CHERUB is an ultra-secret British Intelligence agency.
It is kept so strenuously from the public's knowledge not because of what it does as its actions are seldom violent and then only when absolutely necessary but rather because of who its agents are - children.
The concept came from the founder, Charles Henderson, a member of British Naval Intelligence, who during the Second World War came to realize that infiltrating trained adults into closed organizations and groups was always chancy and usually unsuccessful as secrecy breeds distrust and newcomers are seldom welcome. In the clandestine world, such undercover work usually ended in expulsion or death. Using untrained civilians was even more of a problem as the same mistrust was shown to people who had no skills to deal with it. Death was even more likely.
But people seldom notice children. The enemy were people who often had children of their own and those children had friends and not many adults, inundated with their work's challenges, really spend any time with their offspring's pals. Plus street urchins, especially in war time, were ubiquitous and scarcely got noticed except for a swat or two when they got too close.
So Henderson slowly built up a group he called Henderson's Boys and it would not be unfair to say that they made a significance in the war effort over time, all behind the scene and unknown to all but an extremely select few.
After the War, the idea persisted and CHERUB was formed from the remnants of Henderson's organization. What the meaning of the title of the group was, other than its normal reference to childlike angels, is lost in time. Legend around the campus had that one of its first headmasters had come up with the name, complete with the breakout of the anagram, but his wife in a fit of jealousy over another woman ended the man's life before he could write it down. Likely not true but too good a tale to forget.
The CHERUB tales in this series all take place in the modern era. CHERUB is still, decades after its founding, very much active and successful and still zealously secretive. The heads of MI5 and MI6 know CHERUB but the number of their agents that know of it is kept scrupulously limited.
James Choke was a young lad just turning 12 living with his mother and his younger sister and too often the boyfriend of his mother, a slackard named Ron. He never knew his father but the family did alright thanks to his mother's occupation as a professional shoplifter. Mom never did the actual stealing, especially since she was far too fat and sedentary to move about but she organized small bands of trained thieves and pulled in the money to provide very nicely.
That came to an end when her habit of mixing alcohol with prescription drugs came up badly and she died. James and his sister, Lauren, were sent to an orphanage and it was there that over a short period he was vetted and then recruited into CHERUB.
James was an average boy in school, hating it for the most part because some was very hard and some was very easy, like Math, and all was terribly boring. He had considerable potential athletically but was too lazy to work at it and preferred to lie about and play video games. He was a prime candidate for CHERUB.
CHERUB takes its time training its agents. All trainees are orphans though many have siblings, often also in training. All start with the basics of getting into shape and getting their education back on track but then the real learning begins.
Self-defense is a prime subject. Judo, Karate, Tae-Kwon-Do, and other martial arts are taught and all members eventually earn a black belt in one or more. Foreign languages are also stressed with each student expected to become proficient in at least two besides their native one.
As the children get older, they are trained in other vital spy-craft. Lock picking, surveillance techniques, theft were just a few of the subject matters and one did not move on to bigger and harder things until the instructors were certain the lessons had been learned.
Eventually the young agents would go on small carefully chosen missions and if they succeeded they were advanced. If they failed, they would stay on that level for more instruction and another chance.
Not all children made it. Those that proved unable to handle the rigors of this new life were moved to foster homes but because the vetting was so strong in the beginning and because the teachers so good at what they did, the number of dropouts was low.
CHERUB agency comes to an end at age 18. "Retiring" agents go on to college or the military or whatever interests them for their adult lives. Some stick around to be instructors but most leave. The one absolute rule, though, is that when the agent becomes a legal adult, his or her CHERUB days are done.
James Choke would definitely be one of those that lasted.. One of the first things CHERUB did to a new recruit to help them feel a new beginning was happening was to change their name, letting the child choose it. James elected to keep his first name and took Adams as his last.
Adams took to CHERUB like fish to water. The strenuous physical training was something he did quite good at, remarkable because he truly did prefer a good "lie-in" to running laps. He enjoyed the martial arts though he quickly learned there were always someone better and sometimes that someone was a girl. He did not care too much for the foreign language but he was good at it. Regular schoolwork still sucked but he was bright and got by. Swimming was his only real failing and even that was overcome though it would never be his favorite pastime.
Adams showed quickly that as an agent, he was a natural. He was friendly and personable. Good looking enough to be noticed by girls but not so much to be disliked by boys. He was easy-going and likable and cheeky enough with adults to get by. He was an undercover prodigy who had found a new home.
The many adventures detailed in the CHERUB books do not just deal with James Adams. He is but one of many agents in the organization and seldom do any of them go on a mission alone. He is likely teamed with Kyle, his best friend, or Kerry, the Oriental female agent he takes a shining to. And there are a fair number of older, more experienced operatives as well as a couple of younger ones.
But James Adams is the main character for the first twelve books and the reader follows this young man as he both matures and ages over time and several exciting and often dangerous missions.
Once Adams reaches maturity, the series shifts to a new young agent named Ryan Sharma and the show goes on.