[3.5 rounded down]
“There would be ‘collateral damage’ along the way and young Lachlan Kite would somehow have to get used to it.”
Judas 62 is the sequel to Box 88.
Another spy novel with Lachlan Kite at center stage.
In brief: it’s a story of revenge. The past— Kite’s exfiltration of a valuable scientist from Russia— meets the present— a mission to frame a Russian FSB officer who has put out a bounty on Kite’s head for the past grievances.
At just over 500 pages, this is a long read. It’s also complex/hard-to-follow because of the larger cast of characters, dual timelines, political nuances, and UK cultural references. As with Box 88, you will want to read this one in larger chunks or you will feel lost.
Note: There is a character index at the beginning of the book, but I found it burdensome to go back and forth while reading a digital version of the book so I had to rely on context clues and memory as to who was who and who was good or bad.
At least with this one, compared to Box 88, the timelines don’t change back and forth as often. The ‘past’ portion is told in a large chunk and describes the mission to exfiltrate a scientist from Russia. It is sandwiched on either side by the present day situation where Kite’s on Russia’s radar and in order to protect his family has to engage the enemy in an effort to trap and frame him and eliminate him from the equation.
This isn’t a mystery novel where you aren’t sure who the bad guy is. The reason you want to finish this book is to see if justice is served, if the mission succeeds.
To that effect, I wanted to and was interested in finishing the book.
However, it felt like it took some effort to get through it all. I’m not sure if I’ll continue this series because of the swearing, the widespread lust and sexual content, the length (including a lot of information or parts that seemed unnecessary), the confusion. I’ve yet to read one yet, but I think if I’m in the mood for a spy novel again I’ll probably read one of Daniel Silva’s books instead.
More Plot Details
The setting of this story is two-fold.
The past story- 1993- takes place in Russia.
The present story- 2020- takes place in Dubai.
1993: Lachlan fills in for an injured agent to pose as a teacher in Voronezh, Russia. This is his cover to connect with Yuri Aranov, a scientist with biochemical knowledge the US does not want getting into the wrong hands— a mission of defense rather than offense. The goal is to get Yuri out of the country.
But young Lockie is still sowing his wild oats and puts the mission in jeopardy. Add to that, his girlfriend, Martha, shows up and puts herself and the success of the mission in more danger.
Can Lockie get the asset out without anyone getting hurt?
2020: Box 88, the clandestine ‘non-government’ organization Lockie works for, discovers Lockie’s cover name from the 1993 mission has just been added to Russia’s hit list— the JUDAS list.
“JUDAS was a list of Russian intelligence officers, military personnel and scientists living in the West who had been targeted for reprisal assassinations by Moscow.”
[Judas was the list name, his alias was 62nd on the list, hence the title. Kudos on the title correlation with the first book.]
Why, after so many years, is the name now of interest? Is he, Martha, or his family in danger of Russian assassins like so many other names on the list who have recently been killed?
The primary Russian officer Lockie went up against in 1993 is currently in Dubai. Box 88 cooks up a plan to find out more information about what Russia does and doesn’t know about Lockie, the mission, and the organization. The mission doubles as a way to frame the Russian officer as revenge for some of the fallout of the 1993 mission.
Is their inside man into Russia trustworthy enough to help them accomplish such a tall task in a foreign country without being exposed? The plan involves a dangerous weapon and many things could go wrong.
Cumming set part of this story in 2020 during the pandemic. If talk of temperature-taking, mask-wearing, social-distancing, limited-capacity restaurants, etc is a trigger for you— you might not want to read this one.
I’m not sure if I liked that or not. So far I’ve appreciated new books that ignore that part of life and keep settings free of that nonsense.
However, in some ways, I can see how including the Covid aspect was essential or relative to the story. For example, in a highly monitored city with CCTV cameras everywhere, face masks provided an inconspicuous/normal way for the agents to blend in undetected.
Also, it was a little bit interesting to think about how other countries handled Covid— at least if what was written here was true.
“in the height of the crisis in Bur Dubai and Deira, trucks had driven past every fifteen minutes ordering citizens by megaphone— in Arabic, English, and Filipino— to remain indoors.”
Apparently there was an app called the C19 DXB Covid app which was created in conjunction with the Dubai Health Authority in an effort to provide up-to-date information on statistics, symptoms, and support and stop ‘misinformation.’
