Carte Blanche: A James Bond Novel (James Bond Novels) Hardcover – 26 May 2011
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James Bond is back. And in Carte Blanche, he is just out of Afghanistan, seconded to a new security agency -- one that is a distinctly separate entity from MI5 or 6. A decryption reveals that Britain is harbouring a vicious clandestine figure, and a great many people are to die -- within a week. 007 is in action in his own country for once, his hands tied by an irritating bureaucratic colleague, and up against a sinister opponent who luxuriates in the sights and sounds of death and putrefaction. And if the latter sounds like the kind of villain Lincoln Rhyme might be taking on, that’s because 007’s new chronicler is the American writer Jeffrey Deaver, creator of the quadriplegic criminologist Rhyme.
There is now a long and impressive tradition of continuing the literary adventures of Ian Fleming's superspy after his elegant creator's death, and it has to be said that the results have been only fitfully successful. The first post-Fleming Bond novel, Robert Markham’s Colonel Sun, was a lovingly crafted tribute by a pseudonymous Kingsley Amis, and did considerable justice to the original concept. The entries by the American writer Raymond Benson were generally received with less enthusiasm (proving that Benson’s considerable knowledge of Bondiana did not constitute sufficient credentials for the task), and while the veteran thriller writer John Gardner’s entries began strongly, he appeared to lose interest in the project; the last two books in his 007 sequence were workaday, to say the least. Sebastian Falk’s recent entry, Devil May Care, placed Bond back in the Fleming era, and was a diverting outing.
Like Gardner, Jeffrey Deaver is, of course, a considerable thriller writer with a body of work that has acquired a strong following (principally for his novels featuring Lincoln Rhyme). And like any writer approaching the task of continuing the adventures of Britain's most famous spy, Deaver was faced with a variety of dilemmas. Should he bring Bond into the modern age, as John Gardner (and the continuing film franchise) had done? Or should he create a period adventure in the fashion of the last non-Fleming Bond adventure by Sebastian Falks? To some degree, Deaver has opted to have the best of both worlds. This is a 21st-century Bond, post-9/11 and post-7/7 (both namechecked in this book), and Bond has given up smoking (something else that John Gardner wished upon the hero in his series). Many of the comforting facets of the Bond books are in place, including the sybaritic lifestyle and the absurdly-named women he encounters (how long did it take Deaver to come up with the name Ophelia Maidenstone?). The eternal Miss Moneypenny is on board, as is the de rigueur grotesque villain. The modern reader consuming the book (and it demands to be consumed -- at a brisk pace) will be wondering what version of the spy chief M we will encounter: a middle-aged woman with echoes of Judi Dench? No, M in Carte Blanche is an admiral (clearly, in fact, Fleming’s Sir Miles Messervy), and all the other aspects readers have come to expect in Fleming's adroitly written thrillers are satisfyingly in place. In fact, the opening suspense sequence (involving multiple deaths and the destruction of a train) is something that would have done Fleming proud. But as Deaver would no doubt be the first to admit, there was only one Ian Fleming, and any new Bond adventure is essentially an act of ventriloquism. But if such initiatives are to be undertaken, it is to the Fleming Estate’s credit that the talented Mr Deaver was chosen for the job. Fleming aficionados may have caveats, but there is no denying that Deaver's customary storytelling expertise is handsomely on display here, and Deaver can offer a frequently persuasive Fleming simulacra. --Barry Forshaw
Among the high-end marques of crime, Deaver ranks in the Bentley Continental class: a sleek, fast and supremely well-engineered suspense machine . . . Deaver has stylishly fulfilled his brief. (Independent)
The most impressive feature of CARTE BLANCHE is the ingenuity of the breathless, blood-thirsty plot . . . Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Sebastian Faulks are among those who have tried to bring Bond back to life. Deaver, though, is in a class of his own: nobody's done it better. (Evening Standard)
