Quick Reviews: ORDER TO KILL and ENEMY OF THE STATE by Kyle Mills (Atria/Emily Bestler)

Flynn&Mills-MitchRapp15&16-1

The latest two novels featuring Mitch Rapp, the CIA super-spy and assassin created by Vince Flynn. I’ve read all of the books in the series, and it remains one of my favourites. These are Mills’s second and third instalments, following The Survivor (which he finished following Flynn’s passing). Both novels show the author becoming ever-more comfortable with the character, developing him, his colleagues, and returning antagonists brilliantly. The series is in very safe hands. I really enjoyed both of these novels.

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Flynn&Mills-MR13-OrderToKillUSMitch Rapp navigates Middle Eastern and Asian politics, with a big target on his back

In a pulse-pounding race to save America, covert operative Mitch Rapp confronts a mortal threat. But this time he might have met his match.

Mitch Rapp is used to winning. But thanks to several scheming and unscrupulous members of the Pakistani secret service, he finds himself chasing false leads from continent to continent in an effort to stop Pakistani nukes from falling into the hands of terrorists. Together with friend and colleague Scott Coleman, Rapp struggles to prevent the loss of these lethal weapons. Soon it becomes alarmingly clear that forces in Moscow are bent on fomenting even more chaos and turmoil in the Middle East, and Rapp must go deep into Iraqi territory, posing as an American ISIS recruit. There, he uncovers a plan much more dangerous and insidious than he ever expected — one that could have far-reaching and catastrophic consequences.

Written with the same breathless tension and relentless action as Vince Flynn’s greatest novels, Mitch Rapp’s latest adventure is as timely and provocative as ever.

In both of these novels, Kyle Mills has definitely left his own stamp on the stories. He is evolving Mitch Rapp nicely. As I mentioned in my review of The Survivor, the character is starting to age, and the many, many fights and injuries are starting to take a toll. Rapp retains his incredible skill and capabilities, though, so he remains the formidable ass-kicking CIA operative we’ve come to love and his enemies have come to fear. I found him to be rather thuggish in The Survivor, but I didn’t experience this problem in Order to Kill or Enemy of the State. Mills has given him more depth and nuance, much like Flynn’s earlier-to-middle novels. Flynn’s final two novels took readers back to Rapp’s first missions, and with Mills’s latest, you can see that the character has gone through a ‘realistic’ career, with repercussions and consequences to past decisions.

Flynn&Mills-MR13-OrderToKillUKRapp’s reputation in the global espionage community is an important component of the plot, in this novel (and, to be fair, some others in the series): conspirators in Pakistan have set in motion a bold plan to help their country become the preeminent power in the Middle East and Asia. Rapp is a potential thorn in the side of that plan, and so a deal is struck that sets a Russian operative, Grisha Azarov, on his trail. The threat this man poses to Rapp, his team and their mission to prevent the dissemination of WMDs in the region, is unlike anything they’ve faced so far.

I really enjoyed Order to Kill. It’s international scope, its mix of furious one-on-one battles, larger set pieces, and the cat-and-mouse subplot kept the pacing up and the narrative moving relentlessly forward. There are moments of calm, but Mills kept his eye on the story from the get-go. Azarov is an excellent new character, and the first who seemed to genuinely present a real threat to Rapp and Co.

Bringing the Russians into the story is a great development, situating the story in a reality-adjacent setting, reflecting certain aspects of contemporary international relations. Krupin, for example, is clearly an analogue of Putin.

“In a way, he envied Krupin and men like him. They were blessed with insatiable appetites that had to be constantly fed. Money, power, possessions, women. It would never be enough. A billion euros would have to become two billion. The adulation and obedience of ninety percent of the population would have to grow to one hundred percent. Krupin and the oligarchs would scrape and strive until their last breath, never knowing a moment’s doubt, introspection, or regret. Never considering there were aspects of life that existed outside their simple philosophy of more.”

