Before we even get started, I’m warning you now. If you haven’t read The Survivor, the fourteenth novel in Vince Flynn’s bestselling Mitch Rapp series, stop reading. There are major spoilers below!
If you have read The Survivor, but need a quick refresher on where things left off before picking up your copy of Order To Kill on Tuesday, keep reading.
Replacing a Legend
First and foremost, let’s take a quick minute to honor the late Vince Flynn. As most readers and fans already know, Flynn, the #1 bestselling author of fifteen novels, passed away in 2013 after battling cancer.
It was known that before passing away, Flynn had been working on the fourteenth Rapp novel, titled The Survivor. What was unknown, though, was how much of the book the famed Minnesota-based author had completed. Fans, saddened and shocked by his loss, had no way of knowing whether or not the Mitch Rapp series would continue.
On July 25, 2013, Emily Bestler (Editor-in-Chief of Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria Books at Simon & Schuster) announced via Flynn’s official website that The Survivor was postponed indefinitely. Nearly a year later, on June 23, 2014, Bestler made another announcement. Kyle Mills, the bestselling author of thirteen previous novels, had been signed to a three-book deal to continue the Rapp franchise.
Mills’ first task was to complete The Survivor. However, saying Mills merely “completed” what Flynn started doesn’t quite do it justice.
It turns out that Flynn had written just three pages before his death and, true to his writing style, had not left behind notes or an outline to work from. Mills had to come up with a way to utilize what Vince had already written, while also finding a way to continue the story arc from The Last Man, which The Survivor is a direct sequel to.
(Note: For those wondering, Flynn’s three pages were kept and used as chapter one. Mills wrote the prologue and everything from chapter two to the end of the book.)
On October 6th of last year, 1,057 days after the publication of The Last Man, Mitch Rapp was back on bookstore shelves and, soon thereafter, at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list once again. In fact, The Survivor debuted as the ‘Times #1 bestseller in all three fiction categories (Hardcover, eBook, eBook/Print combination).
What made The Survivor so good that even Flynn’s most die-hard fans embraced Kyle Mills and the story on its way to becoming a #1 bestseller? Let’s break it down!
Rickman Haunts the CIA from the Grave
For those who read and remember The Last Man, Joseph Rickman, the CIA station chief in Jalalabad, went missing. Eventually, Rapp found out that Rickman had betrayed America and was selling classified information to the highest bidders.
Unfortunately for Joe, Rapp showed up and put an end to things by inserting a bullet into the man’s head long before he was able to spend a single dime of his new fortune.
With Rickman gone, the threat appeared to be neutralized. But as it turned out, Rickman had taken precautions to ensure that he could still torment CIA Director Irene Kennedy from the grave. And he did just that…
One of the names Rickman leaked was “Sitting Bull,” which is the codename for Vasily Zhutov, the CIA’s highest-placed mole in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. With no way to know for sure which other countries could connect the codename with Zhutov, Scott Coleman and a couple of his guys were sent to monitor the situation and tail Vasily in Istanbul.
Newcomer Bebe Kincade, an ex-FBI surveillance expert, was the operative on the ground keeping eyes on Sitting Bull. But after she alerted Coleman to a possible second tail on Zhutov, it was time to get Mitch Rapp on-site to oversee things.
Back to Where it All Began
Summoned by Scott Coleman, Mitch Rapp left the home of Stan Hurley, his friend and mentor of more than twenty years. Hurley had recently been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and Rapp, along with everyone else, was unsure of what to do with his feelings. So he stuffed them deep down inside and hopped on a plane to Istanbul.
Returning to Turkey brings on a nostalgic moment both for Rapp and long-time fans of the series. It was, after all, in Istanbul where Mitch Rapp carried out his first mission for the CIA. He’d just completed his training at the hands of Hurley, who, back then at least, was more adversary than friend, and was instructed to neutralize a fifty-eight-year-old arms dealer named Hamdi Sharif. Disobeying nearly every operation order, Rapp got the job done.
Disobeying nearly every operation order, Rapp got the job done. (He’s always been one who disregards orders, even from the very beginning, and we love him for it!)
