• CARTE BLANCHE by Jeffrey Deaver

    Ian Fleming famously created the character of James Bond, 007 in 1953 with him as a WW2 veteran in the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy. The 007 prefix meant he was ‘Licensed to Kill’.

    Jeffrey Deaver has taken Bond and moved him into the modern era. This character is born in 1979, a veteran of Afghanistan, still a Commander, though in the Royal Naval Reserve. The new Bond works for a new organisation called the Overseas Development Group, which was brought into existence following 9/11 and sits somewhere between MI5 and MI6. The mission of ODG is “To protect the Realm – by any means necessary!”. So the time zone and organisation have changed from the original character but many traits remain; Bond’s love of good living, beautiful women and Bentley cars are all present in abundance! Some things are also still in place; the boss is still a crusty old Admiral known as ‘M’, Miss Monypenny is still M’s secretary and Q Branch still comes up with new ‘toys’. However, Bond has his own PA now, who just happens to be uber efficient, blonde, beautiful and very protective of Bond.

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    This is not a case of son taking of son taking over the father’s role although throughout the book there are bits about his father, Andrew Bond’s, job which took him out of the country often. This becomes a background theme to the book as Bond starts to think that his father may have been a mole working for Russia.

    The plot: Bond has just returned from Serbia where he has stopped a terrorist attack on a train carrying poisonous materials, which the terrorists had intended to let flow into the Danube. Word has reached the ears of M that there is going to be an incident involving many deaths and in which British interests will be affected. Bond is tasked to investigate. However, as Bond is not allowed to carry firearms in UK the lead for the investigation has to go to Percy Osborne-Smith, an officer from Division 3 at the Yard with Bond having a ‘consulting role’. Not a happy place for our James. As ever the plots in James Bond books run very quickly, and this is no different.

    The main suspect is a Dutch national, Severan Hydt who has made millions from a waste recycling company called Green Way International. Hydt has an assistant, an ex-sapper called Dunne. Hydt is a creepy character who delights and is sexually aroused by death and decay. He is in a 40s yet maintains a mistress over 60 who he keeps so that he can watch the decay in her. Spooky. His sidekick Dunne is the epitome of efficiency, ex-sapper with a penchant for blowing things up! If Dunne says it will happen, it does.

    Bond interprets information received about GWI differently from Div 3 so goes off on a tangent sending Div 3 on a wild goose chase while Bond shots off to Oxford and an old army hospital which is being destroyed, where he is almost killed by a bulldozer demolishing part of the building he is in. Following Hydt and Dunne takes Bond to Dubai where he meets up with his CIA pal Felix Leiter, another character resurrected from old Bond stories. Bond tracks Hydt to a workshop where a specialised waste disposal machine has been built. The machine can take computers and laptops, strip them of their recyclable parts and securely dispose of the data in the hard drive. It can also disassemble human beings as well, as Bond finds out! At this point Hydt and Bond have still to meet face to face. The trail leads to South Africa where the main action of the story takes place.

    I have said quite a bit so far but have not even started to get to the meat of the story. Deaver has written a tight novel, with plenty of characters with a bit of depth to them while at the same time keeping a stream of bit players like M, Leiter, Bond’s parents all bubbling away in the story.

    South Africa. Bond jets into Cape Town on the trail of Hydt and Dunne who have extensive business interests in RSA. He is met at the airport by Captain Bheka Jordan of the South African police. I thought I might just mention that Bheka is black and beautiful and resistant to Bond’s charm, initially! Bond, who has not met Hydt face to face, takes on the persona of a mercenary in Africa with connections with countries where genocide has taken place and puts an offer to Hydt to use GWI to clean up the bodies from these mass graves thus removing the evidence against the perpetrators. Hydt is interested, death and decay being his attractions, and while he is thinking this over asks Bond to a fund raising function for a charity which ensures that food reaches the war torn areas of Africa. This organisation is run by Felicity Willing (yes I know) who just happens to be blonde and beautiful. Bond pulls!

    The time is running out for the expected terrorist attack which has been code named Gehenna by the terrs. Bond’s bosses back in UK think that he is on a wild goose chase and want Bond to close down what he is doing and move to Afghanistan where they believe the source of this attack is. As ever JB resists this and carries on with his investigation, uncovering the fact that an attack will take place in York. He relays this back to London but is over-ruled by Osborne-Smith who thinks the attack will be against a conference of senior security personnel from around the world taking place in London. There is another intriguing wee side-plot involving the local spy-in-residence – the book is full of sub-plots but they do not detract from the story, rather they add to it.

    The action moves to the GWI recycling plant where a denouement takes place and Hydt is cornered. Dunne escapes. The plot is foiled and Bond returns to Cape Town for tea and medals. Not so, says Deaver who still has some excitement up his sleeve and the action moves to a mountain top restaurant (well it was on a hill) where Bond and Dunne face each other and shoot it out. Here is where Deaver’s ultimate twist and the real cause of all the angst is discovered. Read the book to find out what that is!

    Deaver has put together a very good and readable action thriller, very much in the Bond style of Ian Fleming. If you are a Bond fan then this is a must for you.

    I do have a couple of negatives though. Deaver is a citizen of the USA and this comes out in a couple of places in the book. This did not really put me off and it is fun picking out the ‘Americanisms’ but there is one I can’t forgive as it should have been so easy for the writer to check and certainly his proof readers. Early in the book M is being described and he is being driven around by his driver in his Rolls Royce – the driver is a Navy corporal! OK, may have meant Marine, but it jarred a bit. The other bits are really the way in which these ‘isms’ have now moved into our way of speaking. This is not Fleming’s Bond, this is a re-vamped Bond, a man of his era, right now. 30 years of age and set in the time. Deaver has not made the mistake that others have done of trying to fit JB into an era that he was not really part of. He has re-located him, but with a lot of the old bits still there.

    Deaver keeps sub-plots running throughout the book and the one regarding Bond’s father, his status as a mole/spy, why he died in a mountaineering accident are explained. All adds to a good story.

    This was a good book, easy to read, well written with humour and a good, fast paced plot. The baddies were indeed ‘bad’ and as always Bond is on hand to deal with them and to save world peace.

    I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good spy/thriller story.

    4 out of 5 Winos from me.

    Auld Yin

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    Comments 2 Comments
    1. bigbird67's Avatar
      bigbird67 -
      Tis DEAVER not Dreaver m'love!! His Lincoln Rhyme series are fab...one being The Bone Collector
    1. Auld_Yin's Avatar
      Auld_Yin -
      mea culpa! Thanks for pointing out such a fox's paw!