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Carte Blanche

by Jeffery Deaver

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Carte Blanche: The New James Bond Novel
© Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster, 2011

James Bond is back! He is the same James Bond we have come to know since Casino Royale in 1953, but with some slight differences. He does not shoot as fast as we have come to expect from the movies. (Let's admit it; most of us know Bond from the last 50 years of movies and not from Ian Fleming's superb novels.) This Bond's attitude toward women is softer and more complicated. He is younger, still learning his trade in many ways. Regardless of where Bond is he has access to someone who can help him in a most timely manner.

Yet, he is still James Bond, 007. He has carte blanche to complete the mission assigned to him. "We protect the Realm... by any means necessary" is the guiding principle for the Overseas Development Group. Bond works within the ODG, a covert arm of British security. While capturing the essence of Bond, Jeffery Deaver (The Burning Wire, The Broken Window) has brought his signature stamp to this new and riveting novel. The twists and turns that we have come to appreciate from Deaver are here in full force even as we continue to hear the voice of Fleming in the characters Deaver has created.
The antithesis to Bond is a villain as diabolical, devious, and formidable as Dr. No or Goldfinger. Severan Hydt owns Greenway, a demolition and disposal company that collects and recycles rubbish. The "rubbish" he collects extends far beyond the norm to include human bodies. Hydt is enthralled by decay and dying. His secretary, for example, is a former beauty queen in her early 60s. He does not permit her to wear makeup and forces her to dress in drab black and white. Her wrinkles enhance his lust.

Carte Blanche takes place over six days, moving from the countryside of Serbia, to London to Dubai to Cape Town. The fast-paced opening section in Serbia sets the tone and narrative conflicts that eventually play out in Cape Town. Bond has learned that an operation called "Gehenna" will take place on Friday. But, where in the world will it happen? Who is friend and who is foe? The pace and the unraveling of the obfuscation increase in intensity as Friday nears and Bond runs into roadblock after roadblock.
Of course, there are beautiful, buxom women, exotic drinks, and gadgets, the latter being updated to the coming computer age. There is a woman with a name that Bond finds "amusing" - Felicity Willing. Moneypenny has a very brief appearance. Philly Maidenstone, a colleague, may be the woman with whom Bond can settle down. He has created his personal drink: double Crown Royal on ice with a half measure of triple sec, two dashes of Angostura, a twist of orange peel, not a slice. His choices in wine are impeccable. The gadgets are futuristic. When Bond assumes a false identity, he puts his real information into a "large carbon-fiber envelope with an electronic lock on the flap." If a stranger tries to open it, it would send a message to ODG which would then send a message to Bond notifying him that his cover had been compromised. At one point while in Cape Town, ODG creates a new identity for Bond that includes a complete, extensive Internet history and an office with "workers."

Carte Blanche is an excellent addition to Ian Fleming's James Bond. The plot and characterizations are consistent and believable. Those who only know Bond from the movies may be surprised that a book can so effectively capture the derring-do portrayed on the big screen. Those who know Bond from the Fleming canon will find a novel that he might have written. Fans of Jeffery Deaver will enjoy a novel that includes the best of his signature twists and turns along the road to resolution. You will not see the ultimate resolution of a number of plot lines until the last moments.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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