I suppose Carte Blanche is what they call a beach book: The kind you might enjoy, but keep on the down-low lest others accuse you of reading lowbrow crap.
It is lowbrow crap, of course, just as all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels were. And maybe it’s worse that this one wasn’t even written by Fleming. Somehow, Jeffrey Deaver – the author of stuff like The Bone Collector and The Edge – got the nod to resurrect one of the most famous fictional characters of all time. So Bond is back, this time with a souped-up iPhone and a vague record of service in Afghanistan.
Except for that, everything else you remember from a Bond book is there: the preposterous names for his femmes fatale, the preposterous motivations of his villains, his preposterous escapes from preposterous situations. He knows his firearms. He dresses impeccably. He knows his cars and his liquor. Sometimes it’s too much. Look, I know Bond is not going to be driving a PT Cruiser, but don’t you agree that a Bentley Continental GT coupé might attract undue attention to a guy who’s supposed to be a secret agent? Instead of duplicating all the aspects of the original Bond, I wish Deaver had moved the series in a darker, more realistic direction. Kind of like they did with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
But yes, I did read it, and I did finish it. The story moves along, which is more than I can say for other things I’ve read recently. It was on the Nook so I didn’t have to worry about keeping the cover hidden.
Good points: An arresting beginning. Well-paced action. A plot that allows a couple of nice twists at the end. One semi-interesting female character that Bond does not take to bed.
Bad points: Bond’s gadgets seem more a convenience to the writer than to the secret agent. Deaver’s slavish adherence to the conventions of a Bond novel veers into cliché more than once. I, for one, would welcome less information on how Bond mixes his cocktails.
Bottom line: If you still need something to take to the beach, you could do worse.