My father-in-law is not much of a novel kind of guy. He goes for the non-fiction, mostly political stuff. So when I saw Pursuit of Honor, a relatively new spy novel by Vince Flynn, laying on his end table I was intrigued. I picked it up and quickly forgot the Mets and their losing ways.
The basic premise is; Mitch Rapp, a clandestine CIA operative, and Hakim, one of the terrorist who is helping his two fellow al Qaeda operatives get out of the country following the attack.
Pursuit of Honor is the 10th of 11 currently completed Flynn novels featuring the daring Mr. Rapp, although the most recent book is not due out until later this month. I have not read any of the others, and I don’t think I will any time soon. The story is intriguing like a good spy novel or Hollywood blockbuster should be, but it lacks depth, like most Hollywood blockbusters come to think of it.
Rapp is not a particularly lovable character, but I don’t think Flynn ever intended him to be. He’s a hard-nosed man whose sole purpose in life is to bring the baddies to justice using whatever means necessary. He gave up the American Dream in exchange for ensuring its possibility for others. But mostly he seems to enjoy pissing people off and making sure doing so gets him results.
Hakim is a kind of interesting character. Unlike his fellow al Qaeda operatives he’s had prior experience with the west and lived in Cuba for a while. He’s also a huge Hemingway fan, which kicks him up a few notches in my book. As he sees the stark contrast between his best friend’s maniacal devotion to his own ego and the American reaction to his violence on the news he begins to doubt whether Allah truly endorses mass murder of innocent people. When his friend, the self-proclaimed Lion of al Qaeda, kills one too many simple Americans going about his daily life Hakim decides to bail. As the conflict between Hakim and the lion grows, Rapp and his friends grow closer and closer to danger and the book’s climax.
Of course, al Qaeda is only one of the thorns in Mitch Rapp’s side. The bureaucracy of Washington frequently throws a wrench into his plans up until a dramatic, and frankly, ridiculous confrontation in a Senate oversight committee. Flynn is one of the many American conservatives who think that people in opposition to them operate on the same ground rules as them. The Senate committee is investigating allegations that Rapp and his shadow men used interrogation tactics on a captured terrorist and dislocated the man’s arm in the process. Also, this guy just happens to have dual citizenship in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Rapp is verbally attacked by a Senator from California who is a thinly veiled representation of Nancy Pelosi in front of a closed session with no media types to broadcast the argument to people who might actually care about what Rapp has to say. Pelosi, I mean Ogden, angrily decries the morality of torture and its use on terrorists who have not signed the Geneva Convention treaties. Flynn in his naivety brings forward a piece of evidence that puts the Pelosiesque senator in her place in dramatic fashion. What is this powerful political black mail? Apparently Ogden is a staunch supporter of partial-birth abortion.
Here’s a little quote:
“(The U.S. Senate) is where we not only say it’s perfectly okay for a doctor to kill a full-term baby, but we think taxpayers should help pay for it. And you call me a barbarian…I’m merely trying to point out the hypocrisy that this esteemed body is so famous for.”
Now regardless of the validity of Rapp’s, or Flynn’s, argument, this simply will not work as a an argument against a senator’s moral outrage at the idea of dislocating a terrorist’s arm in order to glean information from him in the wake of an attack. Obviously Ogden is proud of her voting record and if she doesn’t think partial-birth abortion is on shaky moral ground no one is going to convince her that torture is not on the same shaky ground simply by pointing it out. At least I think that was the point Flynn was trying to make. I found the whole of chapter 50 utterly confusing. Not only was the conversation hard to follow, but in the end it made absolutely no sense.
So aside from a single simplistic and over dramatic chapter in the middle of the book Flynn puts together an exciting and believable spy novel. The end doesn’t quite leave you crying and waving an American flag while the band plays SSB, but it wraps up nicely. I especially like Hakim. That’s not to say I condone his actions. I just like him in the sense that I like Ralph Fiennes portrayal of Amon Goeth. Being bold enough to present a book about terrorism at least partially from the point of view of a terrorist, even a mildly repentant one, is not something one expects from the quality of writing Flynn offers. Speaking of the writing, it comes off just a bit on the pulpy side, but it’s all together bearable.
Now, if you want to read a well polished and all together thrilling spy series set in the modern age, you absolutely must grab Ted Bell’s Hawke series. Alexander Hawke is the James Bond of the modern age and the sooner Hollywood gets off their duffs and realizes this the better our summer movie watching will be.
One final comment, the picture of Flynn on the dust jacket makes him look like a business school frat boy that’s itching for a sock in the jaw. Just sayin.