Charles Cumming: BOX 88
BOX 88 is an ultra-secret Anglo-American spy agency that operates beyond the remit of MI6 and the CIA. In 1989 at the age of 18 Lachlan Kite was recruited because his best friend’s father was hosting an Iranian power-broker suspected of links to those behind the Lockerbie bombing. Kite and his pal were guests at the villa in France where the Iranian would be staying. BOX 88 gave the teenager a crash course in espionage tradecraft: dead-letter boxes and hidden microphones.
In 2020 Kite is kidnapped and his pregnant wife taken hostage by another group of Iranians who want to know the truth about the events of that summer in France. Kite and Isobel’s lives will depend on his ability to dissimulate.
Not for the first time Charles Cumming sets his sights on John Le Carré territory: the “nitty-gritty” of intelligence work that relies on deception more than on Jason Bourne heroics. The bulk of this 480-page novel consists of conversations in which Kite pretends to be just a horny schoolboy (1989) and an outraged ordinary citizen (2020). Only towards the end do a few bullets fly.
This is surely much closer to the real secret world than a James Bond caper or a Mission Impossible. BOX 88 is a tense read, very well crafted. Mr Cumming is definitely going places!