Sunday, 26 February 2012

"Carte Blanche," by Jeffery Deaver

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

I have been loaned this book by a friend (thanks, Bill!), who knows that I enjoy Jeffery Deaver's novels.  A couple of years back we were both lucky enough to attend a talk and signing that Deaver did, rather incongrously, in our local Devon library when promoting "The Sleeping Doll."  He gave an entertaining talk and seemed very charming for a man who writes about gruesome murders, so I am always interested in reading a new book by him (although I tend to prefer the Lincoln Rhyme series, and still think that "The Bone Collector" was his best).

In 2004, Jeffery Deaver won the Crime Writers' Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, and spoke in his acceptance speech about his love of Ian Fleming's Bond novels.  This speech led the Ian Fleming's estate to approach him about writing a Bond novel, and "Carte Blanche" is the result. 

Deaver's novel opens with Bond on an ill-fated mission in Serbia which pits him against amoral and ruthless Niall Dunne.  The events in Serbia are Bond's only lead to an attack that is planned later in the week - Incident Twenty - which promises to result in casualties in the thousands.  The investigation leads Bond to recycling magnate Severan Hydt, Dunne's employer, who at first appearance is a legitimate businessman - but Bond suspects that something more nefarious is going on, and trails him to Dubai. In a sub-plot, another intercept dredges up an old mystery surrounding the suspicious death of Bond's parents.

Bill would probably be a better person than me to write this post, as he is both a fan of Jeffery Deaver and Ian Fleming.  I come from the less knowledgeable position of having enjoyed Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme novels, but having read little Bond (I think I read a couple when I was a teenager, including "Casino Royale" which I thought was great, but don't have clear memories of them).  I enjoy the films, but have little knowledge of the original conception of Bond as written by Ian Fleming, so I am not qualified to discourse on how well Deaver's Bond compares to the original.

I hope that for readers like me, who aren't Bond fanatics, this novel will also work as a strong story. I enjoyed it as I enjoy Jeffery Deaver's crime novels, as he is very good at crafting an engrossing plot that draws in the reader.  For Bond fans, Deaver throws in all the Bond ingredients that I associate with the films: fast cars; gadgets; sexy women with whom Bond can variously get off or not quite get it on; kinky sociopaths and exotic locations (Serbia, Dubai and Cape Town).  Bond is suitably sexy, ruthless, and just damaged enough to take the edge off and show some humanity beneath the trained killer. 

It will be of no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I read this with Jeremy Northam - who read a couple of John Gardner's Bond novels as audiobooks - in my head as Bond.  However, now that the the Bond films are running short on Ian Fleming plots to adapt, Deaver's story is strongly plotted and compelling enough to make a future film (hopefully with Daniel Craig who, despite my initial misgivings, makes a great Bond).  And maybe, at some point, I should investigate some of Ian Flemings original novels...


  1. It is interesting to read your review of Carte Blanche - its something that is on my reading radar but I think unless I pick it up in a charity shop for a song then I won't be investing. I am just not convinced. Like you, I prefer the Lincoln Rhyme and have yet to get my teeth into the Katheryn Dance books. I am too scared to read the copy I got signed so will be listening to it instead. Carte Blanche regularly pops up on the audible page as a popular/best selling book but the reviews on amazon from what I recall are mixed. That puts me off. If you had to give it stars for the following categories, what would you give it ? one star for rubbish, five for outstanding ?

    Could not put it down?
    Read well?
    Good Plot?
    Enjoyed it?

  2. I rated it on Goodreads as 4 stars overall. For me, 3 is an OK book, 4 one that I really enjoyed and a 5 is a damn good book. I think I can be quite harsh with my ratings, so even a 4 is quite rare with me. I found "Carte Blanche" hard to put down, which was a nice experience as before "The Dunwich Horror" I had a run of a few books that I felt a little bit more meh about.

    Mark did get "Carte Blanche" from Audible, but we never finished listening to it. I got into it more on paper than I did on audio - though that might be because Mark tends to listen to audiobooks while going to sleep, so if I fall asleep first my experience of the book can be rather fragmented.

    I did read my signed Kathryn Dance - carefully - but didn't enjoy it as much as I do the Lincoln Rhyme series.