Book Review: Carte Blanche (James Bond Novel) by Jeffrey Deaver

Title: Carte Blanche (James Bond Novel)
Author: Jeffrey Deaver
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton, Hachette India
Genre: Thriller, Crime Fiction
ISBN: 978-1444716474
PP: 448 Pages
Price: Rs. 499
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

James Bond returns, rebooted, in this new novel set in the modern day, where he works for the ODG, a secret agency of the British government whose task is the ‘protect the realm’. When a text message is intercepted mentioning an attack and potentially thousands of deaths, 007 is called in and given carte blanche (the modern equivalent of his old licence to kill) to save the day.

The novel is presented as an interesting blend of author Jeffrey Deaver, and Bond-creator Ian Fleming’s writing styles. For the most part, Deaver’s language and plot structure comes through, but there are a few passages that are distinctly Fleming, some to the extent that I felt they could have been lifted straight from the original Bond books.

In this story, we will never look at our binmen in the same way again. Yet another eccentric businessman is intent on world domination – in his own way but thanks to the author’s craft, all is not what it seems. Most of the action takes place in South Africa with side trips to Belgrade and, of course, London itself. Bond has his usual fling though there seems something lacking in this part of the character’s behaviour. Not sure what but to his credit, the author manages to find odd but interesting names for some of the female participants. Of course, Moneypenny is still around though they’ve all undergone a radical rejuvenation to fit into Bond’s ability to deal with the all-action scenarios.

The characters, while slightly updated for the contemporary setting, are exactly those that Fleming gave us, especially Bond himself (fortunately not Daniel Craig) and M (back to the original male version), and a number of other familiar names crop up. This does become something of a cliché though in the first half of the book, where I found myself wondering which classic character would show up next rather than focussing on the plot.

I was very impressed by Deaver’s plot, which departed somewhat from what I had been led to expect from some of the early publicity around the book (a little distracting as it meant I was constantly expecting something that never came). It moves at the perfect pace to hook the reader while remaining true to the attention to detail of Fleming’s prose.

Twists and turns fly rapidly off the pages, however this is actually where I think the book is let down. There are several instances of what I consider to be Jeffery Deaver’s trademark suspense technique – resolving a cliffhanger by utilising something that happened earlier but his narrative didn’t tell us about. I find this really frustrating and it comes across as extremely lazy writing – especially when it affects a major part of the novel. In other places however, plot points are resolved without resorting to this method and I just can’t see why Deaver does it.

Overall though I must confess to being impressed – my feeling from reading a couple of other Deaver novels recently was one of trepidation, but this book has managed to impress. The die-hard 007 fan may not appreciate the effort Deaver has gone to in order to update the settings, but I found it tastefully done, and look forward to finding out who the publishers will select when James Bond returns.

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One thought on “Book Review: Carte Blanche (James Bond Novel) by Jeffrey Deaver

  1. David L.

    David writes: I haven’t yet read “Carte Blanche”, but will do so soon. As for
    Jeffrey Deaver’s interpretation of the classic character, he certainly doesn’t
    look like Bond, does he. Not that Ian Fleming did, either, but he had such
    flare in his writing style, and created a “Superman” like hero–with the
    black hair, rugged features and coma swept over the eye. Oh, well. The
    original books were masterful, but Gardner and Benson didn’t really capture
    essence of the character as far as I was concerned. I didn’t read “The Faulk
    Treatment”, but may some day. Why he chose to regress is beyond me, but
    I understand that his book sold well. Anyway, here goes, Jeff!

    Reply

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