TRANSPARENCY VERSUS NATIONAL SECURITY
It has been two weeks since the concluding events of the previous novel, “The Third Option.” Three questions of vital importance are seeking answers in Mitch Rapp’s brain. First, who paid for his own team to hit him during the CIA counterterrorism operation in Germany two weeks previous? The motive is clear – his body found next to that of an important foreign national would expose the clandestine Orion Team. So the real question is who shouldn’t know about his existence but does?
Secondly, now that his existence and purpose have been compromised within the spy community, he needs to retire from fieldwork. But he has promised to stay with the Agency. Hence, the question that must be shortly answered is: which, of the several desk positions that will be offered to him, can he tolerate?
And thirdly, but by no means the least in importance, is the question of whether Anna Rielly will accept his upcoming proposal of marriage. Anna is the NBC White House correspondent that Mitch rescued in the previous novel. But her journalistic need-to-know and his occupation’s need for her not to know some things are a real problem between them.
By the end of the novel, Vince Flynn will provide the reader, through an omniscient point of view, with more answers than Mitch himself will receive. Only one of the three questions will be completely resolved; and an unrelated, highly volatile and globally important situation will compound the other two questions exponentially. However, this does not imply an aggravating cliffhanger. The novel concludes quite satisfactorily, but the hook is set for the next book of the series.
While the storyline is well set and progresses linearly, thoroughly and realistically, I had two problems with the book. One problem is editorial in nature; the other is personal.
From an editorial standpoint, Flynn’s editing team allowed him too much data dump space. At first, all the military specifications and historical references were interesting. Eventually, however, they simply got in the way of the story and the action and I found myself scanning past them.
Also, Flynn and the editor(s) seemed to forget that two plus two must still equal four. For example, when introducing a particular Mossad agent, Flynn gives the man’s age and years of service to Mossad. Two sentences later, conflicting data is given, losing as much as two years in the telling. There are several more such instances and it distracts from a story where being able to discern between truths and lies is quite important.
The personal problem I had with the book was with the characterization given to Anna Rielly. Frankly, I do not like her character one bit. Anna is a major influence, carried over from the previous book, as not only a prominent DC journalist but also the almost-fiancée of Mitch Rapp. Her inquisitiveness as a journalist is dangerous to Mitch, but she is also self-involved, immature, selfish, accusatory, self-absorbed and incapable of hearing anything that doesn’t fit what she wants to hear. And she has an absolute need to always get her way regardless of the consequences to Mitch. In short, the woman is toxic.
At times I was so aggravated with the character that I just slammed the book down and took a breather. Then Flynn finally made it clear, through Mitch’s current death-threat problem, that he had deliberately written Rielly with the emotional make-up of an over-indulged prima donna. Even after the President fills Anna in completely on Mitch’s past and present and even after Mitch puts his life on the line to belay a nuclear disaster, Flynn still writes Anna true to that selfishness of character. He has her pull a power play on Mitch, a one-two punch of “I want you to hurt just as badly as I did” and “promise me you’ll never do that again or else.” Nope, I really don’t like her.
So as we move to the next book in the series, we have to accept several facts. One is that a major supporting character and love interest to the main protagonist is a self-absorbed witch. And the other is that a leopard cannot change its spots. It may conceal them with a bit of Clairol but the spots will, in time, grow back to their original nature. Point being, Anna’s not going to change and it may be that Mitch cannot be a desk jockey either.
Cover Art from Goodreads