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Kennedy 35: A BOX 88 Thriller


Kennedy 35: A BOX 88 Thriller

Hotel Rwanda, the 2004 film starring Don Cheadle, blew me away. It wasn’t just because of the powerful performances, but because it opened my eyes to the situation in Africa between the Hutus and Tutsis that resulted in over 800,000 people (mostly Tutsis) being wiped out in barbaric fashion.

This brings me to KENNEDY 35, the latest BOX 88 thriller from Charles Cumming, who has shown why he is one of the top espionage writers working today. The action jumps between the years 1995 and 2023. In the earlier timeline is a scene set in Dakar, Senegal. Michael Strawson, the then-head of BOX 88, is meeting with Philippe Vauban, a former member of the French Foreign Legion, to discuss their shared experience in Rwanda during the time of these unthinkable deaths. This leads to Strawson assigning a 24-year-old Lachlan Kite the task of hunting down two war criminals who were part of the genocide: Augustin Bagaza and his mistress, Grace Mavinga, who has been tagged with the appropriate nickname “Lady Macbeth.”

"Charles Cumming has a great eye for historical detail, which he mixes in seamlessly with all the action to create outstanding thrillers that are not to be missed."

We get to see a young Kite and his girlfriend at the time, Martha Raine, who accompanies him so they can pose as tourists. Kite takes on an undercover role as an interpreter for a journalist, played by Philippe, as they are doing a story about the Rwandan genocide. Complicating matters is that Martha falls ill from what appears to be a bout of food poisoning. Kite has no choice but to reach out to an old school chum of his who lives in the area, Eric Appiah, who isn’t aware of his affiliation with BOX 88 or MI6.

The situation gets extremely tense when Kite and his team catch up with Bagaza at a nightclub. The evening ends with a wild run-in from Philippe; under the influence of some drug or medication, he proceeds to attack and kill Bagaza with a machete. Lady Macbeth then immediately shoots and kills Philippe before fleeing the area. Kite also takes off as the mission has gone south in a bad way, and they lose track of Lady Macbeth for the next 28 years.

In the present day, Eric reappears and is looking for Kite and Martha, who have long since broken up. Kite is unaware of Martha’s whereabouts. Before Eric can hook up with his old friend, he dies mysteriously in what appears to be a suicide from jumping off a building. Kite believes something else is at play but will never know the message Eric was trying to get to him. All he knows is that the Rwandan mission from 1995 has come back to haunt him in a big way, and he must find Martha to warn her that both of their lives could be in jeopardy.

This remains one of the finest espionage series going, and KENNEDY 35 never disappoints. Charles Cumming has a great eye for historical detail, which he mixes in seamlessly with all the action to create outstanding thrillers that are not to be missed.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 1, 2023

Kennedy 35: A BOX 88 Thriller
by Charles Cumming

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 1613164556
  • ISBN-13: 9781613164556