Unable to keep the flame alive

2011-08-03 00:00

THIS is the second outing for Bond since the relaunch of the book franchise by the Ian Fleming estate that ­began with the much-heralded, Devil May Care, commissioned from literary writer Sebastian Faulks.

Though Faulks got a lot right — ­super-bad villain, plus the Fleming mix of sex, sadism and snobbery — he lost interest halfway, and settled for a perfunctory pastiche.

At least Deaver is a thriller writer with a proven track record, and he has boldly moved Bond to the present (Faulks left him back in the sixties) where he finds himself doing much the same as before in a new British arm of the secret service, which also has a place for Bond regulars Miss ­Moneypenny and M.

Carte Blanche’s plot revolves around an intercept that reveals a soon-to-take-place attack involving thousands of deaths, with “British interests adversely affected”. Trying to find the off-switch before the big bang sees Bond heading for Cape Town, the setting for the bulk of the book.

Deaver, an avowed admirer of Fleming, tries hard but never really comes up to speed. His villain is more repulsive than super-bad, closer to the psychopaths that populate his own books. Similarly, he adopts his usual plot structure: chapters ending with cliffhangers, explained in the next.

The first few chapters depict a scene of violent action in Eastern Europe, in an apparent attempt to match the ­hallmark opening ­sequences of the films. Unfortunately, what works on screen doesn’t work on the page. However, once Deaver settles into his storyline, things begin to pick up, at one point actually threatening to turn compelling, but eventually the sheer absurdity of Bond cannot be avoided.

Neither does Deaver make much use of Cape Town as a location, other than using it to supply detail on the “new South Africa’, mostly relayed via an Afrikaans-Zulu cop, Bheka ­Jordaan. Okay, so Deaver’s done his homework. Though there’s room for improvement. Deaver twice refers to the Anglo-Zulu War to reinforce plot points, and gets it wrong on both occasions.

With the film franchise currently in abeyance, maybe the Ian Fleming ­estate is hoping that commissioning name-authors to write James Bond books will keep the flame alive. On the evidence of this outing, Bond in print seems increasingly pointless. Please terminate with extreme prejudice.

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