During some cursory research for this book, I learned that it’s not the first book in the series that I initially thought, but rather the eleventh. As such, fans of Vince Flynn have already been introduced to Mitch Rapp who has quite the following in the spy/thriller genre.
Being introduced to this character with this book might have given me a slightly different view point of Mitch Rapp and his character and motivations. From the beginning, he is shown as a young man of exceptional skill and intelligence. With this step back in time, we are able to see how Mitch Rapp got his start in the CIA and how he became the black ops agent that he becomes in later books.
Extenuating circumstances have created the kind of personality in Mitch that the audience can understand why he chose the path that he did. With the death of his parents in a car crash at the age of 14 and his fiancee being killed in the Pan Am Lockerbie Flight 103 (which took place on December 21, 1988, a real life incident that killed 270 people, including 11 people on the ground that was allegedly masterminded by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer), Mitch is often left at odds with the people and the places around him, despite the fact that he is a gifted student and an All-American athlete.
While reading this book, I had to flip back to the front to see when it was published, which was 2010. This time period is tricky for Americans if you’ll forgive the understatement. The recession dominated nearly every news outlet and unemployment stayed in the high 9% range for much of the year. As a young and struggling president, Obama was under a microscope. Fear was rampant of terrorists around every corner. This was the social climate that we lived in and I had to remind myself of that on more than one occasion while reading this book.
As a character, Mitch Rapp felt distinctly one dimensional. It was hard to grasp sympathy for the man because no matter how you sliced it, he was murdering people. There was no judge or jury, just a gun pulled out of a holster and a bullet between the eyes, a train to catch, a plane back to the United States from whatever Middle Eastern country he had been sent to. Of course, these were very awful people, terrorists, and Nazis, people who either took pleasure from other people’s pain or simply did not care. However, the lawlessness that is implied that is necessary can at time feel like it’s being hammered home a little too often.
Make no mistake, this book isn’t about a very nice man with a nice man who is going through a personal journey of self-discovery. That isn’t who Mitch Rapp is at all nor does he seem to want to be. He wants to hurt those that hurt him and others like him. The only point that the reader gets a glimpse of what he might be emotionally processing is when Mitch has a brief discussion with Dr. Lewis, the psychologist who is in charge of the young recruit where they discuss the difference between revenge and retribution. Mitch very carefully lays out the differences: “Revenge is more wild, less calculated…deeply personal,” Mitch clarifies. “Retribution is a punishment that is morally right and fully deserved.”
Excellent for a quick read and promising to be a great vehicle to showcase Michael Keaton’s significant return to the big screen and Dylan O’Brien’s transition from TV teen to adult action star, American Assassin is set to release September 15, 2017.