One question though: it was written several times that temperatures were taken in order to enter certain establishments and I would just like to ponder how this was able to work properly when it was also reportedly really super duper hot there? My husband was in line for a restaurant in Iowa when it was hot and it caused his forehead to be too hot and showed as an elevated temperature preventing him from being able to go inside. He was not sick. How could they get accurate readings in Dubai??
In the first book I was hoping to understand Lockie’s relationship triangle with Martha and Isobel more in the sequel. We get a little bit more information on Martha, but not really anything further on Isobel other than she and Lockie are estranged because of the events of book one.
It feels like a TV series where they make a character go travel somewhere because the actor is busy on another project and they have to figure out how to work around it.
Except this is a book not a movie and there are no character restraints.
So even though Cumming tells me that Lockie loves Isobel and his daughter and wants to reconcile, everything else in the book makes me feel like Lockie is still in love with Martha and is a bit of a womanizer.
The book sure makes it seem impossible for men to be faithful or able to reign in their lust.
“For Kite to think back to the man he had been in the summer of 1993 was to remember a different person: richer in feelings, hungry for experience and obsessed by the possibilities and complications of sex.”
There is enough talk of cricket in this book that I had to do some Google searching on how that is played. One of the characters scored 100 runs in cricket and I’m trying to figure out what that looks like. Lucky for me I have a friend from England that I’m going to go get all my more specific hypothetical questions answered!
I had to chuckle at this relatable tidbit: “a recycling bucket marked ‘supposedly saving the planet.’”
And this one: “He placed the card in the slot to activate the lights.” This was at his hotel. I have stayed at a hotel where the lights were activated in this manner. I am embarrassed to say how long it took us to figure that out. Nate Bargatze’s bit on the mystery of hotel lights really speaks to me.
Dubai is an intriguing setting to me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go there but it seems like such an economic anomaly in that area of the world that I’m very curious about it. A ‘luxurious city’ is a strange thing for me to picture what that looks like and how it functions. But if it’s as hot as the characters say that it was, I’m not sure how enjoyable it would be there.
There was some bold political commentary thrown in this book that I’m not sure what to make of:
“‘Whole country go crazy, psychotic. Two cults. One the Trump cult, the other the cult of the self-righteous. You want to know the trouble with America? Bad schools… Bad schools and now brainwashing through media…’”
“‘… America is land of guns, land of fear, land of hate. Trump pulled back the scab and now we see the wound. We see how stupid they are, how angry…..’ ‘I think perhaps we hear too much about all that… Social media tends to amplify the noise, know what I mean?’”
“‘A president with three wives and a penchant for porn actresses can be proclaimed by his supporters as a man of God. That same president can accuse his opponent’s son of corruption while his own children enrich themselves in full view of the American people.’”
“‘Think of America. In all those places information is a problem. it’s not just a question of who controls it. It’s already out of control. It’s a question of whether people are smart enough to realise that they’re being manipulated. Film clips. News stories. Rumours. What looks like the truth and what looks like a lie?’”
As you can see, some interesting thoughts here. This wasn’t anything significant to the plot of the book, it was just side conversations between characters to fill pages, but it makes one wonder the author’s intent in putting them in there. Especially considering he is British.
I suppose during 2020, that would have realistically been a common topic of conversation around the world.
More words and phrases that I learned while reading!
salubrious: healthy, beneficial
After Eight: a chocolate/mint Nestle candy bar (that I will never be trying)
Operation PAPERCLIP: a historical and secret operation after WWII in which the US relocated German scientists and engineers who had been under Nazi employment
be to the manor born: born of wealth/privilege
Factor-30: what Brits call sunscreen?
zebra crossing: crosswalk (I definitely had to reread this section because I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be zebra crossings like we have deer crossings…)
If you are just really into spy novels and language doesn’t bother you, then you’ll probably enjoy Cumming’s books. You can tell he does a lot of research and wants his books to be realistic.
If you’re a little pickier about your spy novels, I would perhaps suggest trying Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series (which I haven’t personally read yet but have heard good things about).
For another exfiltration from Russia read The Eighth Sister.
For a scientist exfiltration from Nazi Berlin read An Affair of Spies.
Both of those I enjoyed more than this one.
Cumming’s stories have potential, but when it comes to the books in their entirety, they just fall a little short (and long) with what I am looking to read.
Plus the main character— Lachlan Kite— is just not really a character I feel invested in. Even if it’s not realistic, I prefer my spy heroes to be a little more mature and moral.
