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By Vince Flynn

Atria (Simon & Schuster), 2012 ($27.99)

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-9520-5 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-4391-0052-3 (ebook) $12.99

Reviewed by Sam Waas

Many espionage mysteries these days quickly devolve into print versions of slam-bang video games, with car chases, heroic fistfights, and gun battles galore, but no real plot. KILL SHOT thankfully transcends these cheap potboilers from the first page, and delivers a genuine thriller. The novel has depth and intricate story lines to balance the action scenes. Passages dealing with the background leadership and planning are just as engaging as the front-line sequences. Vince Flynn has done a superb job.

Deep cover "wet work" (assassination) CIA operative Mitch Rapp has been tracking down the planners and architects of the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing, eliminating each of them with cold precision. His handlers back at Langley have given him a great deal of autonomy for these assignments, and as Rapp wishes, little field backup. He's a loner and prefers it that way.

This "cowboy avenger" style doesn't sit well with other top officials in the US covert leadership, and they foresee disaster. Their predictions quickly become realized when Rapp descends upon a corrupt Libyan diplomat who's enjoying a debauched vacation in Paris. Drawn to this diplomat as a target, Rapp himself becomes targeted for ambush. He narrowly escapes, but is now being hunted by French authorities, revengeful terrorists, and even his own CIA employers. And the CIA is as yet undecided whether to bring Rapp in from the cold, or simply "terminate" his assignment. Permanently. Rapp is therefore conflicted on whom to trust, not even knowing who in the CIA betrayed him.

KILL SHOT is a tightly paced exciting read, but at no time does the action overreach the well balanced story and background narrative. The dilemma facing the Washington covert leadership provides strong balance to the spearpoint of Rapp's adventures, and this is what makes the novel rise above the mundane.

Modern thrillers may often drift into fantasy regarding weapons or futuristic technology. Vince Flynn knows better, thank you. His description of firearms is both realistic and accurate. He knows, for example, that automatics have magazines, not "clips," and understands how weapons function. How they wound.

Fans of espionage action thrillers will be delighted with KILL SHOT. I recommend it highly.

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