Vince Flynn, Author . Atria $25 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7434-5395-0

Packed with likable characters and undergirded by an in-depth understanding of the tangled politics of the 21st-century Middle East, Flynn's latest spy thriller (after the bestselling Separation of Power) can rightly be termed a post–September 11 espionage novel. Mitch Rapp is the CIA's number one assassin, recently lauded by the president as "the single most important person in America's fight against terrorism." Recently married to a high-profile anchorwoman and given a desk job, Mitch is having a hard time settling into the brain center of the CIA and giving up the gritty end of operations. He can't seem to resist seeking hands-on involvement in his latest assignment: unraveling a murky plot to create a Palestinian state. A mysterious operative, "David," plans to assassinate the heads of the major terrorist groups in the region and pin the deaths on Israel, simultaneously creating sympathy for the Palestinian cause while striking a fatal blow against terrorism, which he despises. Though the novel never strays far from the many conventions of the genre—a cadre of international agents, pedantic bureaucrats, spoiled sheikhs, and a U.S. president and military unfailingly portrayed as noble—Flynn spins an entertaining narrative. Though the book deals with an Iraq still firmly under Saddam's control, it should appeal to Americans' burgeoning awareness of—and interest in—the complex affairs of the Middle East. Perhaps the book's greatest accomplishment is its oblique questioning of the politics of vengeance. "The only way to make them stop is to hit them harder than they hit us," says the leader of Israel's intelligence agency. As Flynn's book demonstrates, the tragedy is that those same words could easily come from either side. Agent, Sloan Harris. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/12/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
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