Title:                      Separation of Power

Author:                Vince Flynn

Flynn, Vince (2001). Separation of Power. New York: Pocket Books

LCCN:    2002265297

PS3556.L94 S47 2001


Date Posted:      January 3, 2017

Espionage fiction written by people who have never served in the intelligence community ring about as true as a lead bell. That does not mean they cannot be interesting, even page-turners. But accurate to the way real intelligence works, well they are not. Vince Flynn writes interesting books, books that even make good movies. He began a series introducing the operative (lone-wolf operator) Mitch Rapp.

Continuing directly after the events in Vince Flynn’s novel The Third Option is the sequel Separation of Power. This is the third book in the Mitch Rapp series.

The Third Option left off with Thomas Stanfield, the former director of the CIA, having just passed away and Dr. Irene Kennedy is expected to take his position. She just needs to make it through the Senate’s confirmation process and not everybody wants her to succeed. Mitch Rapp is still angry about being double-crossed in Germany and he’s on his personal mission of finding out who really wanted him dead. His only link is an Italian woman named Donatella Rahn, Rapp’s old flame from previous times. Meanwhile, Senator Hank Clark, the man who ordered Rapp’s death, is continuing with his sinister plan of taking down Dr. Kennedy’s credibility along with that of President Hayes. He hopes to emerge as a shining knight and use that fame to launch a bid for the presidency.

Separation of Power begins with a corrupt billionaire Mark Ellis flying down to the Bahamas to meet Senator Hank Clark on his private island. Ellis has gained much of his wealth by using some of the CIA’s spying techniques to learn what kind of deals businesses were planning on making. However, Dr. Irene Kennedy, the woman expected to take over as Director of the CIA, is not going to allow for those spying techniques to continue, and that will cut off Ellis’ primary source of inside information. Senator Clark informs Ellis that he has a plan to destroy Dr. Kennedy and things in the CIA will basically return to normal.

Mitch Rapp, meanwhile, is still considering ending his career with the CIA. Now that he’s in a serious relationship with Anna Reilly, a news reporter he saved during the terrorist attack in the White House in Transfer of Power[1], he and Anna both want him out of the field and going on those dangerous assassination missions. Dr. Kennedy has offered him a desk job that would keep him close to those old assignments but safe within the walls of the CIA, but Mitch is unsure if he really wants to take the job or not. He’s not used to taking orders from people all day or dealing with office politics.

When Mitch meets with Dr. Kennedy about the new job, she shows Mitch photos that the security cameras took of Donatella Rahn when she assassinated Peter Cameron in his office. Dr. Kennedy knows the woman’s identification and is prepared to send a CIA team to Donatella’s home in Italy to bring the woman back here for questioning. Not wanting the CIA to know about his past with Donatella, Mitch volunteers to travel to Italy to interrogate Donatella and find out who hired the woman to kill Peter Cameron. Besides, the trip to Italy would help Mitch and Anna’s relationship and give Mitch a chance to ask the woman to marry him.

Senator Clark wants to sever the connection with Donatella Rahn. He hires Rahn’s handler in the Mossad, a man named Ben Freidman, and orders her assassination. After ordering her death, Senator Clark and Congressman Albert Rudin work together on Clark’s plan to destroy Dr. Kennedy’s credibility.

Mitch and Anna fly to Italy and spend some time seeing the local sights. Mitch intentionally takes Anna to the fashion stores knowing that she would spend hours browsing through the modern Italian fashions. He uses this opportunity to slip away and have his discrete meeting with Donatella Rahn.

Mitch is able to locate Donatella’s office and he gains access by posing as a flower deliveryman. He surprises that woman and is pleasantly surprised to discover that Donatella still has strong feelings towards him. He takes her out to a restaurant for some drinks and tries to get her to reveal who hired her for the Cameron job, but she refuses to give him any information. Instead, Donatella insists on meeting Mitch’s girlfriend, the woman he intends on marrying.

They walk back to Donatella’s apartment, and Mitch keeps pressing her for the information. He claims that he can protect her from whatever repercussions may happen, but Donatella keeps refusing to cooperate. She leaves Mitch outside her apartment building and heads inside without him.