I think if this was a PG-13 movie, I would have enjoyed it a lot more than reading it as a book.
I am also not super well-versed when it comes to spy novels so perhaps my evaluation isn’t as full as it could be. That’s for you to decide.
[Content Advisory: 73 f- and 40 s-words; lots of talk of sex but no graphic scenes described; one short paragraph describing a disturbing video of assault and rape]
**Received an ARC via NetGalley**
This book did not download and I did not receive feedback from the publisher to have the digital copy work.
First published in the UK in 2021; published by Mysterious Press on December 6, 2022
JUDAS 62 continues the story that Charles Cumming began in BOX 88. The book is the second in a series that features Lachlan Kite. It isn’t necessary to read the first to enjoy the second.
Kite is essentially running BOX 88, a clandestine organization that brings together spies from the US and Great Britain, a pairing that isn’t legally sanctioned and that is only known to a few key employees of the CIA and MI6. BOX 88 told the story of Kite’s first assignment. JUDAS 62 tells the story of his second mission. The details of Kite's current predicament are sandwiched around the story of his second attempt to please his spy masters. That mission left some loose ends that, decades later, Kite needs to tie up.
In the present, Kite learns that his name (or rather, the name of the alias he used in BOX 88) is on a Russian hit list (the Judas list). That revelation follows the assassination of a Russian defector who had been given a false identity and a job in Connecticut. Kite resolves to put an end to the assassinations.
The story then pauses as Kite remembers his second assignment for BOX 88. Kite was sent to Russia, where he posed as an English language instructor. Before leaving, he had a tiff with his girlfriend Martha, who got high and canoodled with another guy at a party. Martha eventually resurfaces to complicate Kite’s life.
Kite’s mission in Russia is to exfiltrate Yuri Aranov, a Russian scientist with expertise in biological and chemical weapons. Aranov is willing to defect to the country that offers him the best deal. The British want to make sure that country isn’t Iran or some other nation that might deploy the weapons that Aranov is capable of designing. Aranov has agreed to enroll in the English language class that Kite will teach so he can hear Kite’s pitch.
Kite is confident that one or more of his students works for the FSK and is taking the class to keep an eye on Aranov or Kite or both. Kite nevertheless makes no effort to resist seduction by his most beautiful student, Oksana Sharikova, in part because he’s still miffed at Martha and feels that if he is betraying her, she deserves it for betraying him. Betrayal, of course, if a primary theme in nearly every good spy novel. Oksana was with Aranov before she seduced Kite, but Aranov betrayed her for another woman. Kite worries that Aranov might view Kite’s relationship with Oksana as a betrayal. The reader will worry that Oksana is an FSK honeytrap who will betray Kite.
Illicit border crossings are a classic component of spy fiction. Cummings builds suspense as the reader wonders whether and how Kite and Aranov will make it out of Russia. Cummings tosses in enough complications to make those worries palpable. The story then shifts back to the present, where Kite decides that a Russian defector who is on the Judas list should be moved to Dubai and dangled as bait for Mikhail Gromik, a Russian intelligence officer Kite first encountered in BOX 88. The plot will imperil the double agent England has planted in the FSB (BOX 88’s source of information about the Judas list), creating additional suspense in a story that regularly places sympathetic characters in harm’s way.
An interesting side note in JUDAS 62 involves the difficulty that male spies have keeping it in their pants. Kite nearly messed up his assignment in BOX 88 because his attention was diverted by a hot young woman. Kite does the same thing in first half of JUDAS 62, when he was still a young and relatively new spy. Late in the novel, another spy breaks a woman’s heart because of his opportunistic approach to sex — if the opportunity is there, he seizes it. Cumming suggests that the thrill and danger of being a spy encourages men to seek inappropriate sexual release, but it could just be that they are being guys — guys who have the personalities and looks to succeed both at spying and seduction. In any event, while the sexual adventures of the characters are not presented in graphic detail, they add some spice (and extra drama) to the story. To his credit, Cumming recognizes the harm caused to sincere women who are used for the sexual convenience of men.
