James Bond is back. With an iPhone rip off, more apps than a 13 year old, a modern day reboot and a bad guy with an obsession with death that borders on a sexual fetish. This is what Bond fans have waited for and this is what Jeffery Deaver believes makes a great Bond novel. It doesn’t and it’s not.
No longer is James Bond a smooth but brash spy with a penchant for women, cars and gadgets. He is a spy who over sympathises with the men he is tasked to hunt down and a man who is, frankly, a shadow of everything that has come before. That isn’t to say that Carte Blanche (A phrase used to death by the author) is a terrible novel, it isn’t. It’s a great novel if the main character wasn’t called James Bond.
Deaver has seemingly destroyed everything that made Bond fans love the character. As a huge Bond fan myself I looked forward to the release of Carte Blanche, more so after I found out that Deaver had been brought on to write it. But what do we get after months of waiting? An author trying so hard to be British that his writing comes off terribly jarring. We know that Bond is British, there’s no need to drop in Sainsbury’s and Jeremy Clarkson into the book.
So, we have a castrated James Bond who is investigating somebody called Noah, who wants to kill a number of people that will revolve around British interests. This leads Bond to investigate a man called Severan Hydt who has an obsession with death and decay. His right hand man is a gentleman called Niall Dunn, who is a mastermind in tactics and indispensible to Hydt. Dunn is in fact such a good bad guy; one has to wonder why Deaver shunted him down to the role of a heavy.
I may be in a minority (or may not be) but I like my Bond bad guys to be megalomaniacs who hold the world to ransom with death rays in space, etc. Not someone who gets his jollies off by taking pictures of dead people. It doesn’t fit. Much like the forced reboot and bringing Bond into the 21st century with iPhone (Qphone, that’s right) in hand. The use of this iPhone rip off feels like lazy writing. If Bond is in trouble he’s bound to have an app to fix it. It’s an instant answer to the question nobody asked.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. Deavers vision of Moneypenny and M are superb and feel like coming home. His use of location can also excite and he has quite obviously done his research as old characters drop in for cameos. But, there it ends and its back to fixing that which isn’t broken.
The story is told with a pace that Deaver is known for which ranges from slow to seat of the pants with nothing in between. And in his usual style there are far too many plot twists. I sound jaded? I am. Since when would James Bond, the epitome of British drive a Bentley Continental? When would James Bond not pull the trigger on his licence to kill and aim for the arm?
It’s a good book, if the novels main character was called Fisty McPunch. There’s plenty of intrigue, action and suspense but this is meant to be a James Bond book and it just doesn’t fit the template… no matter how much you tamper with it.
Carte Blanche is available now and was kindly sent by the publisher.