Quick Review: BOX 88 by Charles Cumming (Harper)

196232-1_BOX 88_HB_REV_ii.inddAn excellent espionage thriller

An organisation that doesn’t exist.

A spy that can’t be caught.

Years ago, a spy was born…

1989: The Cold War will soon be over, but for BOX 88, a top secret spying agency, the espionage game is heating up. Lachlan Kite, recruited from an elite boarding school, is sent to France, tasked with gathering intelligence on an enigmatic Iranian businessman implicated in the Lockerbie bombing. But what Kite uncovers is more terrifying than anyone expected…

Now he faces the deadliest decision of his life…

2020: MI5 hear rumours of BOX 88’s existence and go after Kite – but Iranian intelligence have got to him first. Taken captive and brutally tortured, Kite has a choice: reveal the truth about what happened in France thirty years earlier – or watch his family die.

In a battle unlike anything he has faced before, Kite must use all his skills to stay alive.

Long time readers of CR will know that I am a big fan of Charles Cumming’s spy thrillers. Ever since Typhoon, I’ve eagerly anticipated each new novel from the author. Box 88 was no different, and I’m very happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. Really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: RED WIDOW by Alma Katsu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

KatsuA-RedWidowUSSpotted this on Edelweiss. After making quite a splash with The Deep, a supernatural suspense novel about the Titanic, Alma Katsu‘s next novel takes on the espionage genre. In addition to the eye-catching cover, Katsu’s latest novel has an intriguing premise — the mole in the spy agency sub-genre has always been interesting to me, so this is high on my must-read list. It looks like it could appeal to readers of Karen Cleveland (Need to Know and Keep You Close), John le Carré, Jason Matthews (the Red Sparrow trilogy), and thriller/mystery readers in general. Here’s the synopsis for Red Widow:

An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division — one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered — including one of her own — and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…

Alma Katsu’s Red Widow is due to be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in North America and in the UK, on March 23rd, 2021. Looking forward to reading it!

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: BOX 88 by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins)

CummingC-BoxUKUKI started reading Charles Cumming‘s novels back in 2009, when Typhoon was released. Since then, each new novel of his has been a must-read of the given year — and I have thus-far never been disappointed. This October, he has a new novel out — Box 88 — with a new protagonist and an intriguing premise:

An organisation that doesn’t exist.

A spy that can’t be caught.

1989: The fall of the Berlin Wall is imminent and the Cold War will soon be over. But for BOX 88, a top secret spying agency known only to an inner circle of MI6 and CIA operatives, the espionage game is heating up.

Lachlan Kite, recruited straight from an elite boarding school, is sent to France – the frontline of a new secret war. Kite is tasked with gathering intelligence on a mysterious Iranian businessman implicated in the tragic Lockerbie bombing. But what he uncovers is even more deadly…

2020: MI5 hear rumours of BOX 88’s existence and go after Kite – only for Iranian intelligence to get to him first.  Taken captive and subjected to torture, Kite is presented with a simple choice: reveal the truth about what happened in France thirty years earlier – or watch his family die.

Past and present merge, as MI5 and BOX 88 are caught up in a race against time to save Kite.

I learned about this novel when Damian Lewis (Billions, Band of Brothers, and many more) Tweeted about the cover reveal earlier today. Can’t wait to read this! Charles Cumming’s Box 88 is due to be published by Harper Collins in the UK, on October 1st, 2020. (Not sure about North American publisher/dates, but some of his recent novels have been published recently by St. Martin’s Press, so… maybe?)

Also on CR: Interview/Guest Post A Colder War Mole Hunt”; Reviews of Typhoon, The Trinity Six, A Foreign Country, A Colder War, and The Man Between

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: LETHAL AGENT by Kyle Mills (Atria/Emily Bestler, Simon & Schuster UK)

MillsK-MR18-LethalAgentUSHCMitch Rapp faces off against a dangerous modern terrorist with a vendetta…

An unprecedented and terrifying bioterrorism plot threatens to kill millions in the midst of a divisive presidential election…

A toxic presidential election is underway in an America already badly weakened by internal divisions. While politicians focus entirely on maintaining their own power and privilege, ISIS kidnaps a brilliant French microbiologist and forces him to begin manufacturing anthrax. Slickly produced videos chronicling his progress and threatening an imminent attack are posted to the Internet, intensifying the hysteria gripping the US.

ISIS recruits a Mexican drug cartel to smuggle the bioweapon across the border, but it’s really just a diversion. The terrorist organization needs to keep Mitch Rapp and Irene Kennedy distracted long enough to weaponize a deadly virus that they stumbled upon in Yemen. If they succeed, they’ll trigger a pandemic that could rewrite the world order.

Rapp embarks on a mission to infiltrate the Mexican cartels and track down the ISIS leader who he failed to kill during their last confrontation. But with Washington’s political elite increasingly lined up against him, he knows he’ll be on his own.

The 18th novel in the Mitch Rapp series, and the fifth written by Kyle Mills. The story picks up quite soon after the previous novel, and while it felt a little slower to get going than normal (usually I’m hooked within a page or two), Lethal Agent builds nicely: there’s politics, action, betrayal, and a pretty satisfying ending. As expected, I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of THE BAYERN AGENDA by Dan Moren (Angry Robot Books)

MorenD-GCW1-BayernAgendaAll right, people: this is not a drill. I’m here to give away all of the precious secrets.

And by “secrets” I mean “hard work and lots and lots of editing.” Because that’s what goes into making a book.

