Carte Blanche: The New James Bond Novel by Jeffery Deaver (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. 432 pp)
Born outside Chicago, Jeffery Deaver earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Fordham University. Prior to becoming a bestselling author, Deaver was a journalist, folksinger and attorney. Having written thirty books, Deaver has won numerous awards. For The Bodies Left Behind, he won Novel of the Year from the International Thriller Writers Association; The Cold Moon was named Book of the Year by the Mystery Writers Association of Japan and the Grand Prix Award. Additionally, he has received the Steel Dagger and Short Story Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association and the Nero Wolfe Award.

Old History and New Beginnings

When James Bond first stepped onto the pop-culture stage, the Cold War was in full effect. Ian Flemming created the character in 1953, and 007 stopped a speeding Serbian train loaded with hazardous chemicals. No tricky gadgets, no iphone app. Bond was a man’s man and a predecessor to MacGyver, without the cheesy mullet.
However, as the Cold War drew to an end, James Bond’s enemies fell from view. With no clear enemy in sight, the Bond series fell into disrepair. But, with the dawn of the insurmountable enemy that is global terrorism, James Bond came upon the scene again. Jeffrey Deaver, an American, tells a new tale of the technically supreme James Bond.

Homage

Perhaps in homage to the 1953 James Bond, Deaver starts the novel by having James Bond stop a train with hazardous chemicals on board.  

“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…his imagination told him the noise was the metal containers of the deadly chemical in car number three, jostling against one another, at risk of spewing forth their poison. Nonsense, he told himself and concentrated on keeping the speed steady. Then, for no reason at all, except that it made him feel better, he tugged at the air horn” (3-4).

With trains hauling deadly chemicals, this novel starts the way every other bond tome begins. Not until later in the novel do we meet the new James Bond.

The Villain

Severan Hydt (Severan seems to always be a name indicative of evil – Harry Potter’s Severan Snape certainly alludes to this fact as well) is not your typical villain – he’s concerned about the environment, and also has a penchant for photographing dead bodies. Hydt is also responsible for spreading fear by threatening to inflict the Gehenna attacks, an unknown event that will place thousands of British lives in danger. The trick is that this threat is unknown; Bond and MI5 are trying to find both the details and the location of the attack.

“Estimated initial casualties in the thousands, British interests adversely affected, funds transfers as discussed” (156).

As the novel unfolds, the message becomes clearer,

“Confirm incident friday night, 20th, estimated initial casualties in the thousands” (366).

Using a typical spy cover as an arms dealer, Bond is able to infiltrate Hydt’s base of operations in South Africa in order to ascertain more about the scenario. While undercover, he forms a relationship with a policewoman named Bheka Jordaan in order to try to investigate the work of Hydt.

Knighthood

James Bond is a knight – simply driven by the knight’s code of right versus wrong and honor versus dishonor. He is willing to sacrifice himself, and to exercise his “carte blanche” when he needs to. “Carte blanche”, or the ability to operate outside of the law is something that Bond always struggles with in light of his knightly values. He always is curious:  “at what point do I become just like the enemy if I continue operating outside of the law?”

Fast Food

All in all, Carte Blanche is a good book. I’ll liken it to fast food; it’s amazing, and you know it. But, you really don’t want (or at the very least shouldn’t want) a quarter pounder with cheese every day. If you do, I strongly urge you to seek medical attention soon, as your heart may have already stopped several times. 


So, read it. Aside from the current global events that provide an intriguing setting for our hero, don’t expect any life changing revelations, or some moralistic platitudes. But, you can expect a novel that delivers James Bond, and with the lack of Double-Oh-Seven films lately, no one can really blame you. If some good, indulgent fast food interests you, read Carte Blanche.
Verdict: 3 out of 5


Andrew Jacobson is the director of Choral Studies at Bellevue Christian School in Bellevue, WA. He holds an M.M. in Music Education from Boston University, as well as a B.M. in Music Education from the University of Washington. He loves wine, food, reading, music, and movies. You can reach him via email at arjacobson@gmail.com.

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