Act of Treason
By Vince Flynn
Atria, $25.95, 415pp.
It seems that every time I write a Frontpage column about thrillers that defy conventional liberal wisdom, a reader posts the question, "When is the next Vince Flynn book coming out?" Here you go, just in the nick of time.
Act of Treason is Flynn's latest adventure starring paramilitary hero, Mitch Rapp, the CIA equivalent to Dirty Harry, whose exploits in defense of America regularly force him to defy liberal Washington politicians in much the same way that Harry Callahan had to mix it up with the San Francisco brass.
And whether you're a fan eagerly awaiting the next installment or a curious reader wondering what all the fuss is about, Act will make your day. Flynn's tale illustrates the folly of treating terrorists as a law enforcement problem -- of granting suspected combatants the innocent-until-proven-guilty standard and trying to meet the standards of evidence that an American court would require -- and of the circus that a hostile media would create if such a thing were even attempted.
The story opens with the Democrat ticket for president lagging in the polls because Americans just can't take them seriously on national security issues. But when an assassination attempt on their motorcade just before the election kills the prospective first lady, the ticket is swept into office on a mixture of sympathy and defiance. Call it the reverse-Madrid effect. Americans figure that if Al Qaeda is this afraid of the ticket, it must be good.
Rapp and his boss, CIA Director Irene Kennedy, will be first on the chopping block for the new liberal administration, but Kennedy assigns Rapp to track down the assassin during the transition period. Rapp captures the Bosnian-born killer in Cyprus and delivers him stateside after commandeering a secret CIA jet used to transport terrorists.
Unfortunately, Mark Ross, the ultraliberal vice president-elect, has gotten involved in the case, and the assassin is turned over to the Justice Department for trial, rather than sent to a CIA facility for interrogation. Ross also has leaked to Tom Rich of the New York Times (Rich: get it?) that the possibly innocent man was shot in both hands and knees by that notorious Neanderthal Mitch Rapp, putting his confession in doubt because of "torture."
As Rapp explains to a young operative who thinks the CIA will finally get some good press, "Every news story has its cycle. And when it's about the Agency, no matter how good it looks at the beginning, it eventually gets ugly. It all come down to our methods. They're vegetarians, we're meat eaters."
It's not revealing too much to tell you that Ross is the villain of the piece, having arranged the death of the philandering wife of his running mate in a way that would eliminate two vulnerabilities at once; Flynn lays out the conspiracy pretty early in the book. There is no 24-style unraveling of layers of shocking conspiracy here, just the undeniable pleasure of watching the usual suspects get their comuppance.
It's no wonder - and good news - that Flynn has been retained as a story consultant for TV's 24. That should put a check on any incentive the show's producers might have to atone for past politically incorrect sins.
So until Jack Bauer hits your TV screen again in January, confounding America's enemies at home and abroad, Mitch Rapp fits the action lover's bill quite nicely.
Flynn's writing has improved since his first novels, but he's still capable of churning out such blunders as, "Rapp's eye was locked in on Gazich. A literal tunnel." That's OK -- after all, Flynn sometimes get enough tradecraft detail right that former CIA Director Porter Goss once asked exasperatedly of his work, "Who cleared this?"
Even less believable but still irresistibly fun is Spy (Atria, $25.95, 483 pp.), the latest in Ted Bell's Alexander Hawke series. Filled with well done, if over the top, action scenes, the thriller moves along at a brisk clip with several cliff-hanging plots intersecting, overlapping and keeping the pages moving.
This is action comic book territory -- think Clive Cussler with hot button themes. Lots of them. If Vince Flynn is too politically incorrect for you, don't even think about picking up Spy.
Hawke coins them term "jihadistas" to describe his opponents as Al Qaeda collaborates with Venezuelan thugocrat Hugo Chavez to set up a secret training camp for terrorists in the Amazon jungle. The plan is to exacerbate the simmering low-level war on the Texas border as cover for their plan to use WMDs on America that were smuggled out of Iraq.
If recent news reports of a testosterone deficit in American males are true, these books are just what the doctor ordered.
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