I spent a lot of time working on both my first book, The Caledonian Gambit, and my second, The Bayern Agenda — years, in fact — and as you might imagine, they underwent numerous changes over that period.

The chapter you’ll read below, the opening of The Bayern Agenda, is far from where I started out all those years ago. It’s been tweaked in response to reactions from beta readers, my agent, my editor, and, perhaps most importantly, me. When you spend that long working on something, it’s hard not to learn a thing or two along the way.

So, out of the goodness of my heart — well, and because I was asked to — I’ll be sprinkling observations and comments throughout the chapter, letting you in on the thinking that went into constructing it. (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything that comes later in the story.) Consider it a look behind the scenes, a VIP backstage pass, a look at how the magician pulls off their tricks. Enjoy.

Continue reading

Interview with JAMES BRABAZON

BrabazonJ-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is James Brabazon?

I’m an author, journalist and documentary filmmaker. I live in the UK, and I’ve travelled a lot for work — 72 countries and counting — investigating, filming and directing in the world’s most hostile environments. When I’m not writing I oversee the security protocols for high risk deployments on behalf of the UK broadcaster Channel 4.

Your new novel, The Break Line, was recently published by Berkley. It looks really interesting.

Thank you!

How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

The Break Line is a thriller that follows the adventures of the Irish spy-assassin Max McLean – a completely deniable, off-the-books operator who works for the British Government. After more than two decades of loyal service Max is given a target he decides not to kill. The consequences of that decision take him on an adrenaline fuelled operation to Sierra Leone in West Africa where he uncovers a sinister plot to bring the West to its knees. Trouble is, the bad guys are a lot closer to home than Max could ever have imagined possible… Continue reading

Upcoming: A SHADOW INTELLIGENCE by Oliver Harris (Little, Brown)

HarrisO-EK1-ShadowIntelligenceUKHCOliver Harris is the critically-acclaimed author of the Nick Belsey series of London crime novels. His next novel is A Shadow Intelligence, the first in a new espionage thriller series starring Elliot Kane. I’m really looking forward to reading this one. Here’s the synopsis:

The intelligence service puts two years and over £100k into the training of new field officers. You’re shown how to steal cars, strip weapons, hack bank accounts. There are courses on the use of blackmail and improvised explosives, two workshops solely dedicated to navigating by the stars. But nothing about what I had heard one old spy call whiplash. No one tells you how to go home.

There is a dark side to MI6 that needs men like Elliot Kane — mercurial, inquisitive, free floating. He’s spent fifteen years managing events overseas that never make the papers, deniable and deeply effective. Kane is a ghost in his own life, picking up and dropping personalities as each new cover story comes into play. But when a woman he loves, Joanna Lake, vanishes without a trace in Kazakhstan, he is forced centre stage.

Drawn ever deeper into a realm of deception, Kane moves from merely infiltrating events to steering them. He’s used to a new mode of hybrid psychological warfare — but snowbound Kazakhstan presents unique challenges. Poised between China, Russia and the West, dictatorship and democracy, state intelligence and an increasingly powerful world of private agencies, it’s impossible to work out who is manipulating who. And Kane’s not the only one trying to figure out where Joanna Lake has gone or what she learned before disappearing.

Unable to trust anyone, hunted by his own colleagues, and with the life of someone he loves at stake, Kane needs to work out who is driving events, and why…

A Shadow Intelligence is due to be published in the UK by Little, Brown, in May 2019.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Interview with W.L. GOODWATER

GoodwaterWL-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is W.L. Goodwater?

I’m a writer, software engineer, fencing coach, husband, and dad. I live near the ocean in California and love watching the fog roll in through our eucalyptus trees. We share our lives with a crazy cute toddler, two cats, and piles of books that have long overgrown our bookshelves.

Your debut novel, Breach, will be published by Ace Books in November. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Breach is half Cold War spy thriller, half fantasy novel, set in divided Germany where the Berlin Wall is made out of magic. The story picks up as the CIA discovers a growing breach in the wall and sends for a magical researcher to help them stop WWIII. It is the first book in the Cold War Magic series and introduces our hero: Karen O’Neil, a young and talented magician working at the Office of Magical Research and Deployment, who has to navigate existential magical threats and the prejudice of her male coworkers. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE MAN BETWEEN by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins)

CummingC-ManBetweenUKA spy novelist finds himself recruited into the world of espionage…

He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price.

One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger.

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism.

Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West.

As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite thriller authors. It’s becoming almost cliché to compare him to le Carré, but he remains the best comparator. Cumming writes intelligent, engaging and interesting espionage thrillers. In his latest novel — The Man Between in the UK, and The Moroccan Girl in North America — he takes a premise that is very interesting and possibly something many thriller authors think/fantasize about frequently: what if an author of the genre was recruited by a secret service to aid them in an investigation? I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Interview with DAVID RICCIARDI

RicciardiD-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is David Ricciardi?

I’m a thriller addict and an outdoor enthusiast who always thought I had a book inside me and finally decided to take a shot at it.

Your debut novel, Warning Light, will be published by Berkley in next week (April 17th). I’m lucky enough to have already read it, and I really enjoyed it. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I’d tell potential readers that it’s a story of survival and self-reliance. It begins with a young CIA analyst who volunteers for a mission in the field and soon finds himself fighting for his life. It’s man against man and man against nature as the hero is chased across the globe by Iranian counterintelligence agents. Continue reading