007 has “Carte Blanche”

Jeffrey Deaver is known for his terrific stories about quadriplegic forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme and his eyes, ears, and lover Amanda Sachs. The stories and characters are complex. Just as Ian Fleming’s James Bond is a complex creature who risks all for what he believes, and breaks a few hearts along the way. However in his “Carte Blanche” Deaver sets out to replicate 007 as a modern 2011 James Bond. Do you like him as much? I didn’t, but you might.

Casino Royale, Fleming’s introduction of 007, begins like this:

The scent of smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul erosion produced by high gambling – a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension – becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

This is world class Fleming – setting the mood for his hero to enter stage right.

Deaver weaves a serviceable tale, but without the literary trappings of the original James Bond series. With his opening line, you know what is going to happen in the first chapter.

His hand on the dead-man throttle, the driver of the Serbian Rail diesel felt the thrill he always did on this particular stretch of railway, heading north from Belgrade and approaching Novi Sad.

When Fleming’s Bond introduces himself to a woman or the villain the author takes a graph or two to set the scene. Whether it’s a chance meeting on a golf course, or over a martini (shaken not stirred) in a smoky bar in the Caribbean, the line “Bond, James Bond” sends chills down the reader’s spine.

Deaver’s 007 throws the line away on a snobbish British bureaucrat who has just walked into the spy’s office. Deaver uses Fleming’s pen to create the character, but misses his mark. The story is modern, no Aston Martin or shaken martini’s in this novel (did Bentley pay for product placement?) and bourbon? OMG!!! This is a thoroughly modern Bond who picks up his clothes so he won’t upset his housekeeper and checks a ring finger before flirting with a beautiful woman.

The protagonists are terrorists (or are they) and everything is as PC as possible. Fleming’s Bond would be amazed at what the Britain he protected during the 50′s and 60′s had become.

Deaver takes 400 pages to get the villain, most of Fleming’s books are about 200 pages or so.

Should you read it? Of course. Just remember, it’s a story following characters you sort of know, seen through the eyes of a third party. Horrible? No, just enough different to worry you a bit.

And for your Lincoln Rhyme fans, check out the similarities between Amanda’s love for speed and Philly’s motorcycle prowess.

JVH

 

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