Another interesting side note is wrapped up in a speech that Kite gives at the end of the novel as he encourages another spy to remain with the organization. Intelligence agencies exist to collect information, Kite proclaims, but the problem with the world is not the absence of information but the flood of untrustworthy information. In Russia and China, state-controlled media tell residents what to believe. In the US, liars on social media tell Americans what to believe. And sadly, too many people believe the lies. “It’s a question of whether people are smart enough to realise that they’re being manipulated,” Kite says. The other problem is that people in power want to remain in power and will “do everything they can to remain in place.” Spreading misinformation helps them achieve that goal. Kite wants good people to “make it as difficult as possible for corrupt people and those who serve them to remain in power and manipulate the truth.” The point Kite makes is clearly not limited to spies.
I enjoyed BOX 88 and I enjoyed JUDAS 62 even more, in part because we get to see more of Kite as an older, more mature man. The plot in the new book is also more complex, particularly with regard to events in the present. Cumming has a long history of producing capable spy fiction. He’s doing some of his best work in the BOX 88 series.
Happy US Pub Day @charlescummingbooks! JUDAS 62 is the second book in the Lachlan Kite & BOX 88 spy thriller series. In the same thread as BOX 88, we follow Lachlan in two different timelines, one in 1993 while he was undercover in Russia and his current work. I love this series and highly recommend checking it out, especially if you enjoy John le Carre novels! I will be buying both books for my husband for Christmas to add to his collection of books!
Thank you to @netgalley and @penzlerpub for allowing me to read this book ahead of publication in exchange for my honest review.
Judas 62 is an outstanding spy novel. I have read much of Charles Cumming's work, and this is the best. The plot is realistic and tightly drawn out, drawing on current events as well as some past history. The characters are interesting, flaws and all. Protagonists are well-drawn and relatable. No superheroes here, just smart people doing their jobs very well. Villains are truly evil, and very capable. Worthy opponents.
Cumming's story is really two excellent stories for the price of one. The first story is set in a small Russian city during the cold war, and sets the background for the second story set largely in modern-day Dubai. The atmosphere in both settings is strong. I felt I was there in each of these very different and interesting places.
My only criticism (and this is a tiny one) is that Cumming uses a number of references that would be known by a British audience, but might not resonate with an American audience. I found his cricket references a little difficult, but they did not lessen my enjoyment of this excellent novel.
I cannot recommend Judas 62 enough. Cumming should be read more in the U.S. This is the second book in a series. I read Box 88, the first book in the series, but I don't believe that is necessary.
My thanks to NetGalley and W. W. Norton & Company for providing a review copy. My submission of this review was voluntary.
Mr. Cumming: More Box 88, please. Fly that Kite.
For the newbies this is the second book in the Box 88 series and I found it superior to the very good origin story. More interesting plot and better-drawn characters, and more of them. I admit to a bias as I was bureau chief in Moscow for a newspaper in the late 1980s. I also escaped a well-laid honeytrap, pun intended. Despite its title, Judas rewards and doesn't betray the reader. Caviar for the soul.
This series is about a super-secret joint venture between MI6 and the CIA. In the first book in the series, our protagonist Lachlan (“Lockie”) Kite was recruited straight out of his English boarding school in 1989 to spy on the father of a school friend. The book tells that story and of what happens in 2020 to Kite as fallout from that first job.
Like the first book in the series, this second one has two time lines. In the first timeline, it’s 1993 and Kite accepts an assignment to go to Russia undercover to spirit out a scientist who will otherwise be used by the Russian state to develop chemical weapons. Things become . . . complicated. The second timeline takes place in 2020, shortly after the intense action that ends the first book. Again, this plot involves fallout from Kite’s years-ago job. We all know about how, in real life, Putin has sent agents to attack his perceived enemies with nerve agents and radioactive materials. This book imagines Kite has learned that both the long-ago exfiltrated scientist and Kite’s cover identity from that job are on the “JUDAS” assassination list. Kite and his team devise an audacious plan to foil the Russians.
I like the idea of the BOX 88 agency, and I’m usually a fan of dual-timeline novels. In this case, though, I found the 1993 timeline dragged—which is unfortunate, since it takes up over half the book. Cumming does a good job depicting Russia soon after the breakup of the USSR, and an almost painfully good job showing Kite in his 20s as a quick learner of spycraft but personally callow, naïve, and too easily led by his libido. But there is just too much minor detail. Once the 2020 plot line starts, things perk up. It’s set in Dubai, a modern-day hotbed of spies and corruption, and a playground for the filthy rich from around the world. In that setting of glamor overlaying danger, Kite and his crew carry out an elaborate, nail-bitingly risky operation combining protection and vengeance.
