When we think of James Bond and his world, we picture the cinematic version: a man parachuting, guns blazing, into exotic locations; fancy clothes, big breasts, hard biceps and untrustworthy roulette wheels spinning amid an intoxicating blend of sexiness, sophistication and danger. Bond's creator, Ian Fleming (1908-1964), unwittingly laid the foundation within his novels for the movies' bombastic interpretation of Bond's character, though his writing presented a more reflective and at times darker protagonist.
Jeffery Deaver's Carte Blanche — the latest installment in the immortal franchise — brilliantly captures Fleming's bitten-off, occasionally distracted, Boy's Own style. The opening chapters take us straight into the action. A 30-something Bond is in Serbia, monitoring a nasty piece of work (an Irishman called Niall Dunne) and a dangerous piece of machinery (a train carrying a deadly cargo). When the operation goes wrong, Bond has to escape and get back to London.
GCHQ, the British equivalent of America's NSA, has intercepted a communication about a terrorist attack that will kill thousands of people and hurt British interests. Bond — the ladies man with a penchant for fast cars and rifle-shot quips — is given "carte blanche" to stop the attack. But other intelligence and security agencies in England hamper his progress, and it's not until he gets on the trail of an arch-baddy called Severan Hydt that Bond really hits his stride. What follows is a magnificently manic, impeccably researched and at times gory plot, with Deaver's trademark misdirection and twists flying.
Who cares whether Carte Blanche is realistic? For obvious reasons, most people don't understand what spy realism is. Secret operatives are, by nature, creatures who believe that anything is achievable. That psychological outlook was prevalent in the daring takedown of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs. The same outlook is evident in Deaver's terrifically exciting reincarnation of Fleming's hero.