Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kill Shot by Vince Flynn

Thanks to Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October I'm addicted to the military, espionage, techno thriller genre. The problem is, a good thriller can't rely solely on suitcase nukes, brush passes behind enemy lines, and handheld supercomputers. It should be no surprise that a good novel is comprised of believable, likable, hate-able, real characters: bad guys you want to strangle, good guys you want to have a beer with. That's as true for Clancy as it is for Dickens. Certainly this reeks of Walter Mitty, where I get to assume the role of protagonist. That should be a great compliment to a fiction author who writes with such verisimilitude (a word stolen right from Clancy's lips) that you are not just reading the novel - you're in it.

Upon completing Vince Flynn's Kill Shot, probably the 10th of Flynn's novels that I've read, I realized that he and his Mitch Rapp character might be second in my preferences only to Clancy's Jack Ryan. I must thank my friend Nick for recommending Flynn to me so many years ago. I don't think my preference for Rapp, the CIA's assassin of terrorists, comes from his being a fellow alum of Syracuse University where he played lacrosse and lost his girlfriend in the Pan-Am Flight 103 bombing. Or maybe that's disingenuous because it does make it easier for me to play Walter Mitty.

Kill Shot takes the Mitch Rapp story line back to almost the beginning when he was relatively new to the CIA but still regarded as their best operator. When he slips into a Paris hotel room to double-tap a prominent funder of terrorists the tables are turned and he finds himself on the receiving end of gunfire from five silenced submachine guns. After barely escaping down a rope from the sixth floor he finds himself floating down the Seine with a bullet in his shoulder and rage in his heart. How did they know he was coming? Who can he trust?

When Mitch phones in his report to Langley it's his handler, Dr. Irene Kennedy, and DDO Stansfield who find themselves with a dilemma. The CIA's staff shrink has already reported that should Mitch ever feel abandoned or betrayed by The Company, he'll leave a trail of bodies across Washington. So what do they believe? Reports that Mitch botched the operation or the idea that he was betrayed and will soon be coming for them?

Flynn's writing is crisp and accurate. He creates a cast of characters that are deep and complex enough that some inspire both hatred and pity. Kill Shot rounds out Mitch's character in a way that adds to the overall body of work. My only complaint is that the novel ends too abruptly for my taste. I think that's because Flynn's cast of characters is so real that I want a little epilogue to see how the loose ends get tied up (or which ones don't).

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