Today we hear from Librarian Ed Morrissey. Ed writes about a huge number of things at his library blog called, of course, Ed’s Blog.
Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 is back in the latest attempt to update the character’s prose adventures with Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver. (Click here to reserve a copy from us.) Previous authors who continued Bond’s literary exploits after Fleming’s death in 1964 have included Kingsley Amis (as “Robert Markham”), Christopher Wood, John Gardner, Raymond Benson and Sebastian Faulks. Now Jeffery Deaver, whose previous non-007 work (like The Bone Collector) I haven’t read, joins this exclusive brotherhood.
Carte Blanche introduces us to a Bond who’s in his mid-thirties, a veteran of the current Afghanistan war, now working for a secret British intelligence unit called the Overseas Development Group, who can act independently (with “carte blanche”) in foreign countries. After preventing a rigged train/biological warfare disaster in Serbia, Bond traces the masterminds behind it to a British waste disposal company run by the creepy Severan Hydt (whose equally creepy “hobby” I’ll pass on revealing here) and his associate Niall Dunne. Hydt, Dunne and his associates have apparently planned a even bigger bio attack that may have major implications for the U.K.
As he’s investigating Hydt on his own home ground, Bond is forced to work with various domestic (and rival) British intelligence agencies without his usual carte blanche, which understandingly affects the course of his mission. Only when Hydt and Dunne depart England for the Middle East (and later South Africa) is Bond free to pursue the bad guys… But how much time does he have left to discover what the villains actually intend to do and stop them?
Carte Blanche is well-written, with a complex plot and descent pacing, although Deaver occasionally gets bogged down in detail (the various cars, guns, GPS devices and cell phone apps our hero uses are so vividly described that they read like a Consumer Reports article) that slows down the action and doesn’t quite have what other writers have called “the Fleming sweep”. Also, it sometimes feels as though the book has enough plot and situations (there’s also an interesting, if out of left field, subplot regarding Bond’s parents) for two novels. And the antagonists and female characters aren’t very memorable, though some of them do have funny names.
But there are some great action scenes like the aforementioned train sequence and an exciting nail-biting moment when Bond tries to rescue his old CIA pal Felix Leiter from being shredded into little pieces. Deaver must have also referred to John Pearson’s 1973 James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 when writing this book, as many details of Bond’s background in this new adventure seem awfully familiar (hello, Aunt Charmian!).
Overall, Carte Blanche is an entertaining, if overstuffed,”reboot”/pastiche worthy of your attention. Here’s hoping Deaver will write more 007 installments.
(Yes, we also carry the original Ian Fleming novels too!)