American Assassin (Mitch Rapp #1)
By: Vince Flynn
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
Two decades after the Cold War, Islamic terrorism is on the rise, and CIA Operations Director Thomas Stansfield forms a new group of clandestine operatives—men who do not exist—to meet this burgeoning threat abroad, before it reaches America’s shores. Stansfield’s protégé, Irene Kennedy, finds the ideal candidate in the wake of the Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist attack. Among the thousands grieving the victims is Mitch Rapp, a gifted college athlete, who wants only one thing: retribution. Six months of intense training prepare him to devastate the enemy with brutal efficiency, leaving a trail of bodies from Istanbul and across Europe, to Beirut. But there, the American assassin will need every ounce of skill and cunning to survive the war-ravaged city and its deadly terrorist factions.
It’s not apparent in this blog, but I do read quite a bit of political thrillers peppered in amidst all the fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction, classics, and poetry that I read. I just don’t blog about it much, if at all, because I tend to blitz through them quite quickly, especially during the summer, lol. This book first caught my attention because there’s a movie adaptation coming out later this year and it’s about to occupy the Jason Bourne-hole in my heart (when John Wick isn’t around, lol):
But then it was funny because I picked up this book and I was pondering to myself that the author’s name was familiar. Aside from remembering when it was announced that he had passed away a few years ago (very sad, and he was so young too!), I remembered that this isn’t the first time I’ve read his books: I read his standalone Term Limits years ago (which I also remember thinking and rating it as pretty good). Anyhow, here we are.
It quickly occurred to me that the plot drastically changed for the movie, lol. Here it’s straight-up geopolitical spy games mirroring real-life events and shifts in the geopolitical environment. The plot has its ebbs and flows, moments where it slows down as the players move into position and you’re reading and wondering what the overall objective is for these characters int his novel. But when the story picks up, it really picks up, and I can see why it was optioned into a movie.
The book also serves as a good introduction to Mitch Rapp, Jason Bourne-esque in his abilities. His drive that landed him in this clandestine programme felt a tad bit generic, as was his character, but I thought was was really interesting was when they were evaluating his sense of right and wrong, of revenge and retribution, when to follow orders and when to follow his own sense of opportunity and action, what bothers him at night and what doesn’t from his own actions. I thought that aspect of his character was really interesting and I’m curious to know how that changes in future installments of the series. Other characters also strike as pretty generic for the genre but then there’s that one aspect about them that would make them stand out, such as Stan Hurley and facing the prospect of retirement/outliving his usefulness as younger people come along, Irene and her connection to Hurley but also out to prove herself in the agency. I enjoyed reading the characters’ interaction and their slow formation into a unit.
All in all American Assassin was a good summer read, quick but engaging. I don’t think this series would top as my favourite in the genre (that crown belongs to Daniel Silva and his Gabriel Allon series which I will be singing praises of until the end of time, lol) but Vince Flynn wrote another fascinating read. If you’re into reading thriller novels this is definitely something to consider picking up.