The Good German

Title:                      The Good German

Author:                  Joseph Kanon

Kanon, Joseph (2001). The Good German: a novel. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

LCCN: 2001016968

PS3561.A476 G66 2001

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      November 2, 2017

Review by Neil Gordon[1]

In the midsummer of 1945, Jake Geismar, a journalist made famous—though “not as famous as Murrow”—by his coverage of the war, arrives in Berlin. Ostensibly, he has come to write a series of articles for Collier’s magazine on the Allied occupation. In fact, he is searching for his prewar lover, Lena Brandt, the wife of a prominent German rocket scientist. It is two months after Germany’s surrender, and Geismar finds Berlin shattered, nearly unrecognizable, displaying “the visible fury of the final assault, a destructive madness.” He also finds Lena, sick and miserable and alone. Her husband has disappeared; she has been raped by the invading Russians; her 2-year-old son has been killed in an air raid. And Geismar finds a murder as well: a dead American soldier, his pockets filled with money, floating in a lake outside the mansion housing the Potsdam Conference.

None of this is surprising in postwar Berlin, a place where everything—from hookers to phony testimonials attesting to the bearer’s attempts to help Jews in the camps—is for sale on the black market, where everyone is armed and life is so tenuous as to be utterly disposable. But running through the American and Russian sectors is something that shocks even a cynical war correspondent. As Geismar slowly discovers, the American soldier was murdered while brokering Lena’s husband’s freedom within the world of secretive programs designed to bring Nazis and war criminals to justice. And within this world there is a powerful, efficient and absolutely ruthless corporate and military network that is trying not to capture Nazis but to exonerate scientists like Lena’s husband, to expunge their compromised past.

Why? Because, as it prepares for its former ally the Soviet Union to become its Cold War enemy, our military feels it must have, at any price, the rocketry expertise of the Wehrmacht. “I don’t care if he was Hitler’s best friend,” an American officer says of Lena’s husband, Emil. “We just want to know what’s up here,” he explains, tapping a finger to his head. In such a historical and ethical quagmire, Geismar is faced with three interlocking questions: Who killed the American soldier? Why is the Army trying to prevent Geismar from finding out? And where is Lena’s husband?

A common and often fatal failing of this kind of book—a suspense novel set against epic atrocities like the Holocaust and World War II—is the trivialization of the historical framework with a fictional story. But Joseph Kanon, whose first thriller was set at Los Alamos[2] during the Manhattan Project and whose second dramatized the issues raised by McCarthyism and Vietnam[3], has woven his plot seamlessly into the historical background. As the hunt for the missing scientist gathers speed, the moral and emotional dimensions of the story become more complex.

Was the murdered soldier saving Lena’s husband or delivering him to the Russians? Are the Americans, so ready to forgive German war criminals in the interests of military and corporate competition, any better than the Russians, who seem not to care about anyone’s political past? Was Lena’s husband a nominal Nazi or was he more profoundly implicated in the administration of Nordhausen, the rocket works staffed by horrifically abused slave labor? What is the ethical status of those who became Nazis simply to protect themselves and their families? And how will the truth regarding Emil’s complicity affect the fact that Geismar is in love with his wife?

The mystery takes on the weight of the deepest questions of right and wrong as the novel’s action moves through a ravaged Berlin so exactly depicted that one feels Kanon must have traveled in time to witness this landscape himself. At its best, in its articulation of a personal experience of the war and its aftermath, and in the plain power of its prose, The Good German rivals Irwin Shaw’s novel The Young Lions, its history imaginatively accessible, its plot historically inevitable.

No one is innocent in Kanon’s Berlin: the Americans are corrupted by denazification, as are the Russians, whose war heroes are guilty of terrible cruelty. Bystanders are accused of witnessing deportations; military courts try Jews who turned on other Jews. Above all, however, Geismar—who is not Jewish—keeps running up against the subtle, ever-present anti-Semitism not of the Germans or the Russians but of the Americans, a social anti-Semitism that is all the more chilling in this immediate postwar context.

“We don’t want people to think a minority is using this program to get revenge,” says a visiting congressman, discussing the Army’s procedures for identifying war criminals. “We’re an even smaller minority here,” answers an American soldier who happens to be Jewish, one of the few functionaries who actually try to ferret out Nazis and camp guards among the hordes of Germans looking for jobs with the occupying army. “Most of us are dead,” he reminds the congressman. “I didn’t mean you personally, of course,” is the hasty reply. “Save it,” the soldier answers. “I know what you mean. I don’t want to join your country club anyway.”

