Spy versus spy in mad world of ‘Judas 62′

With his novel “Box 88″ Charles Cumming introduced readers to Lachlan Kite, a British spy working for the super secret counterintelligence agency Box 88. This clandestine outfit is so undercover that even the CIA has no clue it exists.

In that story we switched back and forth between the present and Kite’s past when he was on his first assignment for Box 88. In the flashback sequences Kite is just out of college and he’s staying at a friend’s chateau in France. One of the other guests was a notorious Iranian operative.

“Judas 62″ is a follow up to that first book. In that first story Kite’s wife, who had no idea her husband was a spy, was abducted by Iranians and that situation put such a strain on their marriage that as the second book opens Kite and his wife have separated.

The new novel opens with an assassination. A Russian scientist who had been spirited out of Russia some years before has been living in the United States under an assumed identity. The Russians have finally tracked him down and liquidated him.

This event signifies that an intelligence failure has taken place and Kite becomes immediately concerned about another former Russian scientist who is also living under a new identity. Thirty years ago Kite was involved in the original mission to get that scientist out of Russia.

This sets us up for another twin narrative as we flash back and forth between Kite’s original assignment as a spy living in Russia and the present as he goes to Dubai to try to flush out a Russian spymaster who was his nemesis during that original extrication of a scientist. The Russians are keeping a Judas list, a list of traitors. Kite is on their list.

Yuri Aranov, the scientist Kite spirited out of Russia all those years ago, was a difficult project. Aranov was a biological weapons expert and he had things pretty good in Russia. Kite had a great deal of difficulty getting Aranov to go along with the plan and when they made their escape things got very hairy.

Mikhail Gromik had been suspicious of Peter Galvin, the young teacher who arrived in Russia to teach English. Galvin was actually Kite and one of his students was Aranov. This situation allowed Kite to plan with Aranov on how they would get him out of the country. Things became complicated after Kite made a huge blunder; he fell in love with one of his students.

After the Soviet Union collapsed there was a brief decline in the spy novel genre. It didn’t last long. Russia’s Vladimir Putin was a KGB agent. Tensions are high again. This is becoming another golden age for espionage novelists.

The final risky showdown takes place in Dubai as Kite dangles Aranov as the bait to lure the spymaster Gromik out of hiding. If you enjoy an intense thriller that has all the deceptions and subterfuge of a classic Cold War espionage novel then I cannot recommend these books highly enough.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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