Published by Mysterious Press on November 7, 2023
Kennedy 35 is the third installment in Charles Cumming’s BOX 88 series of espionage novels. The protagonist, Lachlan Kite, is now the head of BOX 88, an off-the-books, ultra-secret organization that brings together agents from American and British intelligence agencies.
Kite is married but separated from his wife. He begins the novel in Sweden, where his wife is a physician who recently gave birth to his daughter. He hopes to spend several weeks with his family, perhaps repairing his relationship with his wife, but his plans change when he gets a message from Eric Appiah, a friend from Senegal who went to school with Kite. Appiah does some freelance work for BOX 88. If me wants to meet with Kite, the meeting must be important.
Having learned a lesson about trying to maintain a relationship while concealing the nature of his work, Kite tells his wife as much as he can about Appiah. His story takes him back to 1995. Kite was sent to Senegal with his girlfriend, Martha Raines, who was there to complete his cover as a backpacking tourist. He was to play a collateral role in a plan to kidnap Augustin Bagaza, a Rwandan Hutu who shared responsibility for the genocide of the Tutsi people. Bagaza is in Senegal with his Congolese Hutu girlfriend, Grace Mavinga, a woman who delighted in murdering the Tutsi. France was complicit in the genocide and may have an interest in protecting Bagaza to safeguard its shaky international reputation.
About half of Kennedy 35 follows Kite’s mission as he travels through dangerous cities, maintaining surveillance of Bagaza in anticipation that BOX 88 operatives will snatch him before he and Mavinga can flee the country. Kite’s role in the mission becomes more dangerous when Philippe Vauban, a French journalist with PTSD whose Tutsi girlfriend was murdered by Bagaza, suffers a psychotic episode and decides to embark on a mission of revenge.
Cumming crafts tense scenes as Kite moves from boring afternoons in a small Senagalese resort to the adrenalin rush of surveillance and tradecraft in the space of a few days. The story from 1995 ends with a shootout and Mavinga’s flight from the country.
The rest of the novel takes place in 2022, beginning with Kite’s contact with Appiah. An American writer/podcaster, Lucian Cablean, has tumbled to the story of Bagaza’s disappearance in 1995 and has heard rumors about Kite’s secret organization. To protect BOX 88, Kite meets with Cablean, learns of a friend’s death, discovers that Cablean has also been targeted, and tracks down Martha Raines and Mavinga. The second half of the novel is interesting but less compelling than the story set in Senegal.
The 1995 story works because Cumming has mastered the creation of atmosphere. The smells, sounds, and tastes of Dakar become part of the story, complete with potholes and noisy motorbikes and unreliable taxis, dance clubs populated by wealthy men and beautiful young hookers. Cumming also captures the pain of a genocide that American media barely reported. Some genocides are important to Americans and others involve victims who don’t have white skin.
While the novel’s second half features less action, Cumming does imagine a clever plan to protect the secrecy of BOX 88. While the novel is self-contained, the ending might be described as a cliffhanger, as it ends with Kite taking a disturbing telephone call that seems likely to upend his life. I didn’t need that incentive to look forward to Cumming’s next novel, as he has firmly established himself as one of the better spy novelists currently working in the genre.
When a podcast threatens to expose details of a failed clandestine mission to bring a Rwandan war criminal to justice--and possibly disclose the existence of BOX 88-- Lachlan Kite must confront the past to protect his loved ones in the future.
I am a big fan of this series and Kennedy 35 is a superb addition. Like the rest of the BOX 88 series, Cumming gives us a twofer: the present mission and a past mission which then connects to said present mission. There are no huge explosions nor running gunfights nor indestructible assassins just good old fashion espionage. It's also about regret, love lost and fixing wrongs when able. Kennedy 35 is just a great read all around and you should read it.
Thank you to Mysterious Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Kennedy 35.
This is the third in the Box 88 series featuring Lachlan "Lockie" Kite, schoolboy turned super spy, and Charles Cumming has once again demonstrated his mastery of the genre. The plot revolves around the Rwandan genocide and includes Lockie's friends and lovers, old and new, and an assortment of baddies, including a woman who you either want to sleep with or more likely, sends you to sleep with the fishes. Once again the author uses split timelines and flashbacks to good effect. And, I'm pleased to add, Cumming leaves no doubt that Box 88 has more in store for us.
