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Book Review- "American Assassin" by Vince Flynn

Elise Cooper for BLACKFIVE

American Assassin is a vintage Vince Flynn novel. Although all of his books are considered “grade A” political thrillers, this novel is definitely an “A +”.  This latest book reverts back to the style of his earlier novels, Transfer of Power and The Third Option, very character and plot driven with much less political commentary.

The reader is taken on a whirlwind tour from the “CIA farm” in Virginia to Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, and Lebanon.   The book starts off with a young, 23 year old recruit, Mitch Rapp, being trained for a special, covert program within the CIA.  Flynn goes into great detail on the type of training and personality needed for this program.  As the plot thickens Rapp is sent to do special operations, assassinating known terrorists, and climaxes in Beirut where all his skills and intelligence are needed to help rescue himself and fellow CIA operatives. 

Although there is much less political commentary in this novel than in the last two, this book is not completely devoid of politics.  Flynn discusses the issue of torture, targeted assassinations, and the need for America to take an aggressive stance in fighting America’s enemies.  He mentions how William Buckley, the Lebanon CIA Station Chief, was kidnapped and through torture gave up to the terrorists’ valuable actionable intelligence.  Flynn explores the issue and emphatically points out to the reader that torture does work.  He told blackfive.net that “torture done properly will always get you the information.  Talk to anybody in the US military, any special ops person, any intelligence person and they will tell you if captured they will break. The key is to not talk for twenty-four hours to allow time to destroy the information and move the assets.”

Targeted assassinations are explored through Mitch Rapp’s eyes.  A quote from the book echoes this, “and a civilized society would never condone assassinations, even in instances where it involved national security.” Rapp points out that people are overly concerned over individual killings.  When asked, Flynn sarcastically noted that “there is no difference between a sniper and firing a drone.  Someone needs to explain the difference between shooting a terrorist in the back of the head in a Paris alley, and firing a missile into a mud building in Pakistan.”The characters are very well developed.  There is a definite distinction between the good guys and bad guys.  It was interesting how the enemy was presented, moving from America’s old adversary, Russia to America’s new adversary, the radical Islamists.  Flynn showed through the antagonists the tie in between the Cold War ending and the new war, the War on Terror, beginning. 

The protagonists of the book are Vince Flynn reader’s favorite characters, Mitch Rapp, Irene Kennedy, and Thomas Stansfield.  These characters are young, not the powerful intelligence leaders the fans have come to respect, but those whose personalities are being developed.  For example Kennedy is seen in this book as emotional at times and is chastised by Stansfield for not following his instructions of being publicly stoic and unemotional as seen in later books. Rapp is also not the self assured, independent worker but a raw recruit that is learning and refining his skills.  A somewhat new likeable character is Stan Hurley who made a cameo appearance in the previous book, Pursuit of Honor. Hurley has a gruff, black and white view of the world and as Flynn states,”Stan Hurley stands for a lot in this book.  He is an old school guy who feels like the world is going to hell around him.”Vince Flynn waited over twelve years to write the prequel to the Rapp-Kennedy series which he plans on continuing with two more books.  This book shows that the wait was well worth it.  There are insightful comments, characters whose personalities are clearly defined, and a fast paced plot.  If you are a fan of this series you will definitely be happy with American Assassin and if you have never read Flynn, this novel is a good start.