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Extreme Measures Mass Market Paperback – 2008
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Terrorist cells are planning strike missions against targets within the United States. Two of the three have been "neutralized", but the last is led by a megalomaniacal fanatic bent on furthering his own ambitions by striking a crippling blow at our strategic capabilities.
This story, as is usual with Flynn, is his signature unique blend of political intrigue and manipulation with shoot-`em-up thriller. But instead of focusing on Rapp and his CIA boss Irene Kennedy, the action centers around Nash and lesser lights at the CIA. Kennedy's appearance is less than perfunctory; she's barely in this story at all, and plays absolutely no meaningful part in its furtherance.
The quality that makes Rapp a "superstar" is that he's virtually a force of nature; an implacable, unstoppable weapon of American policy. Nash is... not.
We spend a lot of time reading about Nash's angst, family problems, the conflict of his job with his family life, etc. It was done in an entertaining fashion, but it's just not a Mitch Rapp book!
And Nash isn't anywhere near as just plain deadly as Rapp. In other reviews of Flynn's work, I've written that Rapp is the American version of James Bond as originally written by Ian Fleming. That's a major part of his appeal and Flynn's popularity.
At the end of this book, I was left with the feeling that Nash was lucky to still be alive, and wouldn't be if it weren't for the timely appearance of Rapp at the final showdown.
So... buyer beware.
Our main character, once again, is CIA operative Mitch Rapp. We join Rapp and his buddy Mike Nash at Bagram Air Force Base in eastern Afghanistan, where they are conducting an unauthorized interrogation of some captured bad guys. Meanwhile, a secret terrorist cell is training in the jungles of Paraguay to attack Washington, D.C. The clock is ticking.
This novel is essentially a "set piece" -- a predictable plot following a pre-existing formula. Flynn's characters are basically cardboard cutouts whose main purpose is to promote his view on torture.
Tough guy Mitch Rapp is the Oliver North of his world, boldly defying authority at almost every level to protect his homeland. Nash is the somewhat more hesitant family man with conflicted feelings. They're opposed by a liberal U.S. senator modeled on Barbara Boxer, as well as several lesser lights in the military and CIA chain of command.
Following the scandal at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, the political types are trying to reign in the use of torture. In contrast, Rapp's heroic actions "prove" that such "legalistic" thinking is foolish, hypocritical or suicidal. OK, so when should torture be used? Only operatives in the field, Rapp says, are qualified to make that judgment.
The story unfolds in the usual way -- tension builds steadily until Mitch Rapp comes to the rescue. Hurrah! Now we can see the Truth. By the end of the novel, even our liberal senator is convinced that torturing captured jihadists is just fine and dandy. Don't worry about those secret CIA prisons (black sites), water boarding, stress positions, psyops torture and extraordinary rendition (kidnapping). Vince Flynn says we don't really need that musty old Constitution -- it just gets in the way!
A more convincing novel would examine the issue of torture without this kind a comic book mentality where everything is either "us vs. them" or "wise conservative vs. stupid liberal." That's the difference between a master spy novelist like John le Carre and a pulp writer like Vince Flynn. Read le Carre's "Most Wanted Man" for a more sophisticated - and insightful - look at the role of torture in modern society. You won't be sorry...