Sunday, May 29, 2011
Carte Blanche, By Jeffery Deaver
The Independent on Sunday, 29 May 2011
Aaah Bond, you're back. We've missed you. Fans of 007 had been left high and dry in recent years, with MGM's financial troubles putting the production of the latest cinematic outing by Daniel Craig on hold, and without any new novels since Ian Fleming Publications Ltd authorised the publication of Sebastian Faulks's 2008 spin in the Bondmobile, Devil May Care.
Despite Devil May Care becoming the publisher's fastest selling hardback title ever, the reins have since been handed to the Chicago-born US thriller writer Jeffery Deaver. With 27 novels and 20 million book sales under his belt, there's no questioning Deaver's mass-market appeal, but would his Bond feel like the spy we know and love? Bond is, after all, the most British of heroes, despite his unnerving capacity to regenerate in different eras more proficiently than the Doctor himself.
The new novel's opening pages suggest that a classic Bond is with us once again. There is a Serbian train derailment and 007 is on the scene and at the centre of the action – and still home in time for three and a half hours sleep before his alarm wakes him in his Chelsea mews. What follows is a borderline pastiche of the "dashing spy has breakfast" scene. More reminiscent of Len Deighton's Ipcress File coffee and eggs scene – and Michael Caine's interpretation of it – the text is suddenly awash with premium brands. (Seven on one page.) The heart sinks and the stomach churns at the memory of the Bond movies' ever-increasing corporate sponsorship. Is this where we're heading?
Mercifully, no. Because, while Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme thrillers provide an almost forensic street-by-street description of New York (your reviewer may have got out Google Maps while reading them, on occasion), Deaver's London feels just as real. As Bond's Bentley eases its way along the gentrified streets of Marylebone or the bleak expanses of the Docklands, the reader relaxes, in safe hands.