I haven’t read a Bond novel since I was a teen, and then it was only those written by his creator, Ian Fleming. Since Fleming’s death in 1964 many writers have written adventures for Bond. Jeffrey Deaver’s volume is much thicker than a Fleming book running to some 470 pages. Deaver’s bond is passionate about Bentleys (there are no Astons or Lotuses in this book) and he has a Racing Green Jaguar E-Type in his garage a legacy from his father. He doesn’t drive the Jaguar in this book, he drives a Bentley Continental GT about England with a careless disregard for the speed limits, in South Africa he even gets rather attached to a Subaru.
In the films Pierce Brosnan is my favourite Bond, but Deaver’s, I imagine more like Daniel Craig with his steely eyes. Deaver is clearly a fan of Bond, in an afterword, Deaver writes about this almost as though he is trying to justify his credentials. The book has the elements of a typical Bond story: fast cars, strangely named women (like Felicity Willing), guns, brands, wry humour, fancy gadgets, a villainous mastermind or two and some exotic locales.
The action moves from Serbia to England to Dubai to South Africa. The “Carte Blanche” of the title refers to James Bond’s permission to do what he wants to succeed in his mission. When in England this is more restricted and there is some joking that he only has a “Carte Grise” in UK.
M regarded him evenly. “I know you’re used to having carte blanche to handle the mission as you see fit, 007….But at home your authority is limited. Significantly.”
So, no longer carte blanche, Bond reflected angrily, more carte grise.
After a hundred pages on English soil, where he almost meets a grisly end from a bulldozer in Cambridgeshire, Bond is once more abroad and his carte blanche restored.
Carte Blanche is an update of Fleming’s Bond for the 21st Century. Now, Bond has apps on his phone to help him follow the baddie’s car, for instance, and Bond no longer chain smokes though he still drinks . The women are less eye candy (though still attractive) and more useful resourceful allies in catching the baddies, though some may be working on the other side. Like a good thriller there are twists and many brushes with death for our hero. I think the book could have been slimmed down, the back story of James’ parents and the Silver Cartridge, though interesting to the Bond geek weren’t necessary for this story, like the E-Type left in the garage.
My rating : 4 out of 5