The Survivor
A Mitch Rapp novel by Kyle Mills
Book review by Jules Brenner
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, released 10/6/15, 400 pp., $28.00
Return to list of books

Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series created an intelligence agency that was the author's own -- only loosely based on the CIA in Washington, DC. He was, to the tragic time of his death in 2013, not the only writer of mystery thrillers whose protagonist is a willful, fearless, CIA counter-terrorist agent -- a thorn in the sides of sinister and powerful forces that can send assassins bigger than him, younger than him, better armed and in multiple numbers to take him out. With "The Survivor," we get one more shot at enjoying such defense of country against madmen and terrorists, thanks to Flynn's publishing company and writer Kyle Mills.


Dr. Irene Kennedy, head of Flynn's CIA, counts on her agent's methods of neutralizing threats when congressional approval couldn't possibly act with the immediacy a burning fuse demands. So, it's no press; no publicity. Not so dissimilar to Brad Taylor's Pike Logan series, in which a team they call the Taskforce operates under a secret 3-person committee which includes the President of the United States.

But what Rapp does is no secret to his enemies and his effect on them is fear -- the fear he's built up with a few of their best assassins sent out to remove him from the undercover chess board -- who never return.

Rapp's talents are once again justified in a case that could end the CIA. A former ace of the agency, Joseph "Rick" Rickman, went rogue a short time ago and stole top secret intel relating to the agency's operations and assets. Traitorously, he offered the data and himself to the leaders of the Pakistani secret force, ICI (Inter-Services Intelligence).

The release of this super-cache of the agency's most sensitive documents would have endangered every field agent and been enough to bring an end to the agency. But it didn't happen. At least not in the aftermath of Rickman's assassination (in Flynn's preceding book, "The Last Man"). Unfortunately for Kennedy and Rapp, however, the "unstable" Rickman had an ace up his sleeve that confirmed Kennedy's assessment of him. He "could do things that no one else could," she has said. She never thought it might include obtaining the most highly classified files the agency has.

In anticipation of his own demise, Rickman had made arrangements to hide the cache of info and have it leaked to the press on a Snowdenesque schedule in that event. The release was designed to inflict maximum harm and embarrassment to the agency and to his former colleagues. A betrayal that spoke of hatred.

But, it wasn't only Kennedy and Rapp who knew of the material and the damage its release could cause. A new player in the highly fragmented government of Pakistan -- the underestimated General Ahmed Taj who was recently elevated to director of ICI by newly elected president Saad Chutani -- has knowledge of it, as well.

What no one knows is that Taj isn't as "safe" or controllable as Chutani and others around him think. The new director is, in fact, clandestinely plotting a coup and had been play acting false modesty with the devious purpose of being under-estimated in order to gain a position of power to make himself ruler of the country. But, first, he must beat Rapp and Kennedy to the Rickman papers. With the help of his clever, barbaric right-hand man, Kabir Gadai, he sees the chance.

The race is on.

Mills builds a fair amount of suspense and tension as the game develops mostly in alternating chapters, a construct I found compelling despite less Rapp-action than I came to expect from the previous book, Flynn's last, in which he out-maneuvers an execution brigade in a strikingly uneven firefight.

Mills seems less inclined to go that far off the brink of plausibility.

When the first of the Rickman pages come out, politically ambitious Congressman Ferris, who is Kennedy's mulish but greatest political enemy, pounces on Kennedy before the president and she's forced into an internal defensive posture. Is she sensing the end of her career? Tune in next book. (Rumor has it that Mills is slated for two more.)

Rumor also has it that Vince Flynn wrote the first chapter of this story before he died. Perhaps there was also an outline. Kyle Mills was chosen to carry on the tradition and he's, then, a great deal more than a "ghost" writer for Flynn since he's credited with most of the book. And, while, the introductory section was a bit challenging for me, I wouldn't have suspected it wasn't written by Flynn if I didn't know.

If you don't yet own The Survivor and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.