In the world of espionage, laws mean next to nothing.
The ability to kill effectively without a guilty conscience, however, is everything.
In his 10th novel in the Mitch Rapp series, Pursuit of Honor, best-selling author Vince Flynn delivers a cast of well-defined and realistic characters who must go beyond authority to catch the bad guys.
Pursuit of Honor begins six days after a horrendous terrorist attack on Washington, DC. Rapp, one of the CIA’s best counter-terrorist agents — a nicer way of describing his job of professional assassin — is at a loss for leads on the three culprits. But as a man of action and results, he rarely sits around.
In an interesting twist, the story begins not with a hunt for terrorists, but for Glen Adams, a CIA inspector general who has been leaking government secrets to the press in order to expose what he believes are unjust actions.
In a demonstration of his skills and expertise, Rapp easily captures Adams and takes him to a secure location for interrogation. Flynn provides a unique conflict in this scenario: Although Adams admits to leaking government secrets, it is hard to accept Rapp’s preference to executing him without some sort of due process.
It is a questionable decision; one that sets Rapp apart from other men in his position and a clear reminder of the kind of justice his character stands for. It is especially difficult to accept the decision when Mike Nash, Rapp’s sidekick, speaks out against it and questions his methods.
As a political thriller, Flynn is not afraid to instill conservative ideals in his characters and attack opposing views. In a congressional hearing, Rapp directly challenges the fictional senator of California’s criticism of torture by comparing it with a gruesome description of partial-birth abortion. Political affiliations aside, this is only one of the many ways Rapp’s bold and uncompromising personality drives an entertaining plot.
Legislative hindrances have long been a theme in Flynn’s novels, and Pursuit of Honor challenges it in a more proactive approach. To deal with the red tape, Rapp devises a plan in which Nash receives a medal from the President of the United States and becomes a heroic figurehead for the CIA.
Flynn also builds upon the pathos of the villains with the interwoven subplot of Karim, the self-proclaimed “Lion of Al Qaeda” and the man behind the terrorist attacks in Washington, DC, and his two supporters, Hakim and Ahmed. In his attempt to evade American law enforcement, Karim does not stray far from the typical fanatic: single-minded in his desire to hurt any and all infidels.
Rather, it is Hakim — his childhood best friend — who serves to question their unnecessary killing of innocents. Hakim eventually challenges their relationship by cooperating with the CIA and redeeming himself. Through Hakim’s emotion and choices, Flynn offers a fuller perspective of America’s enemy.
In his search for the terrorists, Rapp spends time in Washington, DC, where he captures a spy in a Russian nightclub, as well as the Bahamas and Santa Maria Island, receiving information from his British and French counterparts. The scenes are elaborate, but efficient, saying only what needs to be said. They shift often enough to keep the mood ever changing.
Surprisingly the book builds slowly toward Karim’s demise, then kicks to the climax. Much of the plot about the terrorists is developed through their in fighting, which does not have any direct connection to Rapp. Perhaps Rapp is too good at his job, because although the final and only confrontation between him and Karim is memorable, it is also quick, sudden, and feels underdone. The book could have benefited from a more gradual conflict between them beforehand.
But Flynn scores high in making the characters matter in a book full of different individuals. He balances a variety of them and for the most part gives each a fairly useful role in advancing the story. While Rapp, Nash and Karim receive most of the attention, the secondary characters, like Nash’s family and ex-Navy Seal Scott Coleman, help add another perspective to the story and provide a balance to Rapp’s brash behavior.