New Maine Times Book Review: 'The Last Man'

Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in Culture

New Maine Times Book Review: 'The Last Man'
"THE LAST MAN"
by Vince Flynn
Atria, 2012
433 pages, $27.99
ISBN 978-1-4164-9521-2
 

reviewed by William D. Bushnell

 
Joe Rickman is a 30-year veteran of the CIA, the last six years spent in Afghanistan as the head of CIA clandestine operations. He's an intelligence agent with a treasure of valuable information in his head. Rickman knows the names of spies, double-agents, and moles. And now Joe Rickman has been kidnapped by the Taliban.
 
When word of the kidnapping reaches CIA headquarters at Langley, Va., the intelligence communities of the United States and its allies go into a panic. What if Rickman is made to talk, to tell what he knows? The damage to the CIA and the war on terror would be incalculable.
 
However, CIA Director Irene Kennedy knows just what to do. Rickman must be found and retrieved or prevented from talking. And there is just one man who can do either:  notorious CIA operative Mitch Rapp.
 
"THE LAST MAN" is the 14th novel by best-selling author Vince Flynn, in his series featuring the CIA’s most lethal, most feared, and most successful agent, Mitch Rapp.  Minnesota-based Flynn is perhaps the best writer today of contemporary intelligence and counter-intelligence fiction. His novels reflect real-time events, with suspenseful, complex plots (and plenty of plot twists and surprises), and convincing characters, revealing just how violent, unpredictable, and determined America’s enemies are.
 
This thriller is not for the squeamish; there is plenty of violence, including torture, but most refreshing is Flynn’s ability to make sure the bad guys get exactly what’s coming to them. And if they cross swords with Rapp, an unpleasant outcome for the bad guys is a certainty.
 
Rapp and his team of equally skilled and ruthless CIA agents arrive in Afghanistan to find Rickman’s safe house full of executed bodyguards, with Rickman, his safe and papers, and computer missing. Obstructive and obtuse State Department officials only get in the way of Rapp’s operation, trying desperately to salvage a failed policy of Taliban re-integration into the Afghan government.
 
Complicating Rapp’s efforts to find Rickman are duplicitous Afghan police, State Department hacks, and a myopic FBI agent who thinks he is conducting a righteous investigation into CIA corruption. Still, it doesn’t take Rapp long to smell a rat in the Rickman abduction.
 
Soon, videos of Rickman’s torture appear on Islamic websites, forcing Rapp to take extreme measures to correct a rapidly deteriorating situation. What Rapp doesn’t know, though, is that an enemy from his past, a highly skilled assassin, is stalking him, setting up an exciting and bloody shoot-out between CIA agents and the Afghan police.'
 
Meanwhile, CIA Director Kennedy must figure out who is trying to destroy the agency’s clandestine operation department, and at the same time protect Rapp from overzealous FBI agents and other governmental officials who want to embarrass her and destroy him.
 
Adding to the plot are a sneaky U.S. senator with more than just an ax to grind, a State Department flunky whose threats Rapp finds amusing, a Swiss banker with plenty of reasons to want a lot of people dead, and a frightening conspiracy involving Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (the ISI, the real-life spy agency well known for corruption, deceit and double-dealing). when Mitch Rapp finally discovers what really happened to Joe Rickman, a boatload of folks will pay dearly.
 
This is an excellent thriller, a superb intelligence mystery, loaded with action, tension, intrigue, snappy dialogue, misdirection, subtle and well-crafted foreshadowing, and some nifty surprises.
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