Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care is the first James Bond not written by Ian Fleming that I have enjoyed reading. Faulks goes back to the Cold War era, the height of Bond action. We find Bond on sabbatical, forced by M to relax and evaluate whether he should come back to the service or not. We all know that final answer, but Faulks guides us down that path with new enemies, new loves, and plenty of fast paced action.
Gone is SMERSH, but the land of the hammer and sickle still factors into the story. As does a beautiful woman, double crossing allies, and an enemy worth hating. Nowhere are the fancy gadgets that would overtake the action of the movies and the Raymond Benson novels. Instead, Bond relies on ingenuity and his skills to defeat those who would do the world harm.
Bond travels to Paris, then Persia (yes, Persia) to investigate a man with a monkey hand who travels with a Viet Minh aid. Along the way, he meets Larissa Rossi, the beautiful banker whose sister works for Dr. Julius Gorner, person of interest. We get a quick glimpse of Matthis, well before the events of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace as Bond works through Paris en route to Persia. Once in Persia, Bond makes contact with the local agent works his way to Dr. Gorner’s warehouse on the docks of the Caspian Sea with Scarlett Papava and his local driver. From here, things go sideways and Commandre Bond is soon fighting for his life before saving the world. . . and Miss Papava.
I think Devil May Care will appeal to Bond fans of old, especially those who enjoyed the novels. However, I think new fans brought in by the films starring Daniel Craig can also enjoy this book. The pace of the book is quick and spurs its reader forward. There is no lengthy explanation of how this gadget or that gadget works. Each chapter fills one of two rolls – foreshadowing or bringing the action. From this viewpoint, Faulks appears to combine the best of the Fleming novels and the movies.
If you are looking for a Bond that woos multiple women, shoots bullets out of fountain pens, or would rather love than fight, this isn’t the Bond for you. However, if you have a few hours’ time and want a thriller that is a quick read, then you’re in luck.