Thursday, November 3, 2011

Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

About the Book

"The face of war is changing. The other side doesn't play by the rules much anymore. There's thinking, in some circles, that we need to play by a different set of rules too..."

James Bond, in his early thirties and already a veteran of the Afghan War, has been recruited to a new organization. Conceived in the post-9/11 world, it operates independent of MI5, MI6 and the Ministry of Defense, its very existence deniable. Its aim: To protect the Realm, by any means necessary.

A Night Action alert calls James Bond away from dinner with a beautiful woman. Headquarters has decrypted an electronic whisper about an attack scheduled for later in the week: Casualties estimated in the thousands, British interests adversely affected.

And Agent 007 has been given carte blanche.

Jeffery Deaver's Carte Blanche has been released in the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Russia, Israel, and Korea. It will also be available in Spain on June 26; and in Poland on June 29.  


Filling Ian Fleming’s boots was always going to be a tall order. At least, that’s if you think of Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche in those terms, which doesn’t make sense anyway. Comparing Deaver to Fleming, and subsequently being disappointed by the lack of congruity with the old Bonds, would be, I imagine, a bit like asking a great actor to play a typecast but not bring any emotion or ingenuity to the role.

As I get sidetracked on this subject I realise that marketing a book as a ‘Bond’ – thereby leveraging the Bond brand – does have certain obligations. Bond fans have certain requirements and could well be disappointed at Deaver’s take on one of the most classic literary institutions of all time.

But Deaver’s novel needs to be given its own space to breathe. A king of thriller fiction, Deaver has packed Carte Blanche with a racy plot that weaves through several ‘exotic’ locations, including Cape Town and Dubai. The tempo is up-beat, and never falls flat. At the same time, enough attention is given to characters in the appropriate moments – slowing the novel down to the right pace to get to know what characters are thinking and feeling.

The attention to spy detail was not only apt but entertaining – from descriptions about different forms of intelligence gathering by MI6 to a few ‘Bond’ gadgets – an ‘iPhone’ with apps that allows agents to listen in on private conversations or communicate through encrypted emails with HQ – Deaver has included some mandatory Bond ‘tech’ without being too futuristic.

Deaver’s characters are believable, and that’s what I really liked the most about Carte Blanche: while Ian Fleming’s original plots centre on insanely grand designs, such as trying to rob Fort Knox(!), and while other similar novels revolve around worn tropes (thinking nuclear destruction, presidential secrets, etc.), Carte Blanche is decidedly realistic and well-researched. The arch villain has a nice realistic character smirk as an investor in waste recycling – but a creep who loves waste so much that he’s turned watching the process of decay into a near-religion.

Where this novel sorely lacks, though, is in the conspicuous absence of  that rugged old Bond charm and humour. Fleming’s Bond charms the daylights out of everyone. Always witty, always suave; not only knowing what to do in any given situation but also knowing how to do it with the most-possible smooth factor – and with a dollop of humble pie saving him from being too cool – Fleming’s Bond is the ultimate hero. Deaver’s Bond is more like the (less charming, less daring) more sensitive son of Fleming’s Bond.

While Carte Blanche is a great light, easy read (three-and-a-half out of five stars), Deaver’s Bond, it seems, would struggle to charm the daylights out of anyone.

- Review by Wesley Thompson
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About the Author

Jeffery Deaver is the author of two collections of short stories and 25 suspense novels. He is best known for his Lincoln Rhyme thrillers, which include the number one bestsellers The Vanished Man, The Twelfth Card and The Cold Moon, as well as The Bone Collector which was made into a feature film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. The first Kathryn Dance novel, The Sleeping Doll, was published in 2007 to enormous acclaim.
A three-time recipient of the Ellery Queen Reader's Award for Best Short Story of the year, he has been nominated for an Anthony Award and six Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. He won the WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award in 2001 and in 2004 won the Crime Writers' Association Steel Dagger for Best Thriller with Garden of Beasts, and their Short Story Dagger for The Weekender from Twisted.

Jeffery Deaver lives in North Carolina and California.


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