Title: American Assassin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Trade Paperback: 435 pages
Publication Date: 06/01/2011
Having never read any Vince Flynn before, I have to say that I was relieved to discover that his twelfth Mitch Rapp novel was a prequel rather than a sequel. When you arrive late to a series there’s always a slight feeling that you’re playing catch-up but, as American Assassin deals with how Mitch became a counter-terrorism operative, I found that not having read the rest of the series wasn’t a handicap.
Driven by the tragic loss of his girlfriend aboard Pan Am flight 103 on December 22 1988, Mitch is a young man desperate for revenge. A desperation and an ability – both physical and mental – that CIA agent Irene Kennedy [another recurring series character, apparently!] spots when she visits Syracuse University. Despite his lack of military training or experience, Kennedy realises that Mitch is unique and offers him a choice to gain his revenge [although Rapp prefers to term it ‘retribution’].
Stripped of his identity he finds himself honed and forged into the ultimate weapon on a secretive – and very selective – program [known as Orion]. But things don’t go according to plan and, on the war-ravaged streets of Beirut, Rapp finds himself not the hunter but the hunted.
Fast-paced and pulse-pounding, American Assassin doesn’t let up and was a one-sitting read for me [sorry, that was rather a lot of hyphenated words in one sentence!]. The action is brutal and realistic, and there are a number of uncomfortable and gruesome torture scenes, which manage to toe the line between graphic and gratuitous.
And, after reading this novel, I can certainly see why Mitch Rapp has been the central [anti]hero for all of Flynn’s novels. His tragic past and quest for revenge/redemption not only gives him a motive for his actions, but also adds a degree of humanity to his character. Above all, what really emerged in this book, is that Mitch is a character that Flynn completely understands and is comfortable with [although that is hardly surprising given that it’s their twelfth book together!].