Monday, August 05, 2013

“Kill Shot” by Vince Flynn (Simon & Schuster)


A second novel of Mitch Rapp’s early CIA career

For months, Mitch Rapp has been steadily working his way through a list of men, bullet by bullet. With each kill, the tangled network of monsters responsible for the slaughter of 270 civilians becomes increasingly clear. He is given his next target: a plump Libyan diplomat who is prone to drink and is currently in Paris without a single bodyguard.

Rapp finds him completely unprotected and asleep in his bed. With confidence in his well-honed skills and conviction of the man’s guilt, he easily sends a bullet into the man’s skull. But in the split second it takes the bullet to leave the silenced pistol, everything changes. The door to the hotel room is kicked open and gunfire erupts all around Rapp. In an instant the hunter has become the hunted. Rapp is left wounded and must flee for his life.

I am a huge fan of Vince Flynn’s novels – I’ve read them all except the latest, now. Sadly, the author passed away earlier this year, so there is actually only the one other novel (which I will read A.S.A.P.). Flynn’s novels are action-packed, tightly written, and always a great read. If you’ve never read any of the Mitch Rapp novels (or Term Limits, the set-in-the-same-time prequel of sorts), then I highly recommend that you do. Kill Shot was a little bit different, following on from American Assassin, the first novel set during Rapp’s very early career as a CIA assassin. It’s a very good novel.

The novel starts with a scene between Irene Kennedy and the CIA shrink, Lewis. They’re talking about Rapp, his incredible proficiency and fish-to-water acclimation to his new job – he’s only been with the Company for a year at this point, and is proving brutally efficient and competent at killing...

“I’m talking about the fact that he is a one-man wrecking ball. That he has methodically, in a little over a year, accomplished more than we have accomplished in the last decade. And let’s be brutally honest with each other.” Lewis held up a finger. “The ‘what’ that we are talking about is the stone-cold fact that he is exceedingly good at hunting down and killing men.”

There’s some nice foreshadowing for the future novels set after this discussion between the shrink and Irene (it continues off-and-on during the novel). For example, this snippet, which foreshadows Term Limits

“Justice is blind, and if you train a man to become judge, jury, and executioner . . . well, then you shouldn’t be surprised if he someday fails to see the distinction between a terrorist and a corrupt, self-serving bureaucrat.”

Rapp, in the meantime, is in Paris, executing one of the terrorists involved in the ring that took down the plane that killed his college sweetheart. The operation doesn’t go as planned, as someone was waiting for Rapp. The next morning, the news breaks in Washington that Libya’s Oil Minister has been killed along with three innocent civilians and four unidentified men. The French authorities are certain that the gunman is wounded and on the loose in Paris. Rapp’s handlers have only one choice, of course: deny any responsibility for the incident and pray that their secret asset stays that way, avoiding capture and dying quietly. Naturally, Rapp is unlikely to do so, and decides to get to the bottom of the situation, and hunt down the rat in the chain of command.

Rapp’s paranoia and relative newness in the business sets in motion a series of events dictated by his training and also belief that he’s been set up by someone very close to him – specifically, and for a short while, the potential that Irene was the one that spilled the beans:

“She was by necessity the person who knew the most about him, and the details of this mission. His orders came from her. If anyone were in a position to set him up it would be her.”

With nobody to trust, he resorts to his wits to get to the bottom of things, as the two sides – Rapp’s and the CIA’s – circle each other, attempting to ascertain the other’s motives. Slowly, though, the truth comes out, and Rapp is able to channel his… attentions in the appropriate direction.

The novel is not as fast-paced as Flynn’s previous novels, and felt slightly drawn out at times. Key events and moments helped maintain interest, however, as we see Rapp growing more into his new role, and everyone else coming to terms with just how good he is at his job. Flynn also offers a fair bit of discussion and commentary on the nature of psychosis and psychopathy and their potential connection to those with careers in the military – especially with regards to special forces.

Given the early setting, it was also interesting to see a different, undeveloped side of Stansfield’s, Irene’s and Rapp’s relationships. They trust his skills, but they have not yet developed the intense bond of trust that we saw even in Transfer of Power (a novel that helped light the fire under my thriller addiction).

I ended up not taking too many notes for this novel – this is not exactly a surprise, when it comes to thrillers or novels that I become engrossed in. It is a very good thriller, and I was drawn on throughout, devouring this far quicker than most novels I’ve read recently.

Overall, this is a very good novel. Not the author’s best, but certainly a must-read for fans of the series and also for thriller fans in general.

Vince Flynn’s final novel, The Last Man, is out now.

Series Chronology: American Assassin, Kill Shot, Term Limits, Transfer of Power, The Third Option, Separation of Power, Executive Power, Memorial Day, Consent to Kill, Act of Treason, Protect and Defend, Extreme Measures, Pursuit of Honor, The Last Man

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