I have some concerns that this book was too much like the first in its plotting. I’d be interested in a future book that drops Lockie’s past adventures and focuses entirely on a contemporary plot, but I’m not keen to read another lengthy story about him in his 20s.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to the 70’s when Certs’ tag line was “ two mints in one”" This came to my mind when I read Charles Cummings’ marvelous new espionage thriller #Judas62, the follow up to last year’s corker Box 88. Let me stress reading Box 88 previously is not necessary to enjoy #Judas62; it is more like reacquainting with old friends. If you haven’t read either book I’m not going to spoil your fun by explaining what these titles refer to. Suffice it to say that Cummings has put a new twist on an old genre giving new life to novels of international intrigue. When we’re first introduced to the charming protagonist Lachlan Kite it is the 90’s and he is but a wee lad of 18. Jump 30 years and we’re in the present #Judas62 world. This is where we get the set up. But what has happened to Kite in the intervening years ? That is where we get the #Judas62 back story. Hence, two tales in one. But through Mr. Cummings’ narrative skill he weaves the two stories into one, leaving the reader with an exquisitely plotted and super suspenseful novel. Big kudos to #Judas62, which you’ll hope is the second installment of a series that has many more lives.
I always enjoy Charles Cumming's work, but this one was exceptionally good. It's a follow-up to Box 88 (which was ok, but not one of my favorites), but works as a stand alone. The pacing is brisk and the story is engaging. The characters have more depth this time around and are worth investing in. I couldn't put it down.
Readers may no longer have new John le Carre novels to feast upon--but Charles Cumming has made a serious bid for the late master's throne. JUDAS 62 is every bit as masterful, thrilling, and intense as BOX 88, Cumming's previous thriller--and like the work of le Carre, it's a meticulously crafted espionage novel, peopled with richly developed characters and a powerful sense of menace. Highly recommended.
My thanks to Mysterious Press and to Netgalley for the opportunity and pleasure of an early read.
Charles Cumming's Judas 62 is the second book featuring Lachlan Kite and his outfit, Box 88. Box 88 is a joint uber-clandestine service between the U.S. and England doesn't officially exist. The Box 88 series has quickly become one of my favorite new series and Judas 62 is as good, if not better than Box 88,
As was the case with Box 88, Judas 62 focuses on master spy Kite and the English branch of Box 88. Thirty years ago, Kite, as a new operative, volunteered to extract a chemical weapons scientist out of Post Soviet Russia. It had been a huge success but not without casualties. Now, thirty years on, Kite's pseudonym and the name of the scientist have been added to the Judas List. The list is comprised of people Russia considers traitors and spies and the addition of Kite presents an opportunity to settle some scores form his past. Spanning London, Russia and Dubai, Judas 62 is an old school espionage thriller that aficionados of the genre will love!
If you are searching for a guns blazing thriller, this aint it. Judas 62 is a slow-burn thriller with master pacing. Cumming employs tension like a puppeteer with very little observed violence. Instead, Cumming leaves the action to the readers' imagination with only the end result decided. Hopefully your imagination is better than mine but the end result will be the same.
Filled with intricate detail, great characters, and interesting twists and turns, Judas 62 is not to be missed by any thriller lover and especially espionage fiends like myself.
My sincere thanks to Charles Cumming, Mysterious Press and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading an advance copy of Judas 62!
Even better than Box 88!!
The best book, far and away, that I read this year was “Box 88” by Charles Cumming….until now. The follow-up to that amazing new spin on British espionage is “Judas 62”, again featuring Lachlan “Lockie” Kite. In the first outing, we bounced between 1989, when Lockie in his late teens was recruited to be the eyes and ears for an intelligence group as he summers with his wealthy friend Xavier’s family in the South of France, and 2020, when Lockie has a lengthy career behind him. His actions during that far away summer are about to have major repercussions in his current life; he is kidnapped, his pregnant partner Isobel is held hostage, all to get him to reveal exactly what he did in 1989.
In this latest installment, we get to peer into another chapter of Lockie’s early years with the Box 88 group. This time, an escapade in the Soviet Union in 1993 to help a scientist escape to the west is coming back to haunt Lockie. Again, the story alternates between the earlier time period, as Lockie’s insecurities damage his relationship with his girlfriend Martha (whom he met in the South of France when vacationing with Xavier) and he heads off undercover to the USSR, and the current day, when people involved in that op are suddenly dying. Lockie and his crew need to discover who is behind this campaign, before Lockie becomes the next victim.