Returning again, roughly twenty-one years after Rapp had shot Sharif five times on a park bench, Mitch’s skills proved necessary when another team of operatives attempted to grab Sitting Bull off the streets of Istanbul. Rapp thwarted the snatch-and-grab with a few well-placed bullets, then took the remaining gunman to interrogate him.
The gunman, whose name is Vadim Yenotin, was a Russian sent by the FSB after they received an email from Joseph Rickman detailing Vasily Zhutov’s relationship with the CIA. The problem was that the gunman swears the email from Rickman was received just five days ago, which is impossible because Rapp had killed Joe two weeks prior. The timeline doesn’t fit.
Something was up…
Back at Hurley’s place, dubbed “The Farm,” Mitch and Stan make their way into the basement, which doubles as a makeshift off-the-books holding cell. After Rapp places Vadim Yenotin in a private cell, he wanders down the hall to where Louie Gould is still being held following his actions in The Last Man.
Gould and Rapp have a ton of history, all of it bad. It was Gould who had taken a contract to kill Mitch many years ago. He’d failed, blowing up Rapp’s house and his wife, Anna, in the process.
Shockingly, Rapp hadn’t killed Louie after finally tracking him down (in Consent To Kill). The man had just had a baby with his partner, Claudia, and he apologized for killing Anna Rapp. Mitch allowed Louie to live, but made him promise that he would stop killing and be a good man for his fiancée and daughter. He’d agreed.
Of course, like all slimy, narcissistic assassins, Gould couldn’t give up the thrill of killing for money. He was proud to be the best hitman on the planet and flaunted it. A few weeks prior, Gould had taken a high-paying contract that required him to go to Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he learned that the target was once again Mitch Rapp.
At first, Louie was excited about the prospect of having another opportunity to take out the legendary Mitch Rapp. But when he realized that his employer had set him up and was planning to kill him once the job was done, Gould revealed himself to Mitch and teamed up with him to stay alive.
For now, though, he’s where he belongs–in a hole in someone’s basement.
Mitch considered killing Gould right then and there, disgusted by the man’s desire to keep killing when he had a family he could be with instead. But Irene Kennedy showed up and pulled him back to the problem at hand, which was two dead Russian operatives and another being held captive.
Marcus Dumond, the thirty-four-year-old computer genius employed by the CIA, announced to Rapp, Kennedy, and Hurley that Rickman had apparently kept an insurance policy in the event that someone would kill him. Having hacked his way into Akhtar Durrani’s laptop, Marcus was able to decrypt some important files.
Durrani was the deputy general of Pakistan’s ISI, and one of the people Joseph Rickman had conspired with to betray the CIA. Joe had even been staying at his Durrani’s house until Mitch showed up and killed them both.
The most important thing Marcus discovered was a video file. Bringing the laptop to Rapp and Kennedy, he hit play, and a cocky Rickman started talking. Joe explained to Irene that he personally blamed her and the CIA for ruining his family, his health, and his life. This was his payback, and there was nothing they could do about it.
Before signing off, Rickman promised there would be more videos, more data releases, and enough compromising intelligence reports coming out to land both her and Rapp in federal prison.
A Deal with the Devil
Realizing they needed to work quickly, Rapp decided to chase the only lead he had. Leo Obrecht, a Swiss banker based in Zurich, had conspired with Rickman in The Last Man. His job was to accuse Mitch of depositing dirty money into a private bank account to make him look like he was on the take for someone else. Now, he was the only link to Rickman that was still alive.
Getting to Obrecht, whose house is basically a fortress with numerous armed guards, would be the hard part. Fortunately, Rapp knew someone who had close personal ties to the banker. Unfortunately, that person was Louie Gould.
While he certainly didn’t like the arrangement, Mitch had no other choice. Rapp knew Gould had killed his last handler for skimming money from him and, therefore, knew that Louie would have a plan just in case he ever decided he needed to kill Obrecht. He was right, but Gould’s help wouldn’t come for free.
It’s wasn’t enough that Rapp had let him live this long, apparently, so the greedy assassin demanded payment and freedom. (What is it with this guy, seriously?)
