Quick Review: THE SURVIVOR by Vince Flynn & Kyle Mills (Atria/Simon & Schuster)

Flynn&Mills-MR12-SurvivorUSThe 14th Mitch Rapp novel, Flynn’s last

When Joe “Rick” Rickman, a former golden boy of the CIA, steals a massive amount of the Agency’s most classified documents in an elaborately masterminded betrayal of his country, CIA director Irene Kennedy has no choice but to send her most dangerous weapon after him: elite covert operative Mitch Rapp.

Rapp quickly dispatches the traitor, but Rickman proves to be a deadly threat to America even from beyond the grave. Eliminating Rickman didn’t solve all of the CIA’s problems — in fact, mysterious tip-offs are appearing all over the world, linking to the potentially devastating data that Rickman managed to store somewhere only he knew.

It’s a deadly race to the finish as both the Pakistanis and the Americans search desperately for Rickman’s accomplices, and for the confidential documents they are slowly leaking to the world. To save his country from being held hostage to a country set on becoming the world’s newest nuclear superpower, Mitch Rapp must outrun, outthink, and outgun his deadliest enemies yet.

Vince Flynn passed away after beginning this novel. His estate and publisher asked Kyle Mills, another fantastic thriller author, to step in and finish the book. I’ve read all of Flynn’s novels, and I’m happy to report that Mills has done a great job of continuing the series.

The Survivor picks up right after the events of 2012’s The Last Man. Rapp, Irene Kennedy, Stan Hurley and Mike Nash are still trying to clean up the mess after the defection of a high-clearance CIA handler. It is up to Rapp to find the information, and stop its continued leaking. As it stands, Rickman seems to have planned staggered leaks that will do maximum damage to the CIA — and Kennedy and Rapp in particular. The hunt for the information takes Rapp and his associates all over the world, jumping from Europe to the Middle East and back again. To make things harder for Rapp, he also has to deal with the assassin who was sent after him and killed his wife and child. Needless to say, he has lots on his mind.

Flynn&Mills-MR12-SurvivorUKKyle Mills, author of the Mark Beamon thrillers (among many other great thrillers), does a great job of picking up where Flynn left off. In many ways, he was the logical choice to continue the series. As with previous novels in the series, there is plenty of commentary on contemporary (albeit, pre-Trump) US politics and foreign affairs. The authors are unstinting on their criticism of the hypocrisies, absurdities and disconnects in policy. In this novel, America’s Pakistan policy comes under the microscope, and the novel has a lot to say about this — not much of it complimentary.

“It was a self-destructive behavior that persisted to this day. America continued to pump money into the country that had created — and still quietly supported — the Taliban. A country that had sold nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. A country that had hidden Osama bin Laden and now hosted the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.”

Flynn’s novels have also always skewered the hypocrisy of politicians in Washington. While he was clearly conservative, he was unforgiving in his derision for politicians who were only interested in keeping their jobs, as opposed to fulfilling their constitutionally dictated roles and serving the people. (One can only wonder what he would have thought about President Trump, “alternative facts”, and today’s Republican-led Congress.)

“The simple truth was that the increasingly dysfunctional men and women in Washington weren’t interested in making the difficult choices necessary to win the war against extremism. Pakistan would continue to demand U.S. dollars under the auspices of keeping its nuclear arsenal secure, and the American politicians would continue to blindly hand it over, hoping that it would be enough to keep the lid on the pot long enough to get them through the next election cycle.”

And, even more bluntly:

“Displaying fake indignation had become Congress’s primary job description.”

While it’s been some time since I last read a novel by Flynn, I found Rapp to be rather more thuggish in The Survivor than I remember him being in previous books. He’s an assassin, sure, but there was always a point to his brutality (regardless of whether or not I agreed with it on an ideological level). At times during The Survivor, his machismo boiled over, and it came across as posturing and a bit bro-like. Which is strange, because Rapp is probably the last person in fiction who needs to protest too much to hide his deficiencies. Maybe this was just a result of Mills still getting familiar with the character, or just some missed polishing. As a result, I found him a little less sympathetic and engaging as a character.

However, and this kept me reading and interested in the series: there is more focus on what his ordeals have done to him as a person and as a CIA asset. He is clearly suffering from PTSD, grief, and various other obvious psychological issues that would come from the loss of his family, and years in the life he’s led. There are signs that things are changing for him, however, and he makes a number of moves that brought to mind the nuances I remembered from past novels. Rapp’s co-stars are also better rounded, and the novel sees them gaining a little more prominence in the tale, something I hope will continue into the next novels.

Filled with interesting details, sharp observations, and intricate plotting, The Survivor is a great continuation of the long-running series. Mitch Rapp & Co. are in fine hands with Kyle Mills, and I hope we see many more novels in the future.

*

Vince Flynn & Kyle Mills’s The Survivor is published by Atria in North America, and Simon & Schuster in the UK. The next two novels in the series — Order to Kill and Enemy of the State — are also out now. I’ll be reviewing them very soon.

If you get the chance, I also highly recommend Kyle Mills’s Mark Beamon series: Rising Phoenix, Storming Heaven, Free Fall, Sphere of Influence and Darkness Falls.

Follow the Author, Mills: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Follow the Author, Flynn: Website, Goodreads

 

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