Flynn, Vince. Protect and Defend. New York: Pocket Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4165-0503-7.
This is the eighth novel in the Mitch Rapp (warning—the article at this link contains minor spoilers) series. I usually wait a month or two between reading installments in this thriller saga, but since I'd devoured the previous volume, Act of Treason, earlier this month on an airline trip which went seriously awry, I decided to bend the rules and read its successor on the second attempt to make the same trip. This time both the journey and the novel were entirely successful.

The story begins with Mitch Rapp cleaning up some unfinished business from Act of Treason, then transitions into an a thriller whose premises may play out in the headlines in the near future. When Iran's covert nuclear weapons facility is destroyed under mysterious circumstances, all of the players in the game, both in Iran and around the world, try to figure out what happened, who was responsible, and how they can turn events to their own advantage. Fanatic factions within the Iranian power structure see an opportunity to launch a proxy terror offensive against Israel and the United States, while those aware of the vulnerability of their country to retaliation for any attack upon those nations try to damp down the flames. The new U.S. president decides to use a back channel to approach the Iranian pragmatists with a deal to put an end to the decades-long standoff and reestablish formal relations between the nations, and dispatches the CIA director to a covert meeting with her peer, the chief of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security. But word of the meeting makes its way to the radical factions in Iran, and things go horribly wrong. It is then up to Mitch Rapp and his small team, working against the clock, to puzzle out what happened, who is responsible, and how to respond.

If you haven't read the earlier Mitch Rapp novels, you'll miss some of the context, particularly in the events of the first few chapters, but this won't detract in any way from your enjoyment of the story. Personally, I'd read (and I'm reading) the novels in order, but they are sufficiently stand-alone (particularly after the first few) that there's no problem getting into the series at any point. Vince Flynn's novels are always about the action and the characters, not preachy policy polemics. Nonetheless, one gets a sense that the strategy presented here is how the author's brain trust would like to see a confident and unapologetic West address the Iranian conundrum.

May 2010 Permalink