and covers his expenses by running a foundation that uses his yacht and other travels to collect scientific specimens for museums; he just goes in, buys up whatever he's told to find, and continues on to his next vacation spot. Bond quickly finds Krest unbearable, but enjoys the company of Elizabeth.

At the island, Bond and Fidele go diving to search for the Hildebrand Rarity, a unique type of fish only seen before in that location. They don't find one, but Krest eventually does, sending Bond out to watch for it as it darts around, while Krest prepares to pour a bucket of poison onto the reef that will kill everything there in an attempt to get the one fish. Bond is repulsed, and ends up attempting to sabotage Krest by giving the signal at the wrong time, just to spite him. Despite his best efforts, the Rarity wanders into the poison and is killed.

That night, Krest gets even drunker and meaner than usual, insulting Bond and Fidele and making it clear he's going to beat his wife for some comment she made a long time ago, because he's an abusive husband. Bond finally has enough, insults him a few times, and goes out on the stern deck, where he's been sleeping the whole time to get away from Krest. Liz comes out and talks to him, and Krest comes out just in time to see her hold his hand. He insults Bond so more, so Bond is about to let him have the beating he's cruising for when Krest shows a whistle he can use to summon his crew of Germans, and threatens to have Bond killed and dumped overboard. Bond stands down, the Krests leave, and Bond hears him beating her again. He wants to help, but doesn't see a point in intervening in a marriage that she's not acting to get out of. He goes to sleep and wakes up during the night to hear Krest snoring in his hammock on an elevated deck amidships, then a crash and choking sounds.

He goes up and finds Krest dead, choked to death by the specimen Rarity. Not wanting to be involved in an inquest where he would be a suspect, too, Bond cleans up the scene to make it look like the frayed hammock snapped and Krest rolled off the side of the ship, and throws the body overboard, Rarity included. He suspects that either Liz, finally driven to revenge, or Fidele, if Krest dished out too much after Bond left, and counting on his family's ability to cover the issue up, could be the killer.

He goes back to sleep, wakes up, and gets no clues when nobody seems to notice that Krest isn't aboard. Bond points it out, and still has no clues by the time they arrive back in the Seychelles. Liz, taken with how helpful Bond has been, invites him to sail with her aboard the yacht for Mombasa rather than waiting for the Navy. Bond is tempted, but worried about getting involved with a killer woman; he agrees, though. Fidele points out the responsibility of getting the Hildebrand Rarity specimen to the Smithsonian, suggesting he doesn't know the real method of death, and Liz seems to sweat a little but says that she's decided to give the Rarity to the British Museum. She then offers Bond a lift to Mombasa. He accepts, albeit with reservations.


In April 1958 Fleming flew to the Seychelles via Bombay to report for The Sunday Times on a treasure hunt; although the hunt was not as exciting as he hoped, Fleming used many of the details of the island for "The Hildebrand Rarity".[2] Fleming combined the backdrop of the Seychelles with his experience he and Blanche Blackwell had undergone when they had visited Pedro Keys, two islands off Jamaica, and watched two scientists do something similar with poison to obtain samples.[1]

For the villain of the story, an abusive American millionaire, Fleming used the name Milton Krest: Milton was the code name of a Greek sea captain who ferried British soldiers and agents through German patrols and who received the Distinguished Service Order and an MBE, whilst Krest was the name of tonic and ginger beer Fleming drank in Seychelles.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chancellor, 2005, p. 149
  2. Benson, 1988, p. 17
  3. Chancellor, 2005, p. 127


James Bond Short Stories
Fleming Quantum of Solace (1959) · The Hildebrand Rarity (1960) · From a View to a Kill (1960) · For Your Eyes Only (1960) · Risico (1960) · The Living Daylights (1962) · 007 in New York (1963) · The Property of a Lady (1963) · Octopussy (1966)
Benson Blast From the Past (1997) · Midsummer Night's Doom (1999) · Live at Five (1999) · The Heart of Erzulie (2001, unpublished)
Collections For Your Eyes Only (1960) · Octopussy and The Living Daylights (1966)
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.