Box 88 by Charles Cumming

Box 88 is the latest book by Charles Cumming, described by the Financial Times as ‘an ambitious coming-of-age story combined with an enthralling spy thriller’. The library has a copy of Box 88 and four other titles by Charles Cumming.

I am addicted to spy thrillers, and the name of Charles Cumming is increasingly being ranked among the best of top drawer spy writers. His plots are tight, they move the story on at pace, and are packed with delicious details and colour as to how real spies do their work. Box 88 ticks all these boxes and more and has rightly been subject to rave reviews. It is easy to see why with this page turner.

The plot however has one major flaw which somehow does not really matter! Key is Box 88 of the title, a spy agency within a spy agency, so secret that only a very few people on both side of the Atlantic know about its existence. However a mole has hinted to MI5 about this, and our security service is now investigating . . .

What I loved most about this thriller was the way Cumming seamlessly moves from past to present and back again as the plot unfolds. Scot Lachlan Kite (Lockie) in his final year at boarding school (clearly Eton), rather than helping his mum in her hotel in Stranraer that summer, is recruited by Box 88 via one of his teachers, as one of the Scot’s school friends invites him to stay in his father’s house in the south of France. People ‘of interest’ are also there, as the young spy embarks on a rapid immersion course and graduates into the murky world of espionage. Fast forward 20 years or so and Lockie remains embroiled in the consequences of that summer, whom he met then and what happened. No spoilers, but Lockie is captured and interrogated while his pregnant wife is held hostage. Will he reveal (to his interrogators and to us) all he knows about that summer in France and who was there? Will the cavalry arrive and save him – or them? What is MI5 doing?

You’ll just have to read it, and I hope you find it as absorbing as I did and unable to put it down.

Review by a Library Member