Reluctantly, Rapp shared with Gould that Kennedy thought his skills as a killer could be useful and, if he assisted in getting to Obrecht, signed off on putting him on retainer and sending him home.
It was, yet again, an amazing deal from Mitch Rapp that Gould did not deserve. He accepted, but, like the piece of crap that he is, Louie actually had plans to betray Mitch the first chance he got.
A coded message in the classified section of a newspaper Gould got his hands on stated that he would receive fifteen million euros for leading Mitch to Obrecht, where his people would be waiting.
Once again, the thought of killing Mitch Rapp and proving to the world that he was the best contract killer alive was too much of an ego booster for Gould to say no. (Bad choice, Louie!)
After planning out the assault using a 3D model of Obrecht’s compound that Marcus had printed off, Rapp, Coleman, Gould, Hurley, and a few of Coleman’s men went to Switzerland.
Hurley’s role was to play the part of an Interpol agent and be the man inside, while Rapp and everyone else hiked their way to a secret tunnel that led to Obrecht’s basement. Inside, though, while waiting for Obrecht to join him, Hurley’s failing health was becoming obvious. His coughing fits were more frequent and produced both blood and chunks of flesh. He held it together, only to realize they had all been crossed when one of Obrecht’s guards hit him in the head with the butt of his rifle and dragged him away.
Coleman and his guys all had different vantage points outside the banker’s mansion. Only Rapp and Gould would be going into the tunnel,then returning in less than ten minutes if things went smoothly.
Of course, they wouldn’t be going smoothly, thanks to Gould.
When Rapp burst into the room where Obrecht was supposed to be having a quiet meeting with Stan, he instead found a guard waiting for him. After a brief struggle, Mitch turned to see that Gould was now pointing his gun at him. Louie explained what had happened, and why he was betraying him. And, when Rapp asked why he’d take a contract hit over the chance to once again be with his family, Gould responded with “seemed like a fair trade,” before adding “I lose them, but I become the man who killed a legend.”
Thankfully, while Rapp couldn’t engage his throat mic to let Coleman and his guys know what was going on inside, Charlie Wicker, one of the most skilled snipers in the world, could see what was happening through the glass of the room’s window. At the same time, Coleman’s team was slowly being surrounded by Obrecht’s guards who, thanks to Louie, knew where they’d be.
Coleman took aim with a rocket launcher, then fired it into the side of Obrecht’s house. The blast, while mostly just loud and surprising, was enough to make Gould’s gun dip. Because Mitch was closer to the two guards, he sprung towards them while Stan Hurley, the eighty-something-year-old man with terminal lung cancer, lunged at Gould.
After taking out the guards, Rapp turned just in time to see Gould and Hurley face-to-face. Louis unloaded his gun into Stan’s stomach, but the old man buried his face into Louis’s neck and bit down with all his might, removing a large chunk of flesh and severing Gould’s carotid artery in the process.
As Louie ran off, blood pouring from his neck, Rapp ran to Hurley’s side. They shared a final last minute together before the legendary Stan Hurley died.
Rapp found Gould bleeding out in one of the mansion’s bedrooms and was about to finish him off with a bullet to the head when he decided to let Hurley have his last kill. With Gould finally dead, Rapp could move on. But first, he had to get out of Obrecht’s fortress.
A Surprise Visit
After shooting his way out of Obrecht’s place, Rapp broke from Coleman’s team and headed for the airport. He decided to go off the grid for a while because there was something he wanted to do in person, privately.
Arriving in Greece, Mitch made his way to a small safe house. Inside was Claudia Morrell, Gould’s ex, and her daughter. One of the reasons Rapp had let Louie live all those years ago after he killed his wife was because Claudia had named her daughter Anna, after Mitch’s wife. Rapp knew his Anna wouldn’t want him to kill for her, so Louie got to live…for a while. (I’m so glad he’s finally dead!)
Inside, Claudia, now thirty-six-years-old, listened as Mitch told her that Gould was dead, but that he wasn’t the one who killed him. She was still thankful to Mitch for not killing them all after Louie murdered his wife, and once again expressed her regret for the small role she played in that operation.
After saying hi to little Anna, Mitch gave Claudia a phone and explained that they had consolidated all of Louie’s bank accounts into one. After paying the taxes, which they did for her, Claudia was left with close to thirty million dollars. She was also being given a new identity courtesy of the French, under the name Claudia Dufort. Irene Kennedy had secured her a permanent residence in South Africa and even used some of Louie’s money to buy Claudia and Anna a large home in wine country.
After that, Mitch left, only to walk into a situation that had gone from bad to worse while he’d stepped away.
Another Name Burned
Kennedy and Mike Nash had been working together on a list of worst-case scenarios. They wrote down the most damaging names that could potentially leak thanks to Rickman, and tried to get out in front of it by alerting high-value moles and operatives.
They also realized that if they were trying to figure out how the information was being distributed, so, too, were other countries.
While they were going over their list, Kennedy’s laptop dinged, signaling an incoming email. It was another Rickman video. This time, he bragged about sending the Iranians information about their ambassador to the U.K. being on the CIA’s payroll.
This was such a top-secret information that even Mike Nash didn’t know if it was true. But it was, and Kennedy had little to no time to warn Kamal Safavi that he’d been compromised.
Rapp received Kennedy’s urgent phone call and immediately hopped on a plane to London. Sadly, Kamal Safavi, his wife, and their daughter had already been grabbed by a team of Iranians and taken to their embassy.
Upon hearing that he was too late in London, Kennedy explained to Rapp that there was another lead to follow up on and that Nash was already en route to Italy. Mitch was ordered to meet up with Mike so Nash could brief him on the situation. Most importantly, he was instructed to let the calmer, more even-toned Nash do the talking.
Using his old alias, Mitch Kruse, Rapp traveled with Nash in a black BMW to a law firm with ties to Rickman.
The NSA had picked up a hit on a woman named Isabella Accorso, who was killed in a car accident along with her daughter. Accorso, as it turns out, was the attorney Rickman had trusted with sending out his secure, encrypted files. She was only part of the process, but an important link for sure.
What Rapp and Nash didn’t know was that prior to their arrival, Ahmed Taj, Pakistan’s Director General of the ISI, had sent a team of his own to steal Joe’s files. Using her daughter’s safety as a motivational tactic, they had Accorso bring them the files from her desk, then delete all the backups on the firm’s private server. She’d complied, and then they killed her.
Rapp and Nash went inside to meet with the managing partner in Accorso’s firm, Mr. Ciprini, and his attorney, Dante Necchi.
Ciprini put up a tough act, but the truth was that his people were trying to recover the missing files and couldn’t. They were more afraid of the legal consequences for what Rickman had hired them to do, and were in no hurry to implicate themselves until Rapp gave them something else to fear–him.
After Nash’s diplomatic approach didn’t yield any results, Mitch got involved. After promising that, if any more Americans or their assets got hurt because of the law firm’s lack of cooperation, Rapp would personally be paying Ciprini a visit, the old man changed his tune.
Suddenly, they were all very helpful, and agreed to let the CIA check their system for any recoverable files. Additionally, they turned over a set of instructions from Rickman, detailing when information was to be released.
Having become fully aware that the ISI now had the Rickman files, Kennedy and Rapp shifted their focus to finding whoever has the encryption key. Essentially, the files are useless without a key, buying them a little more time to figure things out.
Marcus came up with a way to bait whoever has the files’ encryption key by sending out a fake message from the Italian law firm’s server. It’s known as a phishing email and, combined with the bandwidth from the NSA that Marcus was given for this operation, the computer nerd was pretty sure his plan might work.
In the end, it did. Marcus was able to track the emails to a server owned by a man named Pavel Katdsyn, who lived in a remote part of Russia. With a solid new lead, Rapp and his team geared up and headed over there right away.
On the ground in Russia, Rapp, Dumond, Coleman, and a few of Coleman’s guys battled the snowy elements as they made their way to the hacker’s compound. After arriving on skis, which is the first time we get to see Rapp operate in heavy snow, they crashed a party that had been started by the Pakistanis.
Taj’s team, led by Kabir Gadai, who’s been ahead of Rapp and Kennedy each step of the way up until this point, had gotten to Pavel first. Rapp and Marcus made their way to Pavel’s room, but Kabir and his men had already managed to get the encryption key out of him. Worse, they’d sent everything via email back to Taj, who could now see all of Rickman’s stolen files.
Departing with Kabir, the only surviving Pakistani operative, Mitch went to work on him while Kennedy accessed the files herself (Marcus managed to get the encryption key also, but not before Taj had received it) and started damage control.
Mitch put a deal on the table and, eventually, Kabir took Rapp’s offer. Mitch promised that if he gave up Ahmed Taj, Kabir’s family would not be harmed, and he would not be tortured. Instead, Rapp would kill him quickly, and then personally see to it that his family remained safe. It wasn’t a great deal for Kabir, but it was the best he was going to get. He spilled the beans on Taj, revealing his master plan.
Pakistan, the State Dinner
Flying to Islamabad, Rapp gained entry to President Chutani’s state dinner, and paid a visit to the chef. Jack Warch, the former Special Agent in charge of protecting President Hayes before being promoted to Deputy Director of the United States Secret Service, was contracted to run security at the event, so getting in was easy.
Warch knew Rapp and what he was capable of, so he let him in and even assisted him in getting an audience with Chef Obaid Marri.
Marri had conspired with Taj to poison President Chutani’s soup, which would kill him instantly and pave the way for Taj to become the next leader of Pakistan. But, after Rapp found the poison and the device Marri was instructed to use, he came up with another idea.
When it came time for the soups to be delivered, Marri instructed the servers to give the poisoned bowl to Taj, turning the tables on the ISI’s Director General.
Upon swallowing a bite of soup, Taj coughed and reached for a glass of water. After taking a sip, he immediately vomited all over the table. Then, a second later, he puked again, but this time, it was pure blood. Soon he struggled to breathe and he began to sweat profusely. Panic filled the air. Rapp, pretending to be a medic, bent down and acted like he was working on Taj as everyone else ran for the closest exit.
Mitch waited for Taj to recognize him, wanting to be sure that the man understood just who did this to him, and then instructed Taj’s bodyguards to take him to the hospital, knowing full well that he’d die before they could even get him out of the building.
There are a few other side plots that I didn’t cover in great detail here, but none of them are central to understanding anything in Order To Kill. Most notably, there are several chapters in The Survivor dedicated to Senator Carl Ferris, who was actually working with Pakistan to try and bring down Rapp, Kennedy, and the rest of the CIA.
Ferris, in the process of conspiring against the CIA, also tried to convince American President Josh Alexander to fire Kennedy. It appeared, at least for a brief moment, that Alexander was considering doing just that. Irene was fully aware that heads might roll, and even made plans to have Mike Nash succeed her, at least in the interim, should she be given the boot.
Ferris is also present at the state dinner, and he, too, recognized Rapp. While everyone fled the building, he demanded that Mitch needed to help him escape and provide protection. Instead, Rapp stabbed the senator in the thigh with a fork, sending a painful but non-lethal message.
The fork incident actually prompted the best line of the book, in my opinion. Later, back in the States, Kennedy informed Rapp that Ferris is claiming Rapp tried to kill him. He comes back with, “I don’t try to kill people, Irene. I either do or I don’t.”
Order To Kill
So, now that you’re all up to speed on the events of The Survivor, hurry out and get your copy of Order To Kill right away. In my opinion, it’s the best book in the series since Consent To Kill. Without giving anything away, it’s an action-packed ride with more twists and turns than fans of this series are used to reading. Not only is the story awesome, with Rapp hunting down rogue nuclear weapons and going undercover to infiltrate ISIS, but Mills has also developed one of the best bad guys in recent memory.
In fact, Mitch has never squared off with anyone quite like this before. Grisha, the antagonist, is a younger, stronger, and faster version of Rapp. He’s a lethal operative who puts fear into those around him and who doesn’t fail at anything, ever. Thier showdown is epic, and something fans will be talking about for years to come.