This series is a fantastic new chapter in British espionage thrillers, every bit the equal of John Le Carré and others of that stature. I cannot count the number of people to whom I have recommended Box 88…family, friends, the staff at my favorite local independent bookshop, even complete strangers (it can be dangerous to stand too close to me in a bookstore, my desire to put a book in people’s hands often gets the better of me). What’s even more amazing is that, to a person, everyone to whom I recommended it also found they couldn’t put it down. With Judas 62, we find the answers to some of the questions left hanging at the end of Box 88. What happened between Lockie and Martha? Why is the relationship between Lockie and old schoolmate Cosmo so tense? And then there’s the mystery of what happened in the USSR back in 1993, and how will Lockie put an end to the threat.
Any lover of espionage tales absolutely must pick up Judas 62 (and Box 88, for good measure). Right away. You can thank me later. Appealing if flawed characters, the allure and the perils of people living a double life, a glimpse at faraway lands, and the juxtaposition of just what a good agent could do back in the 80s and 90s that, given advanced in technology, will no longer work…all come together in a fabulous read. There’s a fair amount of time between 1993 and the present…dare I hope that Mr. Cumming will write another installment featuring Lachlan Kite? Please? Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced readers copy.
If my numbers are correct then “Judas 62” is the 11th(!) book by Charles Cumming that I have read and enjoyed, a sequel to “Box 88” and another fine look at the world of spies. To say that I am a fan of this author is an understatement, Mr. Cumming writes smart, sharp espionage that is intelligent enough to hold your interest while providing the action of a paperback thriller.
We are once again introduced to Lachlan “Lockie” Kite, the protagonist of “Box 88”, the joint Anglo-American espionage organization which recruited him while he was in school in the late 1980s and for whom he still continues to work. He is now the head of the British side of things, dealing with the Russians who have (once again) taken out an agent who defected to the West, an agent who was on the “Judas List”, a list of enemies of the Russian state. Lockie is surprised to learn that he also is on the Judas List under an identity that he used back in 1993 to infiltrate into Russia and smuggle a scientist out to the West.
We are taken back to that second case for Box 88 in 1993: reeling from a supposed betrayal by his girlfriend, Lockie agrees to go to Russia as an English-language teacher to help the scientist get out to the Ukraine before the FSB close in on him. Here’s where Mr. Cumming’s vivid portrayal of post-soviet Russia really takes hold, the ruthlessness as gangsters and ex-KGB take over in the power vacuum, the grayness of everyday life in a provincial town, the hope for the common people of finding a way out. Into this comes Lockie, a man with a mission, but still a boy in his early 20s with a broken heart, which leads to some poor choices (as we’ve all made in our 20s), the repercussions of which fall onto some innocent lives.
Back in the present day, Lockie has a chance to make up for those poor choices as Box 88 sets up an operation in Dubai to clear his name from the Judas list and make up for his mistakes in the past.
A well-written look behind the curtain at what goes on in the shadows. Realistic, tense, full of action and suspense, great characters that aren’t always perfect. The flashback / present day structure allows for the telling of two stories while acknowledging the difference in how we act as we get older. Looking forward to the next chapter.
I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Penzler Publishers, Mysterious Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
I just couldn’t get into this book. I was so excited to get my hands on a copy, but I was disappointed. This book comes in at 500 pages, which is daunting, but not out of the realm for this genre – still it was too long and drawn out for me – especially in the beginning. I wish I would have enjoyed this book but alas it was not for me. I found this book hard to follow between the first and second halves – which could have each been their own book; now that I would have preferred! Writing in both the past and present is a delicate art, and if the author continues to do this in the future, I hope that they learn and it becomes more seamless.
Charles Cumming’s Judas 62 lives up to the high expectations that were promised by last year’s cerebral espionage thriller, Box 88. This time as well the narrative is divided into two timelines, one focusing on a younger Kite Lachlan, having evolved into a more confident operative sent on his first official mission with the transatlantic counterintelligence agency to extract a Russian scientist at the height of the Cold War, and the other set-in present-day timeline where the repercussions of the first mission have come to collect their due in the form of a hit-list with Lachlan on it. To combat the unseeable threat, Lachlan must first unravel his past, no matter how disturbing it gets.
