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The Telegraph 'reviews' Carte Blanche, four stars

25-May-2011 • Literary

Jeremy Jehu of The Telegraph reviews Jeffrey Deaver's 'Carte Blanche' the first James Bond novel to be written by an American author.

It was a bold move to invite Jeffrey Deaver to write another James Bond novel after he declared his childhood love of Fleming. There have been other Fleming impersonators, including Kingsley Amis and Sebastian Faulks, but the author of The Bone Collector is the biggest international name to take the job. He is also one of the world’s smoothest, most devious, thriller writers – a far better craftsman than Fleming, in fact.

So could he assume Fleming’s identity rather than write another Jeffery Deaver novel only with a hero called Bond? And could he, for that matter, resist thriller publishing’s current obsession with relentless action inspired by the success of the Bourne movie franchise – and indeed Quantum Of Solace?

The answers are emphatically “Yes”. He simply knocks five decades off the ages of 007’s old posse and presents them as they were introduced in the 1950s, their distinctive characters pleasingly intact.

Rebooted here as an Afghanistan veteran, Bond is more love-lorn metrosexual than opportunist seducer but he sports a Rolex, dresses flashily and drives a Bentley Continental GT – a footballer’s car but faithful to Fleming’s 007 whose Continental was pimped beyond recognition

Hopelessly addicted to his Q Branch smartphone (an “iQPhone”), this “rebooted” James Bond can barely cross a room without banging off an update to his “followers.” But for the Official Secrets Act, he’d be 007:Licensed To Tweet.

Yet Ian Fleming purists who agonise over each new incarnation of Bond can shake a celebratory martini and light up a Morland’s if they dare (Deaver’s Bond doesn’t: he can still drink his bodyweight, but the ciggies are history). The iQPhone’s starring role is one of mercifully few concessions to the book’s contemporary setting.

Deaver preserves his book’s timeless feel by largely ignoring modern geopolitics and pitting Bond against a traditionally barking villain, a necrophiliac billionaire with a silly name. The action trots the globe with the grubby intimacy – “it’s Cape Town, but it’s a rubbish tip in Cape Town” – of the books, not the films.

Deaver adds a series of twists that reveal a Bond with more Sherlockian intelligence than Fleming’s. But it’s his everlasting mobile battery rather than his brains that will leave many readers most envious.

Rating: * * * *

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