Kyle Mills opens his fourth Mitch Rapp thriller (since taking over the series following the passing of Vince Flynn in 2013) with Russian President Maxim Krupin standing in his Kremlin office looking down at the protestors filing into Red Square. The growing backlash and constant threat of being overthrown is annoying to Krupin, but it’s the inoperable brain cancer that he was secretly diagnosed with that proves most troubling.
At first, Krupin’s symptoms are fairly minor and easy to hide. However, as the cancer worsens, so too do the neurological issues plaguing him, forcing him to rely on more drastic methods in order to conceal his rapidly declining health from the many threats he faces both at home and abroad. While still strong enough to take action, Krupin preemptively begins assassinating powerful enemies, sending his henchman Nikita Pushkin to kill those he suspects might stand up and oppose him when he’s too weak to fight back.
Formerly, Grisha Azarov, the world-class athlete turned deadly assassin, served as Krupin’s errand boy, a job that once put him on a collision course with Mitch Rapp. Already one of the only men to ever go toe-to-toe with Rapp and live to talk about it, Grisha later joined another exclusive club when he lent Rapp a hand after Mitch took on an especially dangerous assignment that required him to go outside his normal circle of backup operators for support and forgo all ties to the CIA. That mission earned Azarov an IOU, and Rapp settles the bill by showing up in Costa Rica just as Krupin’s men open fire on Azarov’s home. No longer the medically enhanced, juiced-up super soldier that he used to be, Grisha isn’t in top form this time around, and he and Rapp barely escape the assault, running miles through the dark jungle to regroup and figure out why Krupin sent a team to kill him.
What started as settling a debt for Rapp suddenly turns into more when CIA Director Irene Kennedy receives preliminary reports that Krupin has pulled an old warmonger named Andrei Sokolov from retirement, making the general his top aide and closest confidant. It’s a peculiar move from the Russian president, one that Kennedy and the rest of the world initially believe was made to protect Krupin from the mounting pressure he faces from his own people as public protests continue to grow and receive more media coverage. However, that theory takes a hit when Krupin takes aggressive measures to invade NATO countries, daring the United States to get involved, which would no doubt end in nuclear war.
Upon learning of Krupin’s condition, Kennedy realizes that it’s a no-win scenario, as they’re essentially fighting an opponent with nothing to lose. While Krupin’s once-strong grip begins to weaken, his attempts to hold onto power by creating distractions that take the focus off of his frail frame and pale face become bolder and more dangerous. The more desperate he becomes, the more uncertain Kennedy is of the Russian’s next move. Worse, he still holds the keys to one of the largest nuclear weapon arsenals on the planet, which means if he does go down, he’ll likely do so with a bang, literally.
With diplomacy and military actions off the table due to Krupin’s increased hostility, American President Josh Alexander once again turns to his third option, Mitch Rapp, to do the impossible. . . sneak into Russia and kill Maxim Krupin before it’s too late.
There’s no question that this is Rapp’s most dangerous assignment yet, and Mills dials up the suspense while packing in more action than ever before, creating a relentless, heart-thumping plot that moves at breakneck speeds. While a lot of political thrillers have similar plots and players this year (the U.S. vs. Russia), Mills sets himself apart by putting a heavy emphasis on why the bad guys are doing what they’re doing, showing readers both sides of the conflict.
After sitting out the last two books, longtime readers will be happy to see a fan-favorite character return to form, but the emphasis is most certainly on Rapp, who continues to be a one-man wrecking ball disguised as a CIA operator. Mills, who has a clear understanding of what readers are looking for in this series, has found a way to honor Flynn’s legacy while also further developing his main character. Rapp, while just as lethal as ever, has a new swagger, and is now portrayed closer to the way readers have viewed him for two decades. One of my favorite scenes involves Mitch eating a Twinkie, something that only he could make look totally badass, which captures everything diehard fans love about the American assassin.
Kyle Mills continues his impressive run of must-read thrillers with Red War, a timely, explosive novel that shows yet again why Mitch Rapp is the best hero the thriller genre has to offer. . . and why Mills is the only writer capable of filling the enormous void left by Vince Flynn.
Author: Kyle Mills
Series: Mitch Rapp #17
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.95/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.