Book Review: Enemy of the State

“Enemy of the State” by Kyle MillsThis is the third novel in the Mitch Rapp saga written by Kyle Mills, who took over the franchise after the death of Vince Flynn, its creator. It is the sixteenth novel in the Mitch Rapp series (Flynn’s first novel, Term Limits, is set in the same world and shares characters with the Mitch Rapp series, but Rapp does not appear in it, so it isn’t considered a Rapp novel), Mills continues to develop the Rapp story in new directions, while maintaining the action-packed and detail-rich style which made the series so successful.

When a covert operation tracking the flow of funds to ISIS discovers that a (minor) member of the Saudi royal family is acting as a bagman, the secret deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia struck in the days after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.—the U.S. would hide the ample evidence of Saudi involvement in the plot in return for the Saudis dealing with terrorists and funders of terrorism within the Kingdom—is called into question. The president of the U.S., who might be described in modern jargon as “having an anger management problem” decides the time has come to get to the bottom of what the Saudis are up to: is it a few rogue ne’er-do-wells, or is the leadership up to their old tricks of funding and promoting radical Islamic infiltration and terrorism in the West? And if they are, he wants to make them hurt, so they don’t even think about trying it again.

When it comes to putting the hurt on miscreants, the president’s go-to-guy is Mitch Rapp, the CIA’s barely controlled loose cannon, who has a way of getting the job done even if his superiors don’t know, and don’t want to know, the details. When the president calls Rapp into his office and says, “I think you need to have a talk … and at the end of that talk I think he needs to be dead” there is little doubt about what will happen after Rapp walks out of the office.

But there is a problem. Saudi Arabia is, nominally at least, an important U.S ally. It keeps the oil flowing and prices down, not only benefitting the world economy, but putting a lid on the revenue of troublemakers such as Russia and Iran. Saudi Arabia is a major customer of U.S. foreign military sales. Saudi Arabia is also a principal target of Islamic revolutionaries, and however bad it is today, one doesn’t want to contemplate a post-Saudi regime raising the black flag of ISIS, crying havoc, and letting slip the goats of war. Wet work involving the royal family must not just be deniable but totally firewalled from any involvement by the U.S. government. In accepting the mission Rapp understands that if things blow up, he will not only be on his own but in all likelihood have the U.S. government actively hunting him down.

Rapp hands in his resignation to the CIA, ending a relationship which has existed over all of the previous novels. He meets with his regular mission team and informs them he “need[s] to go somewhere you … can’t follow”: involving them would create too many visible ties back to the CIA. If he’s going to go rogue, he decides he must truly do so, and sets off assembling a rogues’ gallery, composed mostly of former adversaries we’ve met in previous books. When he recruits his friend Claudia, who previously managed logistics for an assassin Rapp confronted in the past, she says, “So, a criminal enterprise. And only one of the people at this table knows how to be a criminal.”

Assembling this band of dodgy, dangerous, and devious characters at the headquarters of an arms dealer in that paradise which is Juba, South Sudan, Rapp plots an operation to penetrate the security surrounding the Saudi princeling and find out how high the Saudi involvement in funding ISIS goes. What they learn is disturbing in the extreme.

After an operation gone pear-shaped, and with the CIA, FBI, Saudis, and Sudanese factions all chasing him, Rapp and his misfit mob have to improvise and figure out how to break the link between the Saudis and ISIS in way which will allow him to deny everything and get back to whatever is left of his life.

This is a thriller which is full of action, suspense, and characters fans of the series will have met before acting in ways which may be surprising. After a shaky outing in the previous installment, Order to Kill, Kyle Mills has regained his stride and, while preserving the essentials of Mitch Rapp, is breaking new ground. It will be interesting to see if the next novel, Red War, expected in September 2018, continues to involve any of the new team. While you can read this as a stand-alone thriller, you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read the earlier books in which the members of Rapp’s team were principal characters.

Mills, Kyle. Enemy of the State. New York: Atria Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4767-8351-2.

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Enemy of the State

  1. John Walker:
    “I think you need to have a talk … and at the end of that talk I think he needs to be dead” there is little doubt about what will happen after Rapp walks out of the office.

    Is this the point where Rapp decides to leave the CIA and join the HR department?

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  2. On the cover of the book it has “VINCE FLYNN” but is wasn’t written by him. How does that work? Can I put that on my new Fourmilab plotted mystery book?

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  3. 10 Cents:
    On the cover of the book it has “VINCE FLYNN” but is wasn’t written by him. How does that work? Can I put that on my new Fourmilab plotted mystery book?

    Many authors of bestsellers are undeterred by death.  There may be more books with Tom Clancy’s name in large type on the cover published after his death than before.  “Vince Flynn” became a brand, and his publisher retained the rights to use it for additional books in the series after his death.  Fortunately, they found a veteran thriller writer (who actually had published more books than Vince Flynn) to take over the series.  Perhaps, over time, they’ll increase the prominence of “A Mitch Rapp novel and make that the brand.  This is in a long tradition of character-based fiction such as the Tom Swift novels, all 25 of which that are in the public domain are available in a variety of formats, edited and prepared by me, at Fourmilab.  The Tom Swift novels were written by a number of writers under contract, and published under the house name of the fictional “Victor Appleton”.

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  4. John Walker:

    10 Cents:
    On the cover of the book it has “VINCE FLYNN” but is wasn’t written by him. How does that work? Can I put that on my new Fourmilab plotted mystery book?

    Many authors of bestsellers are undeterred by death.  There may be more books with Tom Clancy’s name in large type on the cover published after his death than before.  “Vince Flynn” became a brand, and his publisher retained the rights to use it for additional books in the series after his death.  Fortunately, they found a veteran thriller writer (who actually had published more books than Vince Flynn) to take over the series.  Perhaps, over time, they’ll increase the prominence of “A Mitch Rapp novel and make that the brand.  This is in a long tradition of character-based fiction such as the Tom Swift novels, all 25 of which that are in the public domain are available in a variety of formats, edited and prepared by me, at Fourmilab.  The Tom Swift novels were written by a number of writers under contract, and published under the house name of the fictional “Victor Appleton”.

    I think Agatha Christie didn’t want this to happen to her series.

    Who gets to decide this? The family of the deceased?

    Would it be okay to consider this a form of ghost writing?

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  5. 10 Cents:
    I think Agatha Christie didn’t want this to happen to her series. Who gets to decide this? The family of the deceased? Would it be okay to consider this a form of ghost writing?

    It depends on the author’s contract with the publisher.  In the past, the author’s estate often owned the rights to the author’s work and characters, but with the centralisation of publishing and near-eternal copyright this has become less frequent.  There was a legal dispute for more than a century as to whether other authors could use the character of Sherlock Holmes without approval of the Conan Doyle estate.  There is no question if you read the book beyond the cover that Kyle Mills is the author and that he credits Vince Flynn for creating the character of Mitch Rapp.

    Authors often don’t get to choose the title of their work or approve the cover design.  It’s like authors of articles who have headlines re-written by editors (“I’m improving it”).

    Still, this is a case where the inheritor of the series is doing a good job with the character.  If he didn’t I’d say so and not read further installments.

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