A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bond is back

Forget the action and the beautiful women. The real appeal of James Bond for most men is reading about a guy who, while on the job, spends most of his time in excellent hotels, enjoying top-notch food and drink, all while experiencing minimal contact with the home office. A dream come true for most guys!

Jeffery Deaver understands this, and gives readers plenty of the above in Carte Blanche, his new Bond novel. In fact, he follows this classic Bond scenario so closely that the reboot/updating-the-character aspects of the book (much touted in the press) don't really register all that much. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Mr. Deaver was hired to produce an entertaining James Bond novel, with all the familiar beats we love about James Bond, and that's what he did.

The other new things Mr. Deaver brings to the table? A detailed plot that requires some genuine unraveling and a central antagonist that isn't just another smart, cultured gentleman with an evil plan (in other words, a darker version of James Bond). Some may find Severan Hydt, with his fetishy enthusiasm for death and decay, to be uncomfortably creepy for a Bond novel (I sometimes did), but I nonetheless appreciated Mr. Deaver's effort at creating a villain we haven't seen many times before in Bond stories.

For my own taste, there was perhaps too much mystery and not enough action and confrontation in Carte Blanche (yes, good action is more important to me than suggested at the outset). Mr. Deaver's story is fueled by questions: What are the plan or plans that need to be found out? Who is really behind them? How does this tie into that? Myself, I like to plainly know who the adversary is and what his or her master plan entails while there's still a good bit of book left, so I can enjoy watching Bond confront the villain and his cronies, and take their plan apart. While there certainly is action and confrontation in the book, the mystery unraveling goes pretty much right up to the end. Again, this is a matter of taste. Other readers may find this aspect of the book refreshing.

In the end, this is a fairly solid addition to the James Bond canon, maybe not as satisfying as the best of the post-Fleming novels by John Gardner and Raymond Benson (who, frankly, each had a string of Bond books to polish their approach), but absolutely engaging and entertaining. I'd look forward to another Bond novel by Mr. Deaver.

Carte Blanche is available on Kindle for $12.99.

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