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Olen Steinhauer's latest novel, The Nearest Exit features former CIA agent Milo Weaver, whose story began in the New York Times bestselling thriller, The Tourist. His previous work includes a pentalogy of thrillers set during the Cold War, beginning with The Bridge of Sighs and concluding with Victory Square.
How do you bring a character created in 1953 into the modern world without disappointing that character’s millions of followers in the process? This was the challenge faced by Jeffery Deaver when Ian Fleming Publications handed him the responsibility of writing the next official James Bond novel, Carte Blanche. I don’t know how I would have done it, but I do know one thing—Deaver, a specialist in the art of crafting nail-biting suspense, has done it better than I ever could have.
It’s a tightrope walk, balancing the tradition with the requirements of contemporary life, and Deaver handles it with panache. Beautiful women with unlikely but mesmerizing names? Check. (See Ophelia Maidenstone and Felicity Willing.) A top-drawer set of wheels with occasional soliloquies to its grace and power? Check. (The Bentley Continental GT coupé, in this case.) M, Moneypenny, Mary Goodnight, Bill Tanner, Felix Leiter? Check on all counts. A drink on hand that requires extra care from a bartender, but has yet to be named? Check. License to kill? Check, but under a different name: carte blanche.
How about the subtly and unsubtly perverse villains? Naturally, and they come in two sharply defined forms: Niall Dunne, "The Irishman," a brilliant tactician who brings to mind From Russia With Love’s Kronsteen, and his boss, Severan Hydt, the head of a global refuse-collection empire, whose love of decay in all its forms borders on necrophilia. Time spent with Hydt will make you long for a shower.
But what the Fleming aficionado will inevitably notice here are the differences, which turn this latest escapade into what feels, and should feel, like one of those things that are very popular these days: a reboot.
James Bond, a veteran of Afghanistan, is an ex-smoker. Despite run-ins with an MI5 twit named Percy Osborne-Smith, this Bond is more of a team player than I remember him ever being. But where one really notices the encroachment of the contemporary world is in his relations with women. James Bond has become . . . sensitive?
Actually, yes, but never to the point of priggishness. The hard Bond remains, but it’s a different world than it was in 1953, and the women in Carte Blanche—the Bond girls, if you will—are of equal measure to the men. Ophelia Maidenstone, a coworker at ODG (Overseas Development Group, tenuously connected to MI6), besides being ravishingly beautiful, is indispensible—without her, Bond would be dead in the water. And when romance begins to bloom between them we find that, even after he’s left town, she remains, haunting his thoughts so much that after a night with another woman Bond feels, of all unlikely things, guilt.
If this seems very un-Bond, it is, but it’s a testament to Deaver’s strength as a storyteller that the reader so easily accepts that this is Fleming’s world 2.0, and it’s just as dangerous and exciting as it was when Le Chiffre glared from across a card table.
Don’t run from this new world, aficionado, for you’ll be rewarded. Not only with a gripping installment, but with a fascinating subplot concerning Bond’s parents, one that not only piques the reader’s interest but, by the end of the novel, begs for a continuation in the next Bond adventure. This new Bond may be a modern man, but his roots are deep in the past, and if Carte Blanche is any indication, the past will soon catch up with him. I, for one, will gladly be on hand to witness that confrontation.
"A magnificently manic, impeccably researched and at times gory plot, with Deaver’s trademark misdirection and twists flying."—The Washington Post
"His creator may be long gone, but James Bond (with his gadgets, women, and suave lines) lives on in the skillful hands of a suspense superstar."—Malcolm Jones, Newsweek Magazine, "10 Must-Read Summer Books"
"Ian Fleming’s estate tapped American novelist Deaver to pen a new James Bond thriller, and the pairing is as smooth as vodka and vermouth. Yes, the villains are creepy and the women brainy and beautiful, but in a clever reboot, this 007 (who served in Afghanistan) comes armed with a tricked-out cell phone and an appealing sense of empathy."—Parade
"Ian Fleming's estate made a superb choice when it turned to thriller writer Jeffery Deaver for this summer's James Bond reboot Carte Blanche. . . . Familiar touches about, from M and Moneypenny to exotic locales. Then, too, Deaver adds a knowing wink . . . A spry spy bash not to be missed.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Carte Blanche is a fantastic book. . . . Deaver knows psychology and it shines here. Moreover, he knows human relationships . . . as [Ian Fleming’s stepdaughter] best summarized it, Jeffery Deaver truly got it.”—Ann Arbor News
“A page-turning, action packed rip-roaring novel with plenty of twists and surprises.”—Durham Herald-Sun
“Deaver, if anything, has written a 007 thriller that is superior to the best of Fleming.”—San Jose Mercury News
“Jeffery Deaver accepted one of the greatest literary challenges of the new millennium when he agreed to write a new James Bond novel. . . . With Carte Blanche, [he] somehow manages to spin a top-notch 21st-century spy thriller while both respecting Bond and reinventing him.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“This terrific new pastiche will amply reward Bond fans and possibly bring new readers into the fold. Deaver (Edge), an avowed fan of the Fleming canon, has set the novel in the post-9/11 present, and Bond, that icon of the 1960s, handles the transition perfectly. . . . The plot is predictable in a purely Bond-ian way (credibly incredible), but also intricate and inventive, surprising and satisfying—a testament to Deaver’s skill as a storyteller. . . . Fleming purists may balk at the hint of a New Age sensitivity in Deaver's Bond, but they will recognize one of the world's most enduring fictional characters: competent, courageous, charming, and cool.”—Publishers Weekly
“Deaver, as fans of his Lincoln Rhyme and Kathryn Dance thrillers would expect, has clearly done his homework. . . . the most impressive feature of Carte Blanche is the ingenuity of the breathless, blood-thirsty plot. A master of misdirection, Deaver manufactures more surprises than anyone flogging an old warhorse can be expected to produce. . . . Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Sebastian Faulks are among those who have tried to bring Bond back to life. Deaver, though, is in a class of his own: nobody's done it better.”—The Evening Standard (London)
TGood read with unexpected twists but did not think the locations were as sexy as other bond books. And all the trashPublished 1 month ago by ss
Nowhere near the book I was hoping for. Can anyone write a good modern-day Bond novel? It would seem not. At least no one seems able to write one that suits my tastes.Published 1 month ago by Zatoichi 007
Good attempt at a new James Bond story. Jeffery Deaver is a good writer on his own.Published 2 months ago by Kris P.
Deaver has been contracted to write the latest official James Bond novel, so all of the beloved characters are here. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Joe Da Rold
Maybe I am not a "Bond type" of a person. This book written by one of my favorite authors, failed to impress me. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Dr. Rash
3 stars due to the relative rarity of Bond novels so you take what you can get but this wasn't up to Fleming or Benson standards.Published 5 months ago by DC