Kennedy 35 is the third book in @charlescummingbooks’ Box 88 series. It picks up a few months after Judas 62 left off. This book covers a Box 88 mission in 1995 Senegal. A war criminal from the Rwandan genocide is the target.
As with the other books in this series, Kennedy 35 has dual timelines: a past mission and present day. I really enjoy reading this series and the missions that Lachlan Kite is a part of! Fair warning, this book does end on a small cliffhanger. However, I can’t wait to find out what happens next with Lachlan & Box 88! If you have not read this series, I highly recommend the series and this book!
Thank you @mysteriouspress for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
(This review was also shared on the Barnes & Noble website)
The novel, Kennedy 35, was a really good spy thriller of a ride, with an important history lesson as part of the story; the horrifying Rwandan Genocide.
Great characters(maybe too many), great plot flow(with flashbacks), and a homerun of an ending.
I will check into Charles Cumming's previous novels, since I really enjoyed his style of writing.
Thanks to NetGalley and Penzler Publishers/Mysterious Press for the ARC of this fantastic novel. Highly recommend the spy thriller.
I am not going to go on and on about what many before me have already said, and what I have also said in the past, about what a wonderful espionage writer Charles Cumming is. If you read espionage, then you are aware of his talent. If you do not, you cannot go wrong with any of his books. But do yourself a favor and start with the first two Box 88 books before moving on to his latest, “Kennedy 35”. The development and history of the characters will make this new offering all the better.
So, on to the book itself. Our returning hero is Lachlan “Lockie” Kite, the British head of Box 88, a joint Anglo-American espionage organization for which Lockie has been working since he was recruited while at school in the 1980’s. Lockie is working on getting his life/marriage back together after the events of the past two books, living in Sweden and taking a break from things, when he gets a message that Eric Appiah, an old schoolmate and occasional Box 88 asset, is looking for him back in London. Before he goes to London to track down what is happening, he tells his wife a story, of how Eric helped him in Senegal.
Just like in the previous two Box 88 adventures, we are taken back in time, this time to Senegal, 1995. Lockie and his girlfriend Martha travel to Africa to track down a wanted war criminal, a leader of the Rwandan genocide and his willing accomplice/girlfriend. A simple plan, once a positive identification is made, Lockie and the team will grab him and smuggle him out of the country before anyone knows what is happening. But as anyone who has read spy fiction knows, the simple jobs rarely go as planned. As things begin to go crazy, Lockie has some hard decisions to make, decisions that will have consequences in the present day.
Back in the current day, Lockie goes to London to find out what really happened all of those years ago, and how it threatens both him and Martha. Can Lockie protect his friends while bringing those responsible to justice?
Another great outing, two stories in one, we continue to see Lockie growing up in the service, how his actions and priorities have changed as he has gotten older (and wiser?). Kudos to Mr. Cumming for teaching us a little bit about the Rwandan genocide, something that wasn’t really explored much in the news of the day. It’s just wonderful to see how much espionage has changed, how these characters have grown over the past three books, how one can mix action and tension into a smart, literate, complex story.
I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Penzler Publishers, Mysterious Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
An interesting thriller. Plot twists and good characters development. I recommend this one. Different from his previous books
When I see that author Charles Cumming has a new book out, I jump to it. Kennedy 35 is rewarding for fans like me as Cumming is at his best in this tale of spies and mass murder. He keeps the action going with good characters, especially Lachlan Kite, and very careful plotting. I read Kennedy 35 straight through and enjoyed every minute of it.
Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for this ARC.
This is the third book in the Box 88 series and, while it is not necessary to have read the first two excellent stories, it would be somewhat helpful.
I gave it the following SCORE:
Setting: Two settings: well-researched Senegal in 1995 and present-day London, New York, and other locales
Characters: Lachlan Kite returns in both his earlier novice days in Africa and his professional present day covert intelligence work, Martha Raine, his girlfriend/cohort and old friend, Eric Appiah who triggers the story line
Overview: Kite and Raine become re-involved in the hunt for Senegal war criminals responsible for Tutsi atrocities when Appiah uncovers information that their earlier work is far from finished and a particularly nasty female terrorist has surfaced under a new identity.
Recommendation: I rate this book 3 stars
Extras: This was an overall disappointment, having high expectations from Box 88 and Judas 62. For some reason, the story just didn’t keep me engaged. Part of the reason is the back-and-forth timelines, but unlike the previous two books where this format worked well, this story seemed fragmented and lost the intrigue, particularly at the disappointing abrupt ending.
