Thursday, February 12, 2009

“Extreme Measures”, by Vince Flynn (Simon & Schuster)


The latest political thriller from the master of the genre

In Extreme Measures, Flynn has brought us a new protagonist. Mike Nash, protégé of Mitch Rapp, and CIA operative. Opening with an interrogation at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Rapp and Nash find themselves caught in the political circus of Washington D.C., as Senator Barbara Lonsdale, chairwoman of the Judicial Committee, sets her sight on Rapp, hoping to make an example of him. A typical liberal, Lonsdale is constantly, sanctimoniously spouting about how the US is a “nation of laws”, questioning who’s going to stick up for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Rapp decides to straighten her out, to educate her on the way the world really works.

Much of the novel is set in Washington D.C., and is not as action-packed as Flynn’s previous Rapp novels. This is not to say that the book is slow of boring, far from it. Like Richard North Patterson, Flynn can make even the most boring side of American politics (committee hearings) seem interesting and filled with suspense and drama. In Mike Nash we get a different temperament and approach to the world of clandestine operatives. Unlike Rapp, he has a family: the scenes when he’s at home are touching and, frequently, hilarious; particularly those involving his newborn son, Charlie. The differences between the two characters is stark, with Rapp appearing more blunt and brutal than he has before, when put next to Nash.

Extreme Measures is far more political novel than action thriller, as Flynn tackles the subject of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the role of the CIA in the war on terror. In another twist of literature, the arguments outlined by Rapp and his colleagues are more eloquent and rational than anything you might hear on C-Span or read in the newspapers. The social commentary is spot on, too.

While the political machinations in D.C. unfold, Karim Nour-al-Din is plotting an attack on the US. A disenfranchised member of al-Qaeda, Karim has taken it upon himself to teach the Great Satan a lesson, unaided by al-Qaeda’s leadership. Unlike Rapp’s previous opponents, though, Karim has studied the US military, training up a group of fellow jihadists using techniques of the US special forces (specifically the Navy SEALs). Karim is an intriguing enemy, quietly unhinged, completely psychotic (he’s a little too light on the trigger when it comes to his own men), and as a result lethal. Through his meticulous planning, the novel slowly comes to a boil and ends on an explosive finish, setting the scene for the next in the series.

With Extreme Measures, Flynn has transcended all of his previous output. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the new exemplar of what a political thriller should be. While the genre is populated by some truly talented authors, Vince Flynn is truly the master – perhaps only able to count David Baldacci as a peer.

An absolutely essential read, Extreme Measures is simply superb: engaging, thrilling, intelligent, and impossible to put down.

For fans of: Richard North Patterson, Brad Thor, Alex Berenson, Kyle Mills, David Baldacci, Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsythe

Series chronology: Term Limits, Transfer of Power, The Third Option, Separation of Power, Executive Power, Memorial Day, Consent to Kill, Act of Treason, Protect & Defend

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