Top positive review
Better than Fleming
on 29 May 2016
The idea of an American author more celebrated for writing crime novels about serial killers taking on the reins as the writer of another installment of James Bond piqued my interest but I must admit that my expectations weren't particularly high. However, this book is an absolute cracker with the author confessing in the afterword to have been obsessed with Ian Fleming's character with the Bond books capturing his imagination as a child and being instrumental in his desire to become an author. In fact there is a strong sense that that the germ of this story must have been fermenting in his head for years as "Carte Blanche" is very much an extension of the oeuvre and certainly the kind of book Fleming would have written had be have been around now.
The book rattle along at a terrific pace. It is fair to say that is it "airport literature" but then, so was Fleming's original creation, All the ticks are in the right box. The recent Horowitz effort "Trigger Mortis" is almost a facsimile of Fleming's writing style and a first class imitation. Deaver is his own man yet never unfaithful to Fleming's creation. If anything, he has supplanted the likes of M, Bill Tanner and Felix Leiter is a more contemporary environment where the veneer of mystique has been removed in favour of a more quotidian characterisation. Bond remains the rather opaque and sketchily drawn character from the original books (where the Bond in the longer novels seems totally different from the colder, more ruthless figure in the shorter stories.) It is as if Fleming's character has been parachuted in to a more recent Bond film.
The plot concerns a secret terrorist plot being hatched by a macabre villain who has found a way of recycling refuge including old computers and mobile phones that will enable his global waste management company to act as a smokescreen for his evil plans. He is a typical Bond villain but not quite the pantomime figure that Fleming would have created. In fact this is not the only weakness in Fleming's writing that has been jettisoned and the dialogue is far superior and much more credible. The lean style of writing still exists as do the actions sequences, glamorous women and grizzly deaths. I think that the fact the story continues for 470 pages allows the book to mirror the more developed narrative of the films and there is not a moment in the book where the story flags. Somehow, even though this is a James Bond novel, the research that had gone in to the book does serve to make it more credible - the literary equivalent of the Daniel Craig novels if you wish.
Having read all of Fleming's efforts as well as the recent publications by Horowitz and Boyd, I think that the latter's effort probably remains not only the best written from a literary perspective but also the most creative insofar that his Bond is older and not quite so sharp and also somewhat reduced by wider, political circumstances. I am a massive fan of William Boyd's books and "Solo" lived up to my expectation. However, Jeffery Deaver has effectively resuscitated James Bond for the 2010's and having got the gig that he appears to have craved, really wish that he is allowed to write more in the series. It may seem heresy to say this but Deaver has, with "Carte Blanche," probably created the best Bond story of the lot.