Thanx to NetGalley and the Mysterious Press for the opportunity to provide this candid review.
The Espionage thriller sub-genre of mysteries is probably my favorite type of thriller — current events with fast paced action, usually set internationally… plus, heavy on plot, characterization AND setting. Charles Cumming is among my favorite espionage authors with his two series featuring Alex Milius and Thomas Kell. Happily, Cumming has now given us a third series featuring Lachlan Kite, who currently heads up a US/UK under the table agency which doesn’t exist called Box 88.
Kennedy 35 is the third in the Lachlan Kite series which began in 2020 with Box 88, as its first title. As usual reading the series in order makes more sense, as the personalities of the group of spies unfold throughout the books. Lachlan was a poor Scottish young man who was recruited while in college — and in Kennedy 35 a bit of Lachlan’s past from a 1995 Senegal mission has come back to haunt him in 2023 when an old friend from that time “falls” out of a window.
Cumming gives us a preliminary note on the horrifying Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and then takes us through the complicated politics and economic trauma of Africa, while Lachlan tries to figure out what is really going on in the Senegal mission and how to safely get his sick girlfriend back to England. If you are a fan of Daniel Silva, then Cumming’s step by step mission detail should please you as much as it did me.
I learned much from this novel about Africa and specifically about Rwanda and Senegal. Isn’t that what reading is all about? Learning and gaining insight about topics which impact our world? I am invested in Lachlan as much as I was with Milius and Kell from Cumming’s other series. Only a fine writer can make me worry about a sick girl in Senegal and still personalize justice for the almost one million murdered in Rwanda over 100 days. I only hope to read many more novels featuring Lachlan and his team as they address current world affairs in these action packed espionage international thrillers.
My rating 5 of 5.
This ARC title was provided by Netgalley.com at no cost, and I am providing an unbiased review. Kennedy 35 will be published on November 7, 2023.
Details of botched past operation connected to the Rwandan genocide could topple governments and unmask a secret group of spies.
In 2023 the head of the clandestine Anglo-American group known as BOX 88, Lachlan Kite, is on leave in Sweden with his wife and new daughter. He is working to repair their relationship which has been strained by past events, as well as to enjoy his new role of father. That comes to an abrupt end; he receives word that Eric Appiah, a Senegalese friend from his school days who has also helped BOX 88 out in the past, is trying to find him. Eric has dangerous news; a highly regarded American reporter has been given details of an operation carried out in Senegal back in 1995 which ended badly. The source of this news, an embittered Frenchman who has an ax to grind against his former bosses in government, knows the names of people involved in that op, including Kite’s and that of his then-girlfriend Martha. These revelations, if the journalist can find corroboration, would reveal that the accepted story of what happened in 1995 was not true and would expose the involvement of the French, British and American governments. As Kite explains the situation to his wife, the reader learns what actually happened and what led up to the mission. The situation was related to the Rwandan genocide of 1994; a French journalist, witness to the horrors of that time and traumatized by them, believed that one of the key figures who drove the genocide, a so-called “genocidaire” named Augustine Bagaza was now living in luxury in Senegal. Possible protected by members of French intelligence, Bagaza and his lover Grace Malinga escaped retribution for the atrocities they encouraged and were now poised to flee under new identities. The journalist contacted a family friend who just happened to be part of BOX 88 to intervene. A young Lachlan Kite was tasked to travel to Senegal, bringing his girlfriend Martha along as cover, to be part of the team which would verify that the subject under surveillance was actually Bagaza and, if so, extradite him for trial. Lockie contacted his old chum Eric as part of his cover, and soon found himself desperately in need of Eric’s help. He sensed from the beginning that this op was going to end badly, and was soon proven correct. Torn between his feelings for Martha and his ambition to prove himself a worthy asset to his handlers in BOX 88, cursed with subpar communications and transport, and reliant upon a volatile informant with his own agenda, things went terribly wrong again and again. When a plausible cover story was stitched together, Lockie and the remaining team members quickly left Senegal and the operation behind them. Flashing forward to the present, it is evident that the truth of those events may come out, which would prove not only embarrassing to several nations but also could expose both Lockie and Martha to retribution from some of the survivors of the mission.