Judas 62 immensely benefits from the singular focus on Kite Lachlan in the fleshed-out flashback plot. Charles Cumming displays an exceptional knack for nailing the foundation and evolution of characters with all sorts of nuances that make you forget you’re reading a work of fiction. The slow-burn of the story is utilized to the max as Cumming further builds Lachlan into a living and breathing character that may very well be existing right now as opposed to a fantastical protagonist. His experiences as a novice spy feel so gut-wrenching real and profound, you lose yourself in the pages and the authenticity of the grand yet gritty scope of storytelling. One particular highlight of Cumming’s genius is an intense back and forth between Lachlan and a Russian operative which is crafted powerful dialogue and a snarky overture.
In the vein of old school spy thrillers, Judas 62 deviates from the action-heavy espionage yarns and focuses more on the cerebral lure of spycraft. There is a constant feeling of impending doom and violence in every page that builds up to the very last moment for maximum effect before it combusts into a satisfying denouement. From intel dead drops to maintaining one’s cover even in the face of imminent death, the life of a spy has never felt so conflicting between exciting and depressing. Even when the shift of focus from Lachlan in the present day comes with its turbulent changes in pacing, the decision serves to ultimately shed more of an insight into his character and his role as a mentor for the new generation of spies.
I personally enjoyed how accurately Charles Cumming captured the unique vibes of each location and setting, particularly of Dubai where the climax takes place. There’s no doubt in my mind that Cumming spent extensive hours researching the busy streets and exuberant buildings of the Emirati city because it resonated quite well with my own memories of the city.
Charles Cumming has struck gold with this new series that continues to give and give with extraordinary and uber-realistic scenarios and characters. The last page of Judas 62 leaves no room for misinterpretation of the fact that Kite Lachlan will be back with an even more ambitious adventure in the future.
Full review on https://www.bestthrillerbooks.com/kashif-hussain
I find Charles Cumming's Box 88 books to be an unusual experience. I'm continually drawn in by the setup and the premise. Then, fairly early on, I seem to hit a lull in which he spends more time describing the backstory and setting - and monotony - of his character's lives than I feel is necessary or enjoyable to read.
With the first book in the series I actually stopped and considered not coming back - but all the reviews raved and raved about the spy thriller elements, so I plowed through and I'm so glad I did - things went from 0 to 60 in a way that I found fascinating, once I found the Sweet Spot where the actual spy elements kicked in.
It's the same with this second installment. Don't let yourself be lulled into thinking the book is going to be about Lockie and his friends" ennui with their decadent young lifestyles. It's not at all. Force yourself to plow through because once you get past that you find yourself in a spy world that is old school in the de Mille style and absolutely intriguing, engaging and delightfully twisty.
These are fantastic characters and I cannot wait to see whether Adventures go next. I really love the way Cumming works a memory and a contemporary espionage excursion together into each book. It lets him establish backstory and give depth to the narration and characters without having to go through lots of telling as opposed to showing. I really enjoy the old school Cold War spy stuff, and finding that blended into contemporary tales about the new world order are also fascinating to me.
Cumming's continues to be the master of spy fiction. He is underrated and under celebrated by book influencers for reasons that escape me. Plotting, pacing, characters, atmosphere, and environment all combine to make a perfect espionage thriller. Seriously cannot get enough of Cumming's novels.
The latest Box88 thriller Judas62 centers around agent Lachlan Kite. In the beginning he avoids assassination in Dubai while author Charles Cumming sets the scene for the novel. The highlight for me was the flashback to thirty years ago when Kite helped a scientist defect from Russia. That story was well told and held my interest. So it was a disappointment when we returned to the modern era and were immersed in such a huge cast of characters. that I had trouble telling them apart and keeping focused on the plot. Once the final plot took hold, my interest returned.
I am a longtime fan of Charles Cumming's novels. Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
This is an absolutely terrific spy novel, a multilayered story within a story that commands your attention and your respect. That said, it's very British, not only in substance, but in style, and I do wonder how well it will do with American readers.
Americans have been conditioned by decades of spy thrillers from writers like Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Mark Greaney and Alex Berenson to expect heroes whose personal qualities fall just short of Superman. In style, Americans are used to seeing short chapters, a lot of paragraphs, and a fast read. JUDAS 62 has none of those characteristics. It's a slow, dense read about people who are often confused and uncertain and always fallible. There's lots of black ink with few paragraphs structured into in relatively long chapters.
You have to invest some effort in reading JUDAS 62, but remember the old saying, 'You get what you pay for'? Yeah, it's exactly like that...