After Vince Flynn’s death in 2013, his publishers entrusted thriller author Kyle Mills to carry on with the long-running Mitch Rapp series. The Survivor is the fourteenth entry and, after Flynn’s last two prequel novels, returns readers to the present-day, following up on the enormous amount of fallout from the finale of The Last Man.
A CIA turncoat has, in the wake of his death, begun unleashing data that could cripple America’s intelligence community and end the careers of CIA Director Irene Kennedy and uber-assassin Mitch Rapp. Their enemies are pining for this data, chasing any lead they can, with the hopes of usurping the United States. Naturally, Rapp isn’t going to allow that.
Series creators leave a long shadow in the wake of their passing, and die-hard fans can be hard to please when the torch is passed. For his part, Mills writes a solid continuation and builds a novel that fits well with what came before, sufficiently tapping into the same voice of each character and expected levels of violence and American rah-rah-rah jingoism as previously written by Flynn.
While it’s an entertaining enough read, I can’t help but find Mitch Rapp growing increasingly one-dimensional as the years go on. Fans expect a big, heroic tough-guy, of course, but the level of fervor and almost-fundamentalist mentality that’s been bred into the man over time has reached increasingly pscyhopathic levels in the years following his wife’s murder. Rapp is no longer a man content with eliminating only America’s enemies abroad, but at home as well, to the point that virtually anyone that dares disagree with, or even simply annoys, him is construed as needing a bullet to the back of the head.
The fact that Mills is able to interject some degree of self-reflection in Rapp is a bit of a win. I don’t think we’re in any danger of Rapp suddenly turning into a cuddly comedian, but the man is ripe for some personal growth and much-needed maturity before he descends into pure caricature. While I’ve liked, and at times even loved, this series under Flynn’s guiding hand, I’m hopeful that Mills can put his own stamp on the series and give these character some fresh perspectives and breathe new life into them in subsequent entries.
Nobody will ever mistake Mitch Rapp for the calm, cool, collected CIA pros of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, but if you’re looking for a fun bit of fictional sabre-rattling, these books, and The Survivor in particular, are certainly enjoyable enough reads.