As with the past two BOX 88 novels, Kennedy 35 can be read as a stand-alone thriller. For those who have read the preceding two novels, however, it is a welcome return to the dual-timeline world of Lockie Kite. There is the building tension of the story unfolding during 1995, with its vivid description of the emerging African country as well as the atrocities of the genocide in Rwanda, the complicity of the French government in the escape of those behind it and the lack of action of the Western world in general, There is also the intrigue and the dangers that come to light in the present day, with assassins roaming the streets of London and New York, a tenacious reporter who wants to bring what he believes to be governmental duplicity to light, and the frantic efforts by Lockie and his crew to reveal the truth in a way that preserves the safety of innocent participants like Martha without rocking governments or exposing BOX 88 to the world. The reader learns yet more of what happened to destroy Lockie’s relationship with Martha, and sees his capabilities as a young operative maturing. As someone who declared that the first two installments of this series were without question my favorite reads of 2022 I am not entirely unbiased, but I found this an intriguing and highly enjoyable read. Charles Cumming has been touted as a worthy successor to John Le Carré, and I fully concur. If you haven’t picked up one of the BOX 88 novels, don’t miss out on an outstanding series. Trust me, buy all three….you’ll thank me when you finish whichever one you read first and have the means at hand to dive right back in to the world of Lachlan Kite. Readers of John Lawton, Martin Cruz Smith and Joseph Kanon should definitely give Charles Cumming and Lockie a try as well. Many, many thanks to NetGalley and Penzler Publishers/Mysterious Press for allowing me access to an advanced reader’s copy….I couldn’t wait to dive into this latest adventure, and am eagerly awaiting the next!
Charles Cumming does a great job in creating this mystery novel. It had a great concept overall and the characters worked overall with everything. I enjoyed going through this universe and trying to figure out what was going on.
Easily the best of the Box 88 novels so far. A truly great work of spy fiction.
The interwoven time lines were a breathtaking narrative device, and it worked perfectly. I wanted to stand up and applaud.
I do, however, have a couple of criticisms that are more on the publisher than on the author...
First, the occasional political interjections having no connection at all to the narrative were arrogant and silly ("Giuliani has become an alcohol ravaged apologist for Trump"). I'm disappointed in Cumming and his editors for indulging in something so juvenile and so far beneath him as this kind of literary masterbation.
Second, speaking of disappointing editors, there were a good many ridiculous geographical errors about New York City that those editors should have caught when they were instead having a good time with their personal political prejudices. An apartment on the Upper West Side has a 'spectacular view of the East River' and an address on East 63rd Street? Being driven into Manhattan from Kennedy Airport and you pass through the Lincoln Tunnel? What are the editors being paid for? Doesn't anybody there know how to use Google maps, or was everyone just too lazy to bother?
Sometimes a book in a series might not be the author's best work or maybe it's just not my favorite. I might be a little disappointed, but still willing to come back for more. I mentally howled.at the end of this book, feeling completely cheated. Absolutely betrayed. Cliffhangers are fine for weekly TV shows, but not when you're going to leave your reader hanging for at least a year. Maybe by then I'll have forgotten the pain. I actually went back and forth in my Kindle thinking I must have missed the ending. No, the book just stopped. Up until then, I was completely engrossed and enjoying the ride. I liked the two prior books in this series and thought they were a good direction for. Cumming, having read all his previous work. Having Kite relate the Rwanda story to his wife was a.slightly odd plot device, but it worked to provide the background and context for current events to come. Great characters, good pacing, but oh that abrupt ending - not sure I'll be forgiving Cumming any time soon.
Cumming writes my favorite kind of spy novel -- low to the ground, no races to stop improbably Armageddon but rather realistic stakes that keep me invested. The pacing is fast without being overly frenetic, the set pieces genuinely thrilling and plausible (particularly the midpoint race to follow a war criminal and his mistress), the finale satisfying if not all that surprising.
I'd call this a highly elevated airport thriller, with no condescension. If it lacks the depth of Le Carre -- I could use more honestly neurotic characters, with both heroes and villains flattened out to a trait or too and a little Hollywoodized -- it never leaves the realm of grainy plausibility.
Perhaps my largest -- and really, only -- nit to pick is that there are several references to earlier novels/characters that aren't carefully curated for a newcomer to the series, nor sufficiently recapped. The assumption that all readers have been around since the start is a little off-putting.
But overall, a hearty recommend for fans of the genre.