Inside Donatella’s apartment are two hitmen waiting for the woman. She smells the trap and kills both of the assassins though she’s seriously injured in the process. Outside, Mitch discovers the assassination team’s driver and captures him. He takes the man upstairs to Donatella’s apartment for interrogation. The only problem is that Donatella heard the man speak in Hebrew over the radio, and she knows that the team was sent from Israel. The man will crack under Mitch’s pressure, so while Mitch is getting the first aid kit to tend to her wounds, Donatella shoots and kills their prisoner. Now the only way Mitch will gain information is through her.

Donatella’s plan works only for a few moments as the pain from her injuries finally makes her talk to Mitch and give him the name of her handler. Mitch gives her morphine and manages to transport Donatella to his hotel room. Along the way he stops to call Dr. Kennedy and inform her of the events. She sends a “cleaning” crew to handle Donatella’s apartment and arranges a doctor for Donatella along with their quick transportation back to the U.S.

In their hotel room, Anna Reilly isn’t exactly thrilled when Mitch returns with Donatella. Donatella blurts out that she and Mitch were former lovers, and Anna takes the news hard. She has a brief argument with Mitch before storming out of their hotel room, leaving the man she loved. Mitch is devastated but can’t do anything about Anna. He tends to Donatella and helps get her onto an aircraft at a U.S. airbase, and the two of them are flown directly back to the States.

After arriving in the U.S., Dr. Kennedy places Donatella in protective custody. Guarding her is Mitch’s ex-Navy SEAL friend, Scott Coleman. That’s the last we hear about Donatella until the end of the book. As far as Mitch Rapp, just as he thinks that things will calm down, Dr. Kennedy has a new special assignment for him.

Earlier in Separation of Power, Ben Freidman, the head of Israel’s Mossad spy organization, had an emergency meeting with President Hayes, Dr. Irene Kennedy and General Flood. Freidman presented alarming evidence that showed Saddam Hussein being a month away from possessing three nuclear bombs. He’s been using North Korean nuclear scientists to construct the weapons, and the secret bunker containing them is intentionally located underneath a hospital. Israel is going to take out the secret bunker soon unless the U.S. takes care of the problem.

Having Israel carry out the attack is going to spark massive outrage and further destabilize the Middle East. The U.S. is blackmailed into carrying out Israel’s dirty work. An airstrike on the bunker is out of the question as ensuring the bunker’s destruction will involve the complete destruction of the hospital along with the innocent doctors and patients. The international press will have a massive outcry over the hospital’s destruction despite the fact that Saddam was using it as a shield.

The president agrees on carrying out a daring raid where special forces will infiltrate the hospital and escape with the vital parts of the nuclear bombs. This will delay Saddam’s nuclear weapons program and also show the world of what he was trying to construct. To drive around Baghdad and gain access to the hospital, the special forces would pose as members of Uday Hussein’s security. Mitch Rapp is talked into playing the role of Saddam’s sadistic son, Uday.

Mitch agrees to the role and flies out to Saudi Arabia and the staging area for the raid. At night he and the other special forces soldiers fly close to Baghdad and land outside of town. Their helicopters carried special vehicles designed to look like Uday’s security cars. The men climb into the cars and drive into Baghdad, trying to act like they own the streets as Uday did.

The raiding party easily arrives at the hospital as air strikes begin hitting the city. This was part of the plan and helped push the Iraqi soldiers to look elsewhere while the top-secret bunker was raided. Mitch Rapp, disguised as Uday, leads his men into the hospital and gains access to the bunker. They remove parts of the nuclear bombs and capture the top scientist for further interrogation about Saddam’s weapons program. The rest of the scientists are allowed to leave before the soldiers use demolitions to destroy the bunker.

Outside the hospital, some Iraqi troops arrive to help secure the hospital, but Mitch halts them in his Uday disguise. There’s a brief fire fight as one of the soldiers sees through the disguise, but the U.S. forces easily overpower the Iraqis. The U.S. soldiers then flee the scene and make a clean getaway.

In the U.S., President Hayes addresses the nation and explain what took place over the past couple of days, from the hostility of Dr. Kennedy’s interrogation by the Senate to Congressman Rudin’s leaking of classified information to the raid in Baghdad, Iraq. He defends his actions as president and the public accepts his reasoning and leadership, giving him a high approval rating. That night, Congressman Rudin goes to Senator Clark’s office to seek his help from the upcoming FBI investigation. Hank calms the man before pushing him out of the office’s window, sending him to his death. Congressman Rudin’s death is ultimately ruled as a suicide by the police department.