It is this level of historical insight that goes beyond the current vogue of technical exactitude in movies about World War II and rises to the poetic truth of, say, the filmmaker Axel Corti’s shocking depiction of postwar Vienna. Occupied Berlin is a place where the sentimental triumphs of Spielberg’s World War II pale before the moral depravity of denazification. The Allied victory is rendered hollow on both sides of the fast-dropping Iron Curtain as the good fight against fascism is corrupted by the bad dictates of the emerging cold war and anti-Semitism is, unbelievably, more than tolerated in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

The Good German is by no means a perfect book: there are a few genuine flaws in plot, in motivation, in balance, in voice. At times the gears of the story fail to mesh; some conversations contain more information than communication; sex scenes are neither erotic nor pornographic, just a bit anatomical. These are all details of craftsmanship, however, and no one who has followed the remarkable progress of Kanon’s three politically engaged thrillers can doubt that this new book is a quantum leap toward real mastery of the genre.

Even with its occasional lapses, The Good German is thoroughly captivating, a novel that brings to life the ambiguities at the heart of our country’s moral legacy. It also offers the promise of a writer who is fast approaching the complexity and relevance not just of le Carré and Greene but even of Orwell: provocative, fully realized fiction that explores, as only fiction can, the reality of history as it is lived by individual men and women. Kanon’s vision of postwar Germany is not only enthralling but troubling, suggesting that for Germany, Russia and America alike, compelling questions about guilt and righteousness are the ultimate legacy of the Third Reich.

[1] Neil Gordon, “Love Among the Ruins,” New York Times (October 14, 2001), accessed at

[2] Kanon, Joseph (1997). Los Alamos: a novel. New York: Broadway Books

[3] Kanon, Joseph (1998). The Prodigal Spy. New York: Broadway Books

The Prodigal Spy

Title:                      The Prodigal Spy

Author:                 Joseph Kanon

Kanon, Joseph (1998). The Prodigal Spy. New York: Broadway Books

LCCN:    98035767

PS3561.A476 P76 1998

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      November 2, 2017

Review by Morton Kondracke[1]

Three defenestrations punctuate this thriller about a traitorous State Department official.

Nick Warren, the hero of this moderately engrossing novel, has spycraft in his genes. He inherits it from his father, Walter Kotlar, a high-ranking State Department official who is reeled in to Moscow by his Soviet masters in 1950, when Nick is 10. In the end, he far surpasses his father in courage, wile and capacity for violence.

Joseph Kanon, whose Los Alamos[2] won an Edgar Award as the best first novel of 1997, establishes Nick’s aptitude for spying in the first chapter of The Prodigal Spy, when the boy discovers and destroys evidence that could prove his father has lied to the House Un-American Activities Committee. He also eavesdrops on and briefly tails his father, whom he dearly loves, on the day he defects—the day that Rosemary Cochrane, a salesgirl who received Kotlar’s secrets and who turned him over to the committee, dies in a fall from a Washington hotel window.

But the main action occurs in 1969, after Nick has served a tour in Vietnam and is at the London School of Economics researching McCarthyism. His surname is Warren because he was adopted by his stepfather, an old family friend who is now one of Richard Nixon’s chief negotiators at the Paris peace talks. At an embassy dinner party, Nick encounters an engaging young woman, Molly Chisholm, who says she has met Kotlar in Prague and conveys an urgent request that the son cross to the Eastern bloc to visit.

They travel together, with only implications that they may fall in love sustaining the reader through a desultory journey. In Prague, Nick discovers that his father is terminally ill, is disillusioned with Communism and—the prodigal spy—is determined to return to the United States to expose the people who killed Rosemary Cochrane and are still manning a Communist spy network in the capital. He thinks he was forced to leave Washington to protect the identity of another agent, code-named “Silver.” It’s not a political awakening, newfound appreciation for the West or even anger at his handlers that fuels Kotlar’s determination. He just wants to go home, and he thinks that turning in Communists will win him welcome.

But Kotlar doesn’t make it, and Nick and Molly—after a thrilling escape from Czechoslovak security agents—take up his mission back in Washington, where the action, though exciting, is a bit implausible. Armed with Kotlar’s list of the spies’ old addresses—no names—Nick and Molly randomly follow people who come and go from the buildings and strike pay dirt. Silver passes his secrets to a saleswoman at the same department store counter where Rosemary Cochrane collected Kotlar’s in 1950. Retired cops and F.B.I. agents—even the chairman of HUAC and J. Edgar Hoover—tell Nick secrets simply because he asks.

