“Charles Cumming effectively ramps up suspense, in this hefty page-turner revelatory of modern espionage’s methods. “
If the arc of history is long and bends toward justice, what about the arc of espionage? Is there an inevitable personal price to pay for the lies and wounds of a past career deceiving others politically across the globe? For lifelong spy Lachlan Kite, now director of a secret counterintelligence unit in the United Kingdom, the dead enemies of the past seem to rise up and walk again, when he finds his name on a Russian kill list. But do the enemies who have put his long-ago alias onto the JUDAS 62 list know who he really is?
British author Charles Cumming is reliably accurate in assigning capacities for data gathering, manipulation, and plotting to his teams, whether Western or Russian; writing from his own brief experience in the UK’s MI6 and abundant research since then, he adds a fine sense of human frailty and predictable betrayal to his plots.
In JUDAS 62, Lachlan Kite’s early attachments and struggles from his first foreign assignment demonstrate how close he, or any such operative, comes to failing. For Kite, this is due to his underestimation of the enemy and naive willingness to defy authority. Though his overall mission at the time may succeed, the death of a scientist linked to the one he brought out from Russian control signals that almost all may now be laid bare—and Kite may pay with his life.
Much of the action takes place in Russia, caught up in complications of mixed loyalties. Taking time to paint all the details, with an overall novel length of about 500 pages, Cumming leads Kite to create a potential trap for his enemy. First, of course, he has to come to terms with his new vulnerability:
“The Aranov operation had cost Kite a great deal, personally and professionally. Peter Galvin was an almost-forgotten name from his past. Now the legend was again in circulation. It had taken him twenty-seven years, but Mikhail Gromik was finally ready to come after him. . . . ‘I’m perfectly safe,’ Kite replied, though he did not believe this. The idea that he was vulnerable to Gromik and to the scum who had murdered Evgeny was abohorrent to him. ‘They’re not going to come knocking on my door.’ Mahsood looked as unconvinced by this as Kite might have expected. They both knew he was on shaky ground.”
When the plot to trap the hunters and remove the target from Kite’s back—and from the backs of his colleagues—develops, it requires delicate manipulation of viewpoints of the former rescued scientist, the Russians on the hunt, and Kite’s own colleagues. Most dangerously, the trap must be executed in Dubai. So many things can, and do, go wrong.
Charles Cumming effectively ramps up suspense in this hefty page-turner revelatory of modern espionage’s methods. Every move must be successfully choreographed—or countered. Lock your door, set the phone on “silent,” and prioritize: Keep reading, and watch for the moment when a very sophisticated “honey trap” clicks into place, and Aranov thanks a thoughtful man in a restaurant who pumps his hand and says, “This is my girlfriend, Sally Tarshish, and our good friend, Natalia. Are you here in Dubai for business or pleasure?”
This is the second in a series from Cumming; the first was BOX 88. No need to read it before JUDAS 62, but the two are firmly linked. Contemporary and tightly plotted, this new pair makes an excellent addition to the espionage fiction collection.