Talk about timing. "Memorial Day," Vince Flynn's latest Mitch Rapp thriller, concerns al-Qaida operatives conducting a nuclear attack on the Memorial Day dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington and includes a debate about the use of torture in counterterrorism.
Flynn's timing would be more amazing if James Huston hadn't written essentially the same story nearly a year ago in "Secret Justice."
Wait a minute, did I say "debate" on the use of torture? That was in Huston 's book. In Flynn's book, there are no real debates - the hero just gets to snarl in the liberal weenies' faces and give them their comeuppance Dirty Harry-style.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, it's almost as vicariously thrilling as seeing the bad guys get theirs.
With "Memorial Day," Flynn tones down the James Bond-style physical stunts in favor of a more authentic and pretty believable story that smacks of early Tom Clancy.
Rapp is supervising a strike on an important al-Qaida target on a secret mission that strikes across Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, when the Delta Force unit makes a startling discovery. Rapp is called in to evaluate a huge intelligence cache of computers and documents, the most chilling being a map of Washington that seems to estimate the damage from a nuclear blast.
Rapp figures he doesn't have the time or inclination to attempt to plea-bargain information from his prisoners, even if he thought it would work. He takes the terrorists to a more private setting, and, while not all return, the ones who do begin talking constantly.
After that , the plot hinges more on good detective work, as the whole apparatus of the federal government stateside is geared toward tracking down the nuclear device. Unfortunately, everyone - except Rapp, of course - is far too eager to breathe a sigh of relief and move on.
The prisoners taken in the U.S. are given lawyers, and some in the government - especially a super-ambitious, super-sexy deputy attorney general - make noises about prosecuting Rapp for his interrogation methods. She wants her boss to win the vice presidency by becoming the champion of those who wish to repeal the Patriot Act.
And while the captured terrorists are treated as ordinary criminals, their compatriots are moving forward with their plans for mass destruction.
"Memorial Day," Flynn's most realistic thriller yet, generates a huge amount of suspense as the clock ticks towards doomsday. The currency of events and issues - particularly the Left's current attempt to criminalize necessary tactics in the War on Terror - contribute mightily to the nerve-wracking nature of the story.
Flynn may be no Huston , but if fans of military thrillers take up only books as smart as Huston 's, it's going to seriously restrict their reading list. Flynn may offer a lot of easy red meat and preach to the choir, but he's so very, very good at what he does that it's awfully easy to enjoy his work.