Besides plausibility, this novel lacks a sense of stakes. Kotlar claims to Nick that he never really did the United States any harm, that he just passed on his in-box. Yet the position he held—No. 2 in the State Department—meant he would have known major diplomatic secrets. Silver, too, is in a position to do significant damage, but nothing is made of the fact.

There’s a sense about this book that the whole business of spying and treason—indeed, the whole Cold War—wasn’t about very much, nothing that people ought to die over. Kanon isn’t exactly mired in moral equivalence. Communists are responsible for most of the perfidy and all three of the defenestrations that punctuate the book. But Vietnam and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia are portrayed as parallel blunders. Stalin’s purges are rendered as brutal, but American anti-Communist “witch hunts” are presented, just as negatively and more vividly, as the work of imbeciles.

To be sure, a spy novel need not be politically correct to be readable. But a novelist ought to make readers care what happens. The best Kanon does is to have Nick and Molly be an attractive pair of adventurers and to keep some suspense going about Silver’s identity. It’s not enough to win prizes.

[1] Morton Kondracke, “ Fall Guys,” The New York Times Books (February 28, 1999), accessed at . Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, a Washington newspaper.

[2] Kanon, Joseph (1997). Los Alamos: a novel. New York: Broadway Books

The Bourne Trilogy

Title:                      The Bourne Trilogy

Author:                  Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (2003). The Bourne Trilogy. London : Orion

OCLC:    52990874

PS3562.U26 B687 2003

Notes:        The Bourne identity originally published: London: Granada, 1980 – The Bourne supremacy originally published: London: Grafton, 1986 – The Bourne ultimatum originally published: London: HarperCollins, 1981.

Date Posted:      January 6, 2017

This is a compilation of three Ludlum novels re: Jason Bourne. Each has been reviewed, and the reviews are linked in the list.

Ludlum, Robert (1980). The Bourne Identity. New York: R. Marek Publishers

Ludlum, Robert (1986). The Bourne Supremacy. Franklin Center, PA: Franklin Library

Ludlum, Robert (1990). The Bourne Ultimatum. New York: Random House

Separation of Power

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

Memorial Day

Title:                      Memorial Day

Author:                Vince Flynn

Flynn, Vince (2004). Memorial Day. New York: Atria Books,

LCCN:    2004048253

PS3556.L94 M46 2004


Date Posted:      January 3, 2017

Review by Joe Hartlaub[1]

[At the time of this review] Memorial Day, ironically enough, was the perfect book to read over the Fourth of July Weekend. It is [was at the time of the review] current as today’s headlines, and a welcome break from the fantasies of hygienically challenged movie directors and the political aspirations of perfumed princes.

Vince Flynn has made a career of writing espionage thrillers that read as if they could be subtitled “The Real World for Dummies.” His creation, CIA operative Mitch Rapp (great name), is the type of guy you hope and pray exists and is on our side. Rapp is a pragmatist who is in constant trouble with everyone, from the President on down, because he consistently refuses to color inside the lines. If you’ve lost a wink of sleep over the fraternity hazing, locker room towel-snap to which a few Iraqi prisoners of war were subjected, you’ll probably find Rapp’s methods a bit extreme. But Rapp is that rarity, a guy who does what needs to be done in the most effective way possible. The fact that this behavioral aberration on his part results in him saving the country’s bacon time after time never seems to enter into the equation, at least with those who tend to treat terrorist acts as grist for intellectual discussion and nothing more. The learning curve is temporary, and steep, for those folks; Rapp’s approach is that he will go over them or through them if they do not get out of the way.

Flynn and Rapp are at the top of their respective games in Memorial Day. Intelligence indicates that a major terrorist attack is in the offing. Rapp leads a daring—and secret—commando raid into Pakistan to take out an al-Qaeda vipers’ nest. That is just the beginning of the story, however. Rapp and the Special Forces unit he commands discover plans for a devastating nuclear attack on the United States. Rapp acts quickly and decisively, and the attack is thwarted. Or is it? Rapp feels that there are some loose ends to the whole matter and, despite the best efforts of the career second guessers and pencil pushers who have the ear of the President, soon discovers that the plot is far deadlier than they thought—and that it is still operative. Rapp leads a team in a race against time—and against liberals in the President’s cabinet—to thwart a plot aimed at the very highest levels of government.

Flynn demonstrates that he is an absolute master of his craft in every way that matters. His writing style creates a work that is built for speed; the pages fly by while the suspense quotient is ratcheted so high that it makes your hair hurt. The title of the book may be Memorial Day, but it’s a novel for all seasons.

[1] Joe Hartlaub at Book Reporter, posted January 7, 2011, downloaded January 3, 2017