As soon as I finished Order to Kill, with its interesting and so-very-Rapp ending (if you’re familiar with the series, you should get what I mean), I moved right on to book 16…

Flynn&Mills-MR14-EnemyOfTheStateUSRogue spies and assassins all over the place… and some terrorists

Mitch Rapp finds himself alone and targeted by a country that is supposed to be one of America’s closest allies.

After 9/11, the United States made one of the most secretive and dangerous deals in its history. The evidence against the powerful Saudis who coordinated the attack would be buried. In return, King Faisal would promise to keep the oil flowing and deal with the conspirators in his midst.

When the king’s own nephew is discovered funding ISIS, the president suspects that the Saudis never intended to live up to their agreement. He decides that the royalty needs to be sent a message and that Mitch Rapp is just the man to deliver it. The catch? America can’t be seen moving against an ally. Rapp will be on his own. Forced to make a decision that will change his life forever, Rapp quits the CIA and assembles a group of independent contractors to help him complete the mission.

They’ve barely begun unraveling the connections between the Saudi government and ISIS when the brilliant new head of the intelligence directorate discovers their efforts. With Rapp getting too close, he threatens to go public with the details of the post-9/11 agreement between the two countries.

Facing an international incident that could end his political career, the President orders America’s intelligence agencies to join the Saudis’ effort to hunt the former CIA man down.

Rapp, supported only by a team of mercenaries with dubious allegiances, finds himself at the center of the most elaborate manhunt in history. It’s only a matter of time before he’s caught or killed. Will it be enough to turn the tables on the Saudis and clear his name?

This novel felt a bit more like earlier Rapp novels, centred around events and action in the Middle East, Rapp’s wits pitted against another’s, someone with ties to an Islamic terrorist organization. The story has evolved from the immediate-post-9/11 style of terrorist, however: this time, it is ISIS, and its influence on the region. The synopsis above does a great job of setting the scene without spoiling anything, so I won’t dig too much deeper into the novel’s plot.

Everything I’ve enjoyed in Kyle Mills’s take on the character before returns in Enemy of the State, only he continues to make the series his own, and develop the character. In this novel, Rapp is released from government controls and strictures, but also oversight and protections. He’s gone rogue (in an interesting way). In order to execute his self-imposed mission, he assembles a pretty eclectic (not to mention surprising) group of allies. They are a collection of the good, the bad, and the deadly.

Flynn&Mills-MR14-EnemyOfTheStateUKThe action takes us to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. As can be expected from the series, American policies related to each region, and specific country comes under the microscope — albeit briefly, in most cases — as Rapp and other characters navigate the local politics. Certain scenes in Africa, for example, are brutal and unsubtle.

The narrative didn’t move as quickly as Order to Kill, but Mills manages to pack in a lot of story between the covers. Rapp needs to be smarter, move and think quicker than all of the forces arrayed against him. He’s put through his paces, confronted by some pretty interesting and deadly obstacles. His main antagonist seems to be outsmarting him at every turn. Luckily, his allies have some pretty unique, handy skills.

These are pretty brief reviews, but I don’t think either novel needs much more discussion. This late in a series, most readers want to know if what they’ve loved and enjoyed about earlier novels remains, and if the characters’ overall stories progress appropriately and in an engaging way. This is certainly the case for the Mitch Rapp series. Mills has made it his own, while not deviating from the overall sensibilities of the original series and characters created by Vince Flynn.

Two great additions to one of the best ongoing thriller series. Must reads for fans of the series, and if you haven’t read any Rapp novels, I’d certainly recommend them. I can’t wait for the next book. (There are going to be at least three more.)

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Kyle Mills’s Order to Kill is published by Atria/Emily Bestler in North America, and Simon & Schuster in the UK; Enemy of the State is also published by Atria/Emily Bestler in North America, and Simon & Schuster in the UK.

Also on CR: Series reviews of Protect & Defend, Extreme Measures, Pursuit of Honor, American Assassin, Kill Shot, The Last Man, The Survivor; Review of Darkness Falls

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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