'Top US thriller writer Jeffery Deaver has brought Bond bang up to date . . . CARTE BLANCHE has it all.' **** (Sun)
'[A] gripping modern thriller . . . Bond fans will enjoy Deaver's slightly mischievous take on Ian Fleming. Deaver fans will enjoy the taut plotting and the action scenes and, by the way, it is going to make a great movie.' ***** (Daily Express)
'CARTE BLANCHE promises to be fast-paced, packed with twists and turns as torturous as any Bond car chase.' (The Times)
'[James Bond] lives on in the skillful hands of a suspense superstar.' (www.newsweek.com)
'I was agreeably surprised at how much I enjoyed CARTE BLANCHE, probably the best Bond continuation novel since Fleming's death nearly half a century ago. Deaver combines the best of Fleming's crisp, eclectic style without compromising his own ability to tell a cracking story.' (Literary Review)
Deaver delivers more twists than a 1960s prom dance and the plot pounds along at a breathless pace (Financial Times)
'Deaver's writing is very much like Fleming's . . . kept me turning pages.' (Irish Times)
'Deaver's enthusiasm for Bond comes through on every page and puts the gift for plotting that has garnered him such massive popularity to superb use here. So CARTE BLANCHE is excellent fun, a great read and Jeffery Deaver has breathed new life into an old favourite.' (Sunday Express)
'Brings 007 bang up to date . . . It's also thrilling and genuinely surprising like most of thriller king Deaver's novels. If they turn this into the next 007 film (after the one that comes out in 2012), it'll be great.' **** (Heat)
'Set over six action-packed days, this is a tightly wound thriller that crackles at break-neck speed . . . the Bond legacy is in safe hands.' (News of the World)
'Deaver's immaculate sense of pace comes into its own. It's hard to imagine anyone not being impressed by this novel' (Independent on Sunday)
'Top US thriller writer Jeffery Deaver and iconic spy James Bond prove to be an irresistible combination . . . In an interview last year Deaver promised his book would be "a clever story, with some very good twists and surprises" and he has certainly delivered.' (Daily Express)
Deaver gets his cultural references pretty well spot-on, and the dialogue is impressively free of stray Americanisms (Mail on Sunday)
Deaver writes crime fiction - thrillers you want to race through - and he's bloody good . . . If he was real, 007 would be a Deaver fan (The Big Issue)
[Jeffery Deaver] would have done Fleming proud . . . Deaver's customary storytelling expertise is handsomely on display (The Good Book Guide)
Wrestling with the contemporary issues of bureaucracy and privacy, CARTE BLANCHE brings Bond into the present day, and the result is a very enjoyable, action-laden thriller (Woman's Weekly)
Top customer reviews
Review by Glover Wright
If you're looking for vintage James Bond of the Ian Fleming era this is not for you. However, if you want your Bond thoroughly shaken-up and most definitely stirred then Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver is very much your next, thrilling, read. The twist in the tail disappoints but only because Deaver's masterly build-up of the flesh-crawling villain Severan Hydt was so full of foreboding and so vital to the whole suspense-filled plot, that to lose him - peremptorily I thought - took away the edge of expectation for the ultimate, surely had-to-be, horrifying denouement. One expected Hydt's villainous demise to be far more original than it turns out to be (others in the book meet far worse, less-deserved ends) leaving you with the strangely let-down feeling of his not being as terrible as he was built-up to be. James Bond though, in Deaver's hands, is everything in this modern concept you expect him to be: cold, ruthless and without mercy when it comes to his duty. In other words, Ian Fleming's hero to a tee. There was though an unexpected sensitivity in Deaver's Bond's dealings with women - at one point it seems he might even be falling in love with the deliciously-described and provocatively-named Ophelia Maidenstone. Does Bond have his Carte Blanche way with her? Read Jeffrey Deaver's excellent novel and discover!
[...] [...] Glover Wright on Kindle
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.
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 reader 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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