A Book Spy Review: ‘American Assassin’ by Vince Flynn

American Assassin

(Editor’s note: This book was originally published in 2010, but is now being re-released with a brand new cover that ties directly into the ‘American Assassin’ movie coming out in September.) 

Going back after penning ten novels as part of his best-selling franchise, Vince Flynn delivers this high-octane prequel, offering readers a look at the origin story of Mitch Rapp–one of the greatest, most beloved fictional characters ever created.

When readers first meet Mitch Rapp, he’s a grieving twenty-three-year-old who lost his girlfriend after terrorists blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Riding shotgun with Irene Kennedy–a brilliant young counterterrorism analyst with the CIA–the book opens with Rapp being dropped off at Stan Hurley’s remote training compound in southern Virginia.

One year prior, Rapp landed on Kennedy’s radar. An All-American lacrosse player who considered taking a scholarship to North Carolina before following his high school sweetheart, Maureen Elliot, to Syracuse, Rapp is a physically gifted individual. More importantly, having graduated with a major in International Business and a minor in French, Mitch has the smarts to match his physicality–making him a perfect target for a project Kennedy was tasked with overseeing.

Thomas Stansfield, Kennedy’s mentor, is a career spy who climbed the ranks to become Director of Operations with the CIA. Realizing that times are once again changing and that America needs a unit to hit back at terrorists on their own playing field, Stansfield instructs Kennedy to create a special unit called the Orion Team.

Designed to be “a small footprint specifically created to cut through the bureaucratic red tape,” Stansfield chooses his longtime friend Stan Hurley, a veteran spook who proved his worth during the Cold War, to head up the new team of assassins. 

Convinced Rapp won’t be able to cut it due to his lack of military training and an obvious problem with authority, Hurley is adamant the former All-American is a waste of his time–something he makes very clear through a long string of colorful, obscenity-laden tirades on more than one occasion. But as he pushes Rapp harder than the other recruits, Mitch refuses to quit, showing unwavering determination to achieve his goal of retribution.

Rapp and the other recruits undergo a grueling six months of training at the hands of Hurley and his men. They’re taught to shoot, trained in psychology (as a way to always stay ahead of their opponents), evasive maneuvers, how to use explosives, and, most importantly, counter surveillance tradecraft. Through it all, Rapp and Hurley develop a hate-hate relationship, but eventually find common ground when it comes to hating the enemy.

Half a year after Kennedy dropped Rapp off at Hurley’s lake house, the Orion Team was deemed operational, and Mitch Rapp is finally unleashed on the enemy.

After getting the green light from Stansfield, Rapp is sent to Istanbul on his first mission. His target, Hamdi Sharif, is an arms dealer who has been selling explosives to terrorists. From the onset, Rapp proves to be highly effective in the field, breaking more than a few of Hurley’s rules in the process.

As the Orion Team sweeps across Europe, striking their targets with lethal precision–hitting hard and fast–Rapp quickly becomes the team’s star player, and the reason so many terrorists suddenly develop a bout of insomnia. But what Hurley and his team don’t know is that a bad guy is lurking in the shadows and a trap has been set for the Orion Team. In the end, it’ll be up to Mitch Rapp to save the day.

From the moment Mitch arrives and squares off with Hurley, Vince Flynn takes readers along on Rapp’s incredible journey. From a hardened young man who vows to kill the terrorists who murdered his girlfriend to one of the most lethal weapons in America’s arsenal, readers witness Rapp’s transformation first-hand.

Early on in the story, during a session with Dr. Lewis–the man charged with overseeing each recruit’s mental state–Rapp makes a profound distinction between revenge and retribution when he’s asked what drives him to do what he signed up for. “Revenge is more wild, less calculated…deeply personal,” says Rapp. “Retribution is a punishment that is morally right and fully deserved.”

Rapp’s motivations are obvious, and while he goes on to use brute force and is capable of breathtaking violence, his actions are always justified by this one line. It sets the tone for the rest of the series–making it perfectly clear that Rapp is not just a cold-blooded killer. 

In fact, Flynn, like Rapp, never actually condones violent behavior. Rather, Mitch Rapp is the tool the CIA uses when known terrorists either aren’t cooperating or pose an immediate threat to American lives. At the end of the day, if a credible threat is lurking, Rapp is the guy you want hunting down whoever is planning the attack. And it’s people like Rapp who stay awake at night to fight evil, that allows everyone else to sleep peacefully in the safety of their own homes. 

A legend is born in Vince Flynn’s #1 bestselling novel, which has since been turned into a major motion picture set to hit theaters on September 15th. Get the newly released paperback version, which features a stunning new movie tie-in cover, now available in bookstores everywhere.

Bravely standing his ground as the United State’s first line of defense against the war on terror, Mitch Rapp is the American assassin. Head out and get Vince Flynn’s hard-hitting novel today!


Book Details

Author: Vince Flynn
Series: Mitch Rapp #1
Pages: 464 (Paperback)
ISBN: 1501180495
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 9.5/10
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