A week after the raid, Ben Freidman has a meeting with President Hayes and Dr. Kennedy. They put the pressure on Freidman and try to make him give up his contact in the U.S. Freidman refuses, even after Mitch Rapp and Donatella enter the room. It’s not until Rapp threatens to shoot him in the leg that Freidman begins to cooperate. He reveals that his contact, the person who authorized the killings of Mitch Rapp, Peter Cameron and Donatella, was none other than Senator Hank Clark.

In the epilogue, Donatella wears a disguise and meets with Senator Clark at a party. She slips some poison into his drink and walks away. Mitch Rapp goes to the Senator and shakes his hand, revealing his true identification as the poison quickly kills the man.

So is Vince Flynn’s Separation of Power thriller any good?

Yes and no. Mainly no for this book. Separation of Power is a direct sequel to The Third Option, and this book begins literally a week or so after the previous book’s events. The Third Option ended with a few events still unsolved.

One of the problems with Separation of Power is that the first quarter of the book recaps much information from The Third Option. It would have been better if Flynn took about half the events in Separation of Power and included it with The Third Option, making The Third Option a better and more complete story as a whole.

Separation of Power has Mitch Rapp investigating who ordered him killed in Germany. This involves his travelling to Milan, Italy, and confronting with his old flame and fellow assassin Donatella. This part is fairly interesting especially since Rapp brings his future fiancée Anna Reilly on the trip to Italy. What begins as an interesting concept turns to garbage when a sloppy assassination team tries to kill Donatella in her apartment. She survives the attack with a mere gunshot wound in her shoulder along with some bumps and bruises. After the driver of the assassination team is killed, Donatella quickly crumbles from the pain in her arm and tells Mitch Rapp the name of her contract manager. So much for her being an ultra-tough assassin who is trained to take such secrets to the grave.

The secondary plot of Separation of Power involves the U.S. carrying out a top secret plan of stopping Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. Reference to this problem takes place throughout the book, but the action surrounding the attack is limited to the last 15-20% of the story. The covert action runs too smoothly, the only hitch being when Iraqi troops suddenly arrive at the hospital during the air raid. Those troops are quickly defeated and the special forces soldiers make a clean getaway. In other words.

Since The Third Option, it seems like Vince Flynn’s writing style has dropped downhill. The characters are almost comic book, the action scenes, while fast, are predictable. The dialogue is often corny and unrealistic. These problems and more were evident in The Third Option and, unfortunately, they continue in Separation of Power.

The epilogue scene where Donatella and Mitch Rapp kill Senator Clark is an example of the plot being too simplistic. Senator Hank Clark has been the mastermind behind the events in The Third Option. He’s a great villain and a reasonably smart person with significant resources. Curiously, Vince Flynn suddenly has the senator killed in a seven-page epilogue. Mitch Rapp’s revenge could have easily been half the plot of a future book. Instead, the Senator Clark is swiftly dealt with like some guy caught pickpocketing Rapp’s pocket. Again, this is just poor storytelling on Vince Flynn’s part.

Those people looking for action and killing are going to be disappointed with Separation of Power. For starters, you’ll have to reach the halfway point of the book until some sort of action finally occurs. After that, no shootings or killings take place until the raid in Baghdad, and that itself is very limited. If I recall the events correctly, Mitch Rapp only kills one person in this entire book.

Vince Flynn really dropped the ball on Separation of Power. No doubt, the book will sell. Nevertheless, this book is merely an extension of The Third Option, with the first quarter dedicated to retelling the previous story. Second, much of the story involves Mitch Rapp and his quest of seeking information from Donatella, while he apparently is trying to find a way to retire from the business and settle down with Anna Reilly. Third, don’t expect any action from Scott Coleman or any other friends of Mitch from The Third Option. Finally, the plot involving Saddam’s nuclear weapons (the main plot advertised on the back of the book), is too simple, it isn’t really featured in the story, and the raid itself goes off without a hitch. The raid into the bunker is practically finished by the time the team arrives at the hospital / bunker. Why does Vince Flynn even try to make such a critical and risky event part of the story if it’s easily going to be handled within the span of thirty or so pages?

Vince Flynn’s next Mitch Rapp book will probably sell well, and one hopes it won’t be as disappointing as his last two books.

[1] Flynn, Vince (1999, 2015). Transfer of Power. New York: Pocket Books


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