Red War, the seventeenth Mitch Rapp thriller and fourth penned by Kyle Mills, finds the CIA assassin on a mission to execute the Russian president, Maxim Krupin. Recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Krupin has grown ever more unpredictable and uses his final months to further consolidate his power, executing his enemies and political rivals, as he takes the world to the brink of World War III.
As with Tom Clancy before him, Vince Flynn's series has always been rather timely in its reflections on current events. Red War is no different, with Mills setting Krupin's actions and the CIA's response in the wake of Russian hacking efforts to disrupt US elections. One would have to be blind to miss the real-world context Mills uses as a spring broad to launch into his story of black ops and Krupin is most certainly a familiar character right from the book's opening pages.
Described as a president who keeps his citizens blinded with nationalism and memories of his country's glorious past, Krupin's behavior is irrational and erratic, his power built on a platform of lies he has told both enemies and allies in order to erode trust in anyone or anything beyond himself. If Krupin is not immediately recognizable to American readers as a Trump analogue, in addition to an obvious riff on Vladimir Putin, then he is most certainly the kind of dictator the United States's manchild of a president openly worships and models his own behaviors upon. With regular reminders that this physically and mentally ill state-head is in possession of nuclear arms, Krupin is broadcast as a legitimate threat (and by association, his real-world counterparts that so clearly served as an inspiration here) to democratic norms and the safety of the free world.
Mills gives us a nice bit of escapism in Mitch Rapp gunning for Krupin, aided by former Russian assassin Grisha Azarov, who is violently pulled out of retirement to aid the CIA's efforts, particularly after the last several years of the US falling victim to Russian hacking efforts. As Rapp notes at one point, Russia will never be an ally to the US but they can at least be contained. The promise of the CIA delivering justice in fiction is a soothing and necessary, if short lived, balm, especially since our real-world government is content to simply maintain complicity in exchange for power. It's safe to say Mitch Rapp is needed now more than ever.
Mills continues to build on Flynn's characterization of Rapp, as well, helping to move the assassin away from the buffoonish conservative cartoon he was becoming in Flynn's later novels, edging him closer and closer to the methodical and thoughtful man of action audiences were first introduced to in Transfer of Power nearly twenty years ago. Mitch has survived a lot since then; those experiences have helped to both age and wisen him, and he's been a significant player on the global stage. It's refreshing to see Mills break away from the typical Arab threat that has been the backbone for so many of Rapp's stories, moving him into strange and unfamiliar territory with this book's Russian theater of opposition.
Red War arrives at a crucial juncture in American history, and carries with it a decidedly appropriate title. Particularly given that this book's biggest problem, potentially, may lie in convincing those Trump supporters who read it to accept Russia as a legitimate threat, even if only fictionally. Clearly, we've come a long way since the "Better Dead Than Red" days of the Cold War, but with Emily Bestler Books planning national ad campaigns to put Red War in front of the audiences of Fox & Friends and Rush Limbaugh, one must wonder just how receptive they'll be of Mills' very thinly-veiled repudiation of their red hatted leader and their likely-stained "I'd Rather Be A Russian Than A Democrat" t-shirts. Are MAGA readers willing to accept government operatives as heroes after being spoonfed so many reports of so-called fake news in regards to Russian meddling in US affairs and attacks on the various justice agencies by their Dear Leader? On the other hand, if the publisher is merely looking for an audience already lost in a fantasy world, you can't do much better than consumer's of Limbaugh and Fox News.
[Note: I received an advance reader's copy of Red War from Emily Bestler Books after being selected as a Mitch Rapp Ambassador. This is my third year as a Mitch Rapp Ambassador, however this status conveyed upon me by the publisher has in no way swayed my opinion of this work or prevented me from delivering an honest review of this title. Many thanks to the publisher for once against selecting me and providing me with this ARC.]
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