A solid spy story
I must admit, I never imagined myself as a reader of political espionage thrillers. Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn is — and was — an excellent introduction to this triumvirate of genres.
Mitch Rapp is a man on a mission — to find and kill his nemesis, Rafique Aziz, a known terrorist and master planner of many a daring dirty deed. Aziz orchestrates a fabulously ambitious assault on the White House, in an attempt to seize the President and hold the American nation to ransom. But like almost everything in life, things don't quite go according to plan.
While the premise of the story does seem a little prosaic and formulaic, Flynn's mastery of pace, tension and his huge knowledge of the inner workings of American politics, and the military industrial complex, make for a thoroughly entertaining read.
Flynn certainly has an efficient style, and demonstrates his knowledge of American political and military minutia in a way that initially didn't unduly slow things down, initially. However, later on, Flynn's constant reminders of which weapon each character is carrying did begin to drag, such as our hero, Mitch Rapp, and his silenced MP-10. But in fairness, these are minor quibbles. Similarly, the painful detail of who was doing what, going where and why, became exactly that — painful. Flynn certainly knows his stuff, and a Transfer of Power is an exposition of that knowledge.
Flynn also takes great care to describe quite precisely the gestures, mannerisms, postures and expressions of his characters. As a writer, this is something I do, but Flynn — again — demonstrates a certain efficiency with such things.
Yes, there's the obligatory love interest between Anna Rielly the roving rescued reporter and Rapp, but even that is dealt with in such a way that it doesn't drag or hinder — and perhaps becoming less female friendly in the process — which helped keep the pace moving.
Aziz isn't the only baddie; Vice President Sherman Baxter and his chief of staff Dallas King both provide a Machiavellian sideshow of entertainment, with various darkly political manoeuvrings, in an attempt to slide Baxter through the doors of power, with King greasing the slopes, mostly for his own benefit.
Flynn makes both Baxter and King utterly detestable, mostly for the same reasons but in entirely different ways. However, I personally found myself not wanting to read their scheming and plotting, but I cannot use my own feelings against Flynn's writing.
Flynn tried and failed with a "realtime" switch from one situation to another, from the perspective of Lieutenant Commander Dan Harris and the rooftop incursion of his SEAL Team 6, and then switching to Rapp, where we see things through his perspective. The problem wasn't so much the switch itself, but of how Flynn expected there to be any tension at all when we already knew the situation had been resolved without loss of life or limb. Maybe switching the two around would have provided the tension, which, as I said, looked to be a failure in editing.
Transfer of Power appears to be a series of novels, and as such, I'm guessing that the lack of depth to some of the characters may be because Flynn had previously explored them in greater detail previously. Flynn only hints at Rapp's motivations and doesn't dwell much.
Of all the characters, Anna Rielly has the most depth, with Dallas King — curiously enough — coming a distant second. Beyond that, many of the characters are vehicular in nature. However, I must caution that I'm merely making an observation here, and not criticising. I don't think a novel of this type would benefit from too much character depth, so long as motivations are made clear, which they are.
Flynn also demonstrated a good balance, offering an objective view of both the American interests, and those of Aziz, the terrorist. Aziz particularly, probably more so than Rapp, had a huge motivation to act the way he did. Aziz and Rapp were, in many ways, the flip side of the same coin; two people whose lives had been ruined by violence. Flynn did a good enough job to stress that Aziz, while amazingly cruel, was also driven by an unflinching belief that his cause was just. Above all, that balance was — and remains — crucially important.