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by Jeffrey Deaver
Hodder & Stoughton, May 2012
512 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 144471645X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Thriller writer, Jeffrey Deaver, follows numerous other authors who have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to assume the mantle of Bond's creator, Ian Fleming. But unlike his predecessors, Deaver presents a thoroughly modern Bond, working in a post 9/11 world, recruited by a secret government agency, the Overseas Development Group (ODG), which operates independently of military intelligence and the Ministry of Defence.

Bond retains his familiar 00 status, which means he is licensed to kill, although the ODG prefers to keep him on a relatively short leash when he's operating in the UK, which he refers to as more a carte grise than carte blanche, but that soon changes. The action starts in Serbia, when Bond foils a perceived plot to derail a train carrying a deadly chemical, and pits Bond against Irishman, Niall Dunne.

Back in the UK, after having to leave Serbia in rather a hurry when the powers that be objected to his treatment of one of their agents, Bond is tasked with investigating Incident Twenty and a shadowy figure known only as Noah. The action takes place, as it often does in Deaver's books, over a very short space of time, and Bond soon finds himself having to unravel a terrorist plot that threatens to leave hundreds dead. No Bond book would be complete without a good romp around the world and a villain with some unusual characteristics and Deaver delivers the goods on both counts. After some dark deeds in a disused factory in the UK, Bond heads to South Africa in pursuit of recycling supremo, Severan Hydt, a man who has a deep and macabre fascination for the process of natural decay.

The James Bond that Deaver brings to life is an entirely contemporary hero who translates well to the modern setting. The background in the recycling industry is extremely topical and the plot has enough twists and turns to successfully conceal the true nature of the terrorist threat as the book proceeds at a fast pace through five days in 007's complicated life.

Some familiar faces people the pages of CARTE BLANCHE, including Bond's boss, M, Q section and their helpful gadgets, Miss Moneypenny and Mary Goodnight, and help ground the book in its own past. There is no doubt at all that Deaver can write a good thriller, but the question that has to be answered is can he write a good Bond book? In my opinion, yes he can. My only criticism of the book is that in comparison to those written by Fleming and his other successors, CARTE BLANCHE is overly long, and could easily have been slimmed down to speed up the action and create more of the usual feel of a Bond book, but that is a minor niggle about an otherwise enjoyable read. I was glad of the modern setting. Bond is too alive to remain forever frozen in time.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, June 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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