The Last Man is, perhaps, a fitting title for the last book published by Vince Flynn before his early death. Like his other works, it is beautifully written, easily read, intense, and blends Mitch Rapp into an intriguing, current storyline. In this episode, a dangerous assault on the integrity of the CIA is underway with roots in Afghanistan. Rapp is implicated as a bad guy. Can he save the CIA and, secondarily, find his way out way into the clear?
As a thriller writer, I find it instructive to synthesize the critical elements of the work of the masters of our craft. In this quest, I have identified elements that I believe to be critical for such success (for me or, probably, a writer in any genre), as follows:
- Readable Style: Regardless of the presence of other elements, the story must be easily read and digested. If it is dense, hard to follow, scattered, or otherwise not readily readable, it is not likely to succeed. The Last Man certainly gets a √ here.
- Early Hooking: The reader needs to be hooked by about the first 10 percent of the story, when the elements should have been established. I would give The Last Man a √ as I was certainly hooked by a story framed right about at this point.
- Sympathetic Characters: Readers want and need to be able to identify with the lead character or characters in the story. Again, Vince Flynn earns a √ here. Mitch Rapp is a fascinating hero. In the Flynn style, there is little development of his emotions or feelings beyond action and nose for reality. I, for one, enjoy understanding the underlying emotions of the characters. How does Flynn really feel about the murder of his wife and child? How about the murderer who he intersects with in this story? How about Mitch’s new love?
- Plot: The story needs to be intriguing. In The Last Man, Flynn and the CIA are set-up as fall-guys for a global conspiracy that has drawn in senior FBI, CIA, and foreign folks. When it was published in 2012, these elements were the stuff of reality, as well as today. Another √.
- Engaging: These elements need to be connected in a manner to make a page-turning bestseller. In his previous 13 stories, Flynn certainly demonstrated this skill, which receives another √ in The Last Man. The action is intense, chapters are short, and the connection among characters and twists in story are tight!