"Explain to me please, why in our literature and art (that) so often, people absolutely incompetent in this field have the final word?"

- Mstislav L. Rostropovich, Master Cellist, Conductor
Transfer of Power, by Vince Flynn

Good writing and good storytelling are two distinct qualities, and don't necessarily reside in the same practitioner. Bestselling Minnesota author Vince Flynn is a classic case in point.

In terms of storytelling, his performance is flawless. Transfer of Power begins, after some brief preliminaries, with super-secret operative Mitch Rapp leading a commando raid into Iran (this is before 9/11) to kidnap a terrorist ringleader. Then the focus shifts to one of that ringleader's proteges, Rafique Aziz, who is planning an audacious attack on the White House itself, intended both to kidnap the president and to humiliate the United States. Information the CIA extracts from its prisoner (through torture; Flynn makes no bones about it) allows enough warning to enable the Secret Service to get the president into a safe bunker before the terrorists take possession of the building. But the terrorists have a drill and a weak vice president with whom to negotiate.

The tension never lets up. Hero Mitch Rapp employs all his formidable commando skills, and often defies his superiors, in a dangerous operation to infiltrate the White House and impose summary justice on the attackers. He is ruthless and his actions are viscerally satisfying. Also he gets the girl.

As a piece of prose writing, the book is less successful. The force of the narrative pulls the reader along so quickly that he barely notices frequent infelicities, like “Warch, who was more entrusted with the president's life than any other person in the Secret Service...,” and “...he wondered if he wasn't being overly paranoid,” and my personal favorite— “the two junior officers fell in astride their senior.” Best to just move along and not inquire too closely into these careless turns of phrase.

As an entertainment, Transfer of Power is a great success. As a statement of a viewpoint on how the War On Terror should be fought, it deserves respectful attention. As a piece of literature, it's... a successful entertainment.

Cautions for language, violence and adult themes.


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