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Monday, February 08, 2010

Transfer of Power

Transfer of Power, Vince Flynn’s second novel, introduces Mitch Rapp, the CIA counterterrorist who has since been the main character in another nine Flynn thrillers. Those just discovering the Mitch Rapp series are likely to find the earliest novels in the series (this one was published in 1999) to be even more poignant than those who read them prior to the murders of September 11, 2001. New readers will also notice how Flynn’s style has changed over the years as he, thankfully, lost most of his “Tom Clancy style” and streamlined his novels into even better thrillers.

The White House is under the control of a small band of Arab terrorists led by the notorious Rafique Aziz. Although President Robert Hayes makes it to the relative safety of his basement security bunker, he is, in effect, trapped inside the building along with at least 80 other hostages. The country can only watch in horror as Aziz executes a man and a woman on live television and promises to kill one additional hostage each hour until his demands are met by the United States government.

Rafique Aziz is no ordinary terrorist. He has specific goals in mind and he does not intend to blow himself up along with his hostages unless the U.S. military attempts to retake the White House by force. Aziz understands that most ordinary Americans, and some inside the government, have no stomach for witnessing the systematic slaughter of another 80 hostages, and he counts on the media to apply so much pressure on the government to negotiate that all of his demands will be met. And in the person of Vice President Sherman Baxter, now acting President, Aziz has just the man in place to make it all work out just as he planned it.

Sherman Baxter is the worst kind of politician, a weak-willed, almost cowardly man with an intense desire to be President of the United States. He wants to appear strong but he is afraid to make any kind of mistake because he realizes that his handling of the hostage standoff will very likely make or break his political career. Much to the disgust of the Pentagon, FBI and CIA, Baxter is more willing to listen to advice from his amoral chief-of-staff than he is to what his counterterrorist experts tell him. If the President and other hostages are to be rescued, it will have to happen without the knowledge or cooperation of the Vice President.

Vice President Baxter agrees to allow Mitch Rapp, an “off the books” CIA counterterrorism operative, to sneak into the White House but, when Rapp reports that the White House will have to be taken back by force, and soon, the Vice President refuses to give the order to do so. Rapp, along with a civilian volunteer and a female hostage he manages to snatch from her captors, negotiates his way through secret passages, tunnels and hidden rooms inside the White House gathering the intelligence needed by those planning the President’s rescue.

Transfer of Power is a good political thriller and Vince Flynn successfully increases the reader’s tension as the book draws nearer and nearer its exciting conclusion. The action does stall on occasion, however, because of the excessive amount of technical detail Flynn includes about weaponry and the like, detail that, though it may add authenticity to the storyline, will be meaningless (or even boring) to most readers. Despite this handicap, something the later Mitch Rapp books do not suffer as much from, Transfer of Power is a satisfying thriller that clearly displays the promise of a decade-younger Vince Flynn.

Rated at: 3.5
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