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JUDAS 62

Review

JUDAS 62

Charles Cumming is quickly becoming the new face of the modern spy thriller. JUDAS 62, a stellar follow-up to BOX 88, is all the evidence you need in support of that statement.

The creepy and prophetic prologue is set in 1979 and takes place in Sverdlovsk, Russia. We are brought into a dire situation involving Alexei Nikolaye and the role he played in a tragic shift at the Soviet army’s biological weapons research facility. The release of the deadly compound of weaponized anthrax is in violation of a 1972 accord and is being called “the biological Chernobyl.”

"Charles Cumming is an expert at immediately placing readers at the heart of the often unbearably suspenseful espionage activity featuring the one and only Lachlan Kite. The result is a spy novel that reads like a high-octane thriller and succeeds on nearly every level."

That passage is followed by a jump to the present day. Saul Kaszeta is a US source for BOX 88, a covert transatlantic counterintelligence agency. He is off on a four-day fishing vacation to Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains. Only a small group of individuals recognize that the 77-year-old was once known as Evgeny Palatnik. Somehow his cover is blown, and he has his eye medication switched out with a toxin that costs him his life.

This does not sit well with BOX 88, especially master spy Lachlan Kite. He learns about the existence of the “JUDAS” list, which represents Russian intelligence officers, military personnel and scientists living in the West who have been targeted for reprisal assassinations by Moscow. Lachlan is alarmed to see that #62 is attached to Peter Galvin, and right next to that name is Yuri Aranov, which hits way too close to home for him.

In 1993, Lachlan is a student who is sent to the Soviet Union posing as language teacher Peter Galvin. In Voronezh, he is to make contact with a student named Yuri Aranov and secure his safe passage West. They end up connecting and meeting secretly, which is how Lachlan gains Yuri’s trust and learns that he also intends to bring along his pregnant girlfriend. This is a fascinating experience for Lachlan, but without Yuri’s assistance, he may as well have been walking alone in a dense forest without purpose. The mission is extremely dangerous; if Lachlan’s cover is blown, he will be “burnt” by BOX 88 and have to face Russian prison on his own.

Their initial relationship is almost doomed from the start when Yuri learns that Lachlan had become physically involved with Oksana, an attractive fellow student and Yuri’s longtime ex. They are able to work past this, especially as both suspect that she might be a plant out to uncover them. Matters get a little more difficult when Lachlan’s actual girlfriend from London suddenly shows up in Voronezh with no idea that he is there operating under an assumed name. He is able to bring her up to speed without much fuss, and the plan is for the two couples to make the journey West using fake names and passports that BOX 88 operatives have provided. They succeed, but the escape is a harrowing one. On their tail the entire time is Mikhail Gromik, a brutal and highly suspicious member of the KGB/FSK.

Nearly 30 years later, Lachlan is reunited with Yuri. They are paired up again for an even more dangerous job this time around. They are being sent to Dubai to put an end to the JUDAS program once and for all. Using Yuri as bait, they will be fishing for Gromik. This is by far the deadliest game of cat-and-mouse that the seasoned Lachlan has ever played. It will take all of his guile and expertise to have a successful mission and keep himself and Yuri alive.

JUDAS 62 is a lengthy read with no shortcuts or diversions from the task at hand. Charles Cumming is an expert at immediately placing readers at the heart of the often unbearably suspenseful espionage activity featuring the one and only Lachlan Kite. The result is a spy novel that reads like a high-octane thriller and succeeds on nearly every level.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 6, 2023

JUDAS 62
by Charles Cumming

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 494 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 1613163398
  • ISBN-13: 9781613163399