American Assassin takes us back to the beginning of Rapp’s career, telling the story of how a young man fresh out of college begins the process of becoming America’s most lethal and effective counterterrorism weapon.
Vince Flynn’s first Rapp novel was Transfer of Power, published in 1999, and featured a thirty-one-year-old Mitch Rapp. Flynn followed up his epic smash hit with nine more novels, all centered around Rapp and his many heroic efforts, before penning this prequel (and, eventually, another) to his popular franchise.
The book begins with Irene Kennedy dropping Mitch Rapp, just twenty-two, off at Stan Hurley’s place to begin his training. Rapp, just graduated from Syracuse University, is eager to begin his new career – tracking down terrorists and killing them. Unfortunately for him, not everyone thinks he’s right for the job. Hurley is, well, reluctant, to take him on as a recruit because of Rapp’s lack of military training.
From the very beginning Rapp shows the very traits that we’ve all come to know and love. As self confident as always, and ready to prove he belongs, Mitch challenges the veteran CIA operative to a one-on-one sparing match. Hurley accepts, and without ruining anything, the scene is fantastic.
Another fun dynamic to see, is Rapp’s sliver of self-doubt about joining the CIA, and whether or not he’s truly up for the task ahead. He believes he’s the right man for the job but also recognizes during his training that he needs to stay mentally strong, or he won’t make it. Until now readers have never seen Mitch be unsure of himself about anything, so it’s fun to peel back another layer and get a glimpse of Rapp we’ve never seen before.
This origin story doesn’t just walk us through Rapp’s training though, it also takes us along for his first opp, and his fist kill. Again no spoilers, but let me just say this, everything’s true to the Mitch Rapp we’ve followed for nine previous novels. Also, in previous novels we regularly saw an older Rapp navigate through a handful of countries with fake passports and identities, unknown even to the CIA. This book explains how Rapp obtained them, and who set it all up for him.
Personally, I was a little surprised that Maureen, or “Mary” Elliot, Rapp’s high school sweetheart who was killed on board Pan Am flight 103 in a terrorist attack, isn’t mentioned more. I thought we might finally learn some additional details about her, but instead we’re introduced to another love interest in the younger Rapp’s life, Greta.
Like the other women we know Rapp has been seriously involved with (Anna, Donatella) Greta isn’t one bit squeamish about what Rapp does for a living. That bodes well for Mitch, but things with Greta are somewhat complicated by what her family does for a living, and their relationship with Stan Hurley.
I absolutely loved this book. We got to see a new side of Rapp as he went through his training and learned what it takes to kill another man. And in the end, well, Rapp is once again a hero far better at what he does than anyone else.
Longtime followers of Vince Flynn’s work will really enjoy going back in time to where everything started for Rapp. For new fans a little late to the franchise, this is the perfect place to start. Make sure to clear your schedule